An updated collection of comics that meditates on “occult economics” and “demographic demons,” all framed by world-bending architecture (“Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse”). A chapbook that puts itself in conversation with “The Wizard of Oz” (“A Homegrown Fairytale”). A community contest that asks young readers to create “edible books.” A conversation about desire and consent through the lens of science and the #MeToo movement (“Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again”), followed immediately by a look at the life of a Black woman who hid her identity to become J.P. Morgan’s librarian (“The Personal Librarian”). These are a few of the discussions happening at the 2021 Six Bridges Book Festival from the Central Arkansas Library System, which runs from Thursday, Oct. 21, to Sunday, Oct. 31.
This year, the fest is almost fully virtual, but no less ambitious in scope. If you’re venturing out, join the Arkansas Times for drinks at Stickyz Rock ’n’ Roll Chicken Shack for Pub or Perish at 7 p.m. Oct. 23, where host Chris James will lead a lineup of readings from local writers and poets. Otherwise, grab the printable schedule at cals.org/six-bridges-book-festival, make your picks, mark your calendars. Meanwhile, we conducted some brief interviews over email with a few of the Arkansas-connected authors featured on the Six Bridges lineup this year:
Here are a few of our must-see picks from the Six Bridges lineup, with descriptions from Central Arkansas Library System’s festival guide. Find a full schedule and other details at sixbridgesbookfestival.org. Sessions marked with an asterisk below will be translated into Spanish.
Kaitlyn Greenidge and Michael Farris Smith, 6:30 p.m.
“Libertie” was inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States. In their free Black community in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson’s mother, a physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie is hungry for something more. In “Nick,” The Great Gatsby’s narrator Nick Carraway is pulled out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this masterful look into his life before Gatsby.
Mary Roach, 8 p.m.
Roach offers her latest exploration of how humans interact with the natural world: “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law,” in which she tags along with animal attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers and more, revealing as much about humanity as about nature’s lawbreakers.
Helen Oyeyemi, noon
In “Peaces,” when Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment — and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier soon deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive.
Christopher Brown, Juan Cavia, Tom Kaczynski and Filipe Melo, 11:30 a.m.*
The new, expanded edition of “Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse” — whose graphic short stories trace a complex space-time trajectory from the smallest corporate cubicle out to farthest fathoms of the multiverse — resonates more than ever with our contemporary times. The graphic novel “Ballad for Sophie” is a sweeping tale that spans the 20th century, packed with all the drama of a rock ‘n’ roll biopic and more twists than a night at the opera.
Lisa Wells, 11:30 a.m.
“Believers” introduces trailblazers and outliers from across the globe who have found radically new ways to live and reconnect to the earth in the face of climate change.
Kevin Brockmeier and Lauren Groff, 1 p.m.
“The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories” encourages readers to confront the timeless question: What comes after death? In “Matrix,” 17-year-old Marie de France is cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine. After she is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey whose nuns are on the brink of starvation and beset by disease, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, and for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters and a conviction in her own divine visions.
Carolyn Ferrell and Lauren Oyler, 4 p.m.
In the fictional “Dear Miss Metropolitan,” Boss Man is a monster who abducts three high school students, Fern, Gwin and Jesenia, and holds them captive in a dilapidated house on Amity Lane in Queens. “Fake Accounts” features a young woman who learns that her boyfriend is an anonymous (and popular) internet conspiracy theorist. Set in New York and Berlin, the novel challenges the way current conversations about the self and community, delusions and gaslighting, and fiction and reality play out in the internet age.
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, 6:30 p.m.*
Part memoir, part journalism, part testimonio, “The Undocumented Americans” looks well beyond the flashpoints of the border or the activism of the Dreamers to allow the individuals profiled to be seen more fully as vibrant, complex and dignified human beings. In her relentlessly probing voice, the author combines sensitive reporting with her own experiences as an undocumented writer.
Pub or Perish, 7 p.m.
Come to Stickyz Rock ’N’ Roll Chicken Shack to hear locals, including Mara Leveritt (“All Quiet at Mena”), comedian Nate Williams and more in this in-person, socially distanced event. Limited open-mic slots are available.
Charles Yu, 8 p.m.
“Interior Chinatown” is a satirical novel about race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation and escaping the roles we are forced to play. Author Emily St. John Mandel calls it “wrenching, hilarious, sharp, surreal, and above all, original.”
Katherine Angel, 1 p.m.
The elegant, searching book “Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again” spans science and popular culture, pornography and literature, debates on #MeToo, and consent and feminism, challenging our assumptions about female desire.
Kyle Beachy, 6:30 p.m.
“The Most Fun Thing,” the author’s memoir in essays, explores the hidden meaning of skateboarding, leading to insights on marriage, love, loss and American invention.
In “The Other Black Girl,” a whip-smart and dynamic thriller coupled with sly social commentary, two young Black women navigate working together in the stark white world of New York City book publishing. “Walking on Cowrie Shells” is a “boisterous and high-spirited debut,” Kirkus said in a starred review, which focuses on the lives of “hyphenated-Americans” with a multicultural heritage in the United States and Africa.
Herman Pontzer, 6:30 p.m.
“Burn” examines groundbreaking work with hunter-gatherers, with our great ape cousins, and with populations around the globe to explore the way our bodies use energy.
Ash Davidson and Suzanne Simard, 8 p.m.
“Damnation Spring” is the story of a logger obsessed with a redwood tree. He mortgages everything to buy a parcel of giant trees he aims to harvest, but his wife begins to suspect that herbicides the logging company uses may be behind a troubling pattern of birth defects and miscarriages in the community. In “Finding the Mother Tree,” Simard argues that only through collaboration can we face the global challenges of the environmental crisis, global warming and the deforestation boom we are currently living in.
Adrian Miller, 8 p.m.
“Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue,” which features 22 recipes, chronicles how Black barbecuers, pitmasters and restaurateurs helped develop this cornerstone of American foodways and how they are coming into their own today.
Leana Wen, noon
In “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health,” the author lays bare the lifesaving work of public health and its innovative approach to social ills, treating gun violence as a contagious disease, for example, and racism as a threat to health.
TJ Klune, noon
“Under the Whispering Door” is a stand-alone adult novel and delightful queer love story filled with comedy, grief and healing.
Jacqueline Woodson, 2:30 p.m.
Jacqueline Woodson is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle-graders and children. Her two most recent books are ”Red at the Bone,” for adults, and ”Before the Ever After,” for youth. ”Red at the Bone” was an NAACP finalist for outstanding literary work in fiction.
Nate Powell, 8 p.m.
Arkansas native Nate Powell is the first cartoonist ever to win the National Book Award. His work includes civil rights icon John Lewis’ historic “March” trilogy, “Come Again,” and “Two Dead.” “Save It For Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest,” a memoir/essay hybrid, documents Powell’s experience as a parent helping his children process an ongoing struggle for the survival of democracy.
Dawnie Walton, 2:30 p.m.
“The Final Revival of Opal & Nev” is a fictional oral history about an interracial rock ’n’ roll duo on the early 1970s New York scene. The novel follows their rise, their fall and the dark secret that comes to light when they consider reuniting for a tour.