Feminism and Fall for the Book: the inside scoop on feminist authors and events at the annual festival

Fall is fast approaching, which means our campus is getting ready for its annual literary event—the Fall for the Book festival! We are not only excited for the panels, readings, and book signings with our favorite authors, but also for the great events that speak to So to Speak’s intersectional feminist message.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of the novel Americanah, is coming to talk about her latest publication, We Should All Be Feminists, a book-length essay that explores inclusive feminism and what it means to be a woman in today’s world.

So to Speak is also sponsoring an event! Poets Ann Townsend and Jona Colson are speaking together at the “In the Circle Game: Life, Love & Our Many Selves” panel, exploring how they’ve used love, grief, and the battle between the public and private self to push their lyrical poetry to new heights.

Fall for the Book will take place this year from Thursday, October 10 to Saturday, October 12. All events are free and open to the public, and do not require tickets. If you’re in the D.C. area in October, we hope to see you there!

Check out our list of other great feminist events happening at this year’s festival below. You can also take a look at Fall for the Book’s full schedule here.

Thursday, October 10

Inclusivity in the University: Examining Affirmative Action
Presenter: Amaka Okechukwu
10:30am-11:45am @ Johnson Center, 3rd Floor, Meeting Room E

Amidst the current backlash against affirmative action policies in universities all across the nation, George Mason professor Amaka Okechukwu documents the challenges affirmative action policies face in today’s political climate. In To Fulfill These Rights: Political Struggle Over Affirmative Action and Open Admissions, Okechukwu provides context for the current battle to protect affirmative action, analyzes conservative messages and tactics against it, and gives a voice to the students and activists working hard to fight for inclusive policies.

Breaking Glass Ceilings with Silver Screen Women 
Presenter: Elizabeth Weitzman
12:00pm-1:15pm @ Johnson Center, 3rd Floor, Meeting Room G

Enter silver screen history with film critic Elizabeth Weitzman, as she highlights some of the great female pioneers in the industry. Renegade Women in Film & TV intersperses historical profiles of important figures like Alice Guy-Blaché with exclusive interviews from contemporary icons like Barbra Streisand and Amy Poehler. Parade.com says, “With lovely illustrations and in-depth bios along with exclusive interviews… this is one book pop culture aficionados won’t want to miss.”

Because I’m A Woman: Nana Rawlings on Leadership in Ghana
Presenter: Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings
1:30pm-2:45pm @ Lecture Hall 1, George Mason University

Join former First Lady of Ghana, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, as she discusses her book, It Takes a Woman: A Life Shaped by Heritage, Leadership and the Women Who Defined Hope, and recalls how her childhood shaped her future success. Rawlings grew up believing that her gender should never hold her back, and so she never let it. As First Lady, she founded the 31st December Women’s Movement, an organization which played a vital role in empowering women and addressing systemic gender equality. Due to her success and commitment to social justice, she later went on to become the first woman to run for Ghana’s top office.

Gender, Power, & Violence in the #MeToo Era
Presenters: Earl Smith & Angela Hattery
1:30pm-2:45pm @ Research Hall, Room 163

From college campuses to Hollywood circles, from prisons to the military, child abuse and intimate partner violence is prevalent. In Gender, Power, and Violence: Responding to Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence in Society Today, George Mason Professors Angela Hattery and Earl Smith examine these institutions and try to understand why this violence happens and the various factors that determine who perpetrates and who suffers. Sponsored by the Women & Gender Studies Program.

A Journey Toward Love and Self-Acceptance
Presenter: Samantha Mann
3:00pm-4:15pm @ Research Hall, Room 163

Samantha Mann returns to her alma mater to share her book, Putting Out: Essays on Otherness, a debut collection that showcases, in eloquent prose, the ebb and flow of discovering yourself. Putting Out’s honest portrayal is both humorous and heartbreaking, as Mann grows from thoughtful teenager to an expressive, creative adult. These essays are the product of recognizing one’s trauma and being cognizant and grateful for the person one becomes. The collection contributes to the important conversation on the power of female sexuality and the power in owning one’s true identity and also invites a conversation on the stigma surrounding mental health. Sponsored by Women and Gender Studies.

Memoirs of the #MeToo Era
Presenters: Jeannie Vanasco & Karen Stefano
3:00pm-4:15pm @ Johnson Center, 3rd Floor, Meeting Room G

Through memoir, two authors unravel the stories of their own experiences with sexual assault and the trauma that comes after. In Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl, Jeannie Vanasco interviews her abuser, a high school friend, while dismantling our ideas about victimhood and the language of sexual assault. Karen Stefano’s What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath charts her journey of confronting her anxiety and PTSD thirty years after her assault and her attempt to track down the man who attacked her.

Friday, October 11

Excessive Force: Examining Police Brutality
Presenter: Loretta Prater
10:30am-11:45am @ Piedmont Hall Room 104

At the age of thirty-four, Loretta Prater’s son was killed by police officers in Tennessee. In Excessive Use of Force: One Mother’s Struggle against Police Brutality and Misconduct, Prater places the death of her son into the larger conversation about police brutality against African American men. With a blend of narrative and research, Prater weaves her own experience into her analysis of current research and numerous other case studies to more fully examine the crisis of police brutality and misconduct in America. Sponsored by Women & Gender Studies.

Society, Secrets, and Sexual Misconduct
Presenters: Aaron Hamburger & Patricia Smith
12:00pm-1:15pm @ Sandy Spring Bank Tent, Merten Lawn Tent

Aaron Hamburger’s and Patricia Smith’s novels deal with terrible secrets—the kind you hope no one will ever find out. Both Hamburger’s Nirvana Is Here and Smith’s The Year of the Needy Girls explore themes of LGBTQ characters navigating sexual misconduct cases with students—one directly accused and one dealing with a significant other being accused. The authors ask questions of how we, as a society, should face secrets and sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era.

Why We Should All Be Feminists
Presenter: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
12:30pm-1:45pm @ Concert Hall, Center for the Arts

In her book-length essay, We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, she explores what it means to be a woman now. Vogue calls the book “Nuanced and rousing.” All incoming freshmen received the book as part of the MasonReads program, and Adichie will be in conversation with Dr. Anne Holton, Mason’s interim president, as part of the Freedom and Learning Forums. From alluring fiction that tackles the struggle for identity and purpose like Americanah and promises of freedom in Purple Hibiscus, to Half a Yellow Sun’s engrossing perspectives on the Biafran War, Adichie’s writing never fails to move readers. Sponsored by the Mason Orientation, University Libraries, and African and African American Studies.

In the Circle Game: Life, Love & Our Many Selves
Presenters: Ann Townsend & Jona Colson
3:00pm-4:00pm @ Fenwick Library Reading Room, 2nd Floor Room 2001

Sarabande Books Press calls Ann Townsend’s poetry collection Dear Delinquent “incandescent, raw and elegant, direct and oblique, hurtful and consoling.” Washington Writers’ Publishing House describes Jona Colson’s Said Through Glass as “whimsical, sometimes terrifying, but always contemplative, tender and wise.” Together, these writers will engage in an exciting conversation on the battle between our private and public selves, and how love, grief and struggle can inform powerful lyrical poetry. Sponsored by So To Speak.

Saturday, October 12th

Uncovering the Real Lolita
Presenters: Sarah Weinman & Art Taylor
10:30am-11:45am @ Merten Hall, Room 1201

Edgar Award-winning writer Art Taylor interviews Sarah Weinman, author of the true-crime book The Real Lolita: A Lost Girl, An Unthinkable Crime, and a Scandalous Masterpiece. With a mix of narrative and history, Weinman captures the story of the real-life crime—the kidnapping of an eleven-year-old girl named Sally—that inspired Vladimir Nabokov to write the famous novel, Lolita. In a book described as “Riveting… dark and compulsively readable” by the Los Angeles Times, and named a Best Book of 2018 by the Washington Post, NPR, Vulture, and more, Weinman seeks to restore the voice of a voiceless girl.


Tara Fritz is a third-year graduate student studying fiction in George Mason University’s Creative Writing MFA program. Originally from Pennsylvania, she received her BA in English from Saint Francis University. In her writing, she loves to explore the weird, the surreal, and the uncanny. Her works have previously appeared in The Vehicle, The Mochila Review, Brainchild Magazine, and Adelaide Literary Magazine. Currently, she serves as the fiction editor for So to Speak Journal.

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