Back to the Savannah Book Festival

We spent the first half of our February break in beautiful Savannah. Actually, we left town early, right after M was done with Thursday track practice, because we were driving and it is a long drive (about 15 hours). We were superstars who were on the road until just after 1 am, so on Friday we arrived by the afternoon and headed straight into downtown, where we met up with my parents, two sisters, two brothers-in-law, and one lovely niece.

It was balmy, you guys. In the 70s. And yes, I know, it got warm up here, too, but we had several day of delightful t-shirts-only weather.

On Friday night I split from Cute W and the kids to watch a talk by Lisa Ko and head to the VIP cocktail party, where the passed hors d’oeuvres were scrumptious and there was a steady supply of groupies hanging around Diana Gabaldon. We chatted with her and then missed our chance at a photo and ended up going with the surreptitious, I’ll-just-take-a-picture-of-my-family-with-the-author-in-the-background to impress my sister’s Outlander-obsessed friend.

The Saturday schedule of the Savannah Book Festival is jam-packed, so we were pretty busy. I am such a nerd that I do quite a bit of reading ahead, but it is a tough call choosing your authors because someone who writes a really excellent book can be a pretty terrible presenter, and even people who are usually great in a crowd can get thrown by this different event, and then sometimes you’ll wander in on someone who is awesome. Our family favorites of the day were the very funny Reza Farazmand, who writes comics, and Jamie Ford, who wrote Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. They were both very funny and likeable. I was also a fan of Tayari Jones, although I missed the beginning of her talk because I was just too hungry and needed sustenance. Seriously, I wish that they’d throw in a lunch break. Although I guess then all the restaurants would be crazy during the lunch break. Little J, meanwhile, took numerous breaks, often opting to just hang around the pretty Savannah squares with whichever relative was skipping a talk for that session. At first I was a little bummed that she was just not into the festival, but she explained that the really nice part was that she got special one-on-one or small-group time with a shifting cast of relatives. Which was bonding and excellent for her.

Early Sunday morning, Cute W and I drove M to the airport, where she flew home all by herself so that she could compete in the track sectional meet. We were lucky to get help from neighbors and friends who transported her home from the airport, to and from school, and to and from practice. She mostly stayed on her own, ordering take-out and reveling in her independence, but she did have a friend sleepover. At her track meet, her 4 x 800 relay team won first place, and the girls’ team won first place overall. She said that most of them didn’t give their best performance, but in the end she had a special patch and now we’re apparently ordering a special jacket to commemorate the occasion, so it was still a success.

Meanwhile, back in Savannah, on Sunday I saw Jodi Picoult. I’ve read a couple of her books and have not considered myself much of a fan in the past, but her latest novel Small Great Things is, like, basically an education in white privilege. I happened to listen to it because it was a Playaway at the library (and you know I love those, and you can rely on the library to get the Jodi Picoult books in Playaway format). Anyway, when I listed to it I was thinking that it was a little bit obvious on the Jodi’s-trying-to-get-her-audience-to-see-their-privilege stuff, but I think it’s only obvious because I go out of my way to read that kind of stuff on purpose, so it was all pretty familiar). But by the end of the book I was really pleased about it, because she’s clearly trying to make the world a better place by building people’s empathy for those who are living a different experience than their own. So, go Jodi! Way to try to make the world a better place. Anyway, I was interested to see what she’d talk about, and sure enough, it was like a mini-seminar in recognizing our white privilege, delivered to a vast auditorium filled with mostly well-to-do older white ladies. Go Jodi again.

We fit in plenty more fun, including a visit to the Telfair Museums‘ Jepsen Center, where we particularly loved the tech-focused exhibit that included stuff like virtual reality, interactive games, and this fun gadget that transformed your face into a style kind of like a Cubist painting. Here’s me:

Here’s J:

We also visited the Owens-Thomas House, which was good except that we all started getting very, very hungry halfway through the tour. After our history lesson we feasted on delicious bowls full of noodles at the Flying Monk Noodle Bar and followed it up with a traditional trip to Leopold‘s for ice cream. J in particular received the hugest scoop of ice cream I’ve ever seen–we speculated that her helper liked her t-shirt or something–and there was almost a tragic loss of ice cream as we ditched the indoor seating in favor of walking over to sit on a bench in the sunshine.

Along the way there was plenty of family time and enough good stories that Cute W pulled out the video camera to capture some of them for posterity. We drove home in one extraordinarily long day on Wednesday, and we’ve basically been recovering ever since.


  1. Mary Ellen Whiteley

    Reza Faramand and Jaime Ford were my favorites too! The Book Festival is an excellent respite from winter!

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