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NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS

The BU Antiracist Literary Festival, a new book about the history of Rounder Records, and the Newburyport Literary Festival

The three founders of Rounder Records -- Bill Nowlin, Ken Irwin, and Marian Leighton Levy -- selling records out of the back of a VW bus.
The three founders of Rounder Records -- Bill Nowlin, Ken Irwin, and Marian Leighton Levy -- selling records out of the back of a VW bus.COURTESY OF BILL NOWLIN

A new kind of book festival

The BU Center for Antiracist Research is hosting the second annual National Antiracist Book Festival this Saturday, April 24, offering up a staggering line-up of authors on a huge range of topics for the daylong virtual event. Celeste Ng and Sarah Broom will talk Mothers & Daughters; Imani Perry and Kiese Laymon will talk Mothers & Sons; Karla Cornejo Villavicencio and Valeria Luiselli will discuss The Undocumented; Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds will talk about Teaching Antiracism; Tommy Orange and Robert Jones Jr. will discuss Refuge; Min Jin Lee and Jacqueline Woodson will talk the Politics of Love; Saeed Jones and Mitchell Jackson will discuss Black Masculinity; Mira Jacob and Tiffany Jewell will be Talking Race; among many other panels. The day also includes discussions aimed towards writers, with topics including Knowing When You Have a Great Book Idea, Developing a Successful Book Proposal, and Acquiring a Literary Agent. The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. An all-access ticket is $250 and includes entry to all panels and workshops, a festival tote bag, and a copy of Kendi’s book “Stamped from the Beginning.” Individual sessions are $10. For more information and a complete schedule, visit bu.edu/antiracism-center/narrative/national-antiracist-book-festival/.

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Celebrating Rounder Records

In a small apartment in Somerville in 1970, a trio of music lovers—Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy, and Bill Nowlin—founded Rounder Records, with a little over $1000 and the shared commitment to widening the audience to roots music. Now based in Nashville, the record label is home to work by Grammy winners including Alison Krauss, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, and Bela Fleck, as well the catalogs of the Carter Family, Jelly Roll Morton, Woody Guthrie, and Lead Belly, among others. “Vinyl Ventures: My Fifty Years at Rounder Records” (Equinox), a new book by Nowlin, tells the story of the early years of the label, “of three people with no background in business who took an idea and, through hard work and passion, built up something of some lasting cultural significance.” Nowlin, who grew up in Lexington and met Irwin at Tufts, writes, with warmth and candor, of the initial fuel that lit up their hobby-turned-business. The book offers glimpse to a time and place in music, both locally and nationally, and what comes across is Nowlin and the rest of the gang’s dedication to getting music they loved into the ears of more people, and honoring the artists with their packaging, liner notes, and commitment to them over their careers. It’s a lively history of a business, of roots and Americana music, and the changes over the last half-century of recording and releasing. As Nowlin puts it, “We were just fans of the music.”

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Newburyport Lit Fest

The sixteenth annual Newburyport Literary Festival also takes this coming weekend, running virtually April 23-25 and featuring panels, readings, and conversations with Natasha Trethewey, Kelly Link, Ann Patchett, Michael Blanding, Charles Coe, January Gill O’Neil, Dani Shapiro, Lily King, Andre Dubus III, Peter Ho Davies, Charles Baxter, and Kerry Greenidge, among many others, discussing topics as varied as telling secrets, searching for Shakespeare, medical ethics in the time of Covid, the joys of letter writing, and authors who own bookstores. The festival is free of charge; for more information, to register for events, and for a complete schedule, visit newburyportliteraryfestival.org.

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Coming out

White Magicby Elissa Washuta (Tin House)

The Final Revival of Opal and Nevby Dawnie Walton (37 Ink)

Hot Stewby Fiona Mozley (Algonquin)

Pick of the week

Meghan Carmichael at Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich, Massachusetts, recommends “One of the Good Ones” by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite (Inkyard): “I adore this book and could not put it down. The story explores important topics of racial injustice. It is a touching family drama throughout history with a bit of teen romance. There were also parts that were so thrilling and was a fast paced mystery! This is a young adult novel, and I think adults will get swept away by it as well, I know I did.”


Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.