As the AJC Decatur Book Festival celebrates its fifth anniversary, the Labor Day weekend festival will again include an LGBT track.

The festival is partnering with the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival to bring LGBT writers to town, according to Franklin Abbott, the chair and one of the founders of AQLF.

“We’re very excited about this,” he says. “The Decatur Book Festival is one of the most successful book festivals in the world and the biggest in the Southeast. Decatur is the perfect spot for it.”

Gay writers at Decatur Book Fest

The collaboration began when Abbott talked to organizers about the event, hoping to get their input on how they have grown their festival over the years. Before he knew it they were in talks about adding an LGBT track.


Decatur Book Festival
Sept. 3 – 5
Decatur Square, Decatur, GA

Last year was the first for the LGBT additions and Abbott — who directs the LGBT track — feels the new component has given the event even more depth.

“The organizers have a great attitude about being inclusive,” says Abbott.

One of the big names at this year’s event is Rakesh Satyal, who recently won the award for Best Gay Debut Fiction at the Lambda Literary Awards for his novel “Blue Boy.”

The novel is a gender-bending comedy about an Indian American boy who thinks he may be a reincarnation of the Hindu god Krishna. The author calls the book a bittersweet comedy, one that seems to appeal to all kinds of readers.

“I have been very encouraged by the reaction,” Satyal says. “You want a wide audience. It’s not just gay audiences or Indian audiences who have enjoyed it — it’s older people and younger people, gay and straight.”

Some reviews have compared his work to that of Michael Cunningham, author of “The Hours” and other novels.

“He is a wonderful writer,” Satyal says. “He uses language to get to the heart of emotions, people’s inner thoughts.  I’d love to be able to emulate the musicality in his language. I am very flattered [by the comparison].”

Satyal, who is also a cabaret performer, is looking forward to coming to Atlanta, where he will not only be reading but singing. His only previous visit was as a child.

He worked on “Blue Boy” for two and a half years, mostly writing it on the weekends. During the week, he works as an editor at HarperCollins, where he has edited work by the likes of Armistead Maupin, Paul Rudnick and Clive Barker.

Satyal has been heartened by how deeply the authors he works with really care about the publishing world. Another joy for him working in the industry is seeing that, “while ways of reading have changed, the avid reader has not gone anywhere. That is wonderful to know.”

The night of the Lambda Literary Awards proved memorable. Being in a room with literary icons such as Larry Kramer was a treat.

“I work in publishing and I take all this to heart, what people think,” he says.

Satyal also gave a memorable acceptance speech. When he won his award, he took the stage with a speech written to the lyrics of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

Other LGBT writers

Another LGBT presence at the Decatur Book Festival is David Levithan, perhaps best known for “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” and his first book, “Boy Meets Boy.”

Other LGBT authors include Rigoberto González, the author of eight books and the editor of “Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing”; poet, writer and editor David Groff, who will discuss his book “Persistent Voices: An Anthology of Poets Lost to AIDS”; and poet Charles Jensen, in town for his novel “The First Risk,” a 2010 Lambda Literary Award finalist.