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LitWatch June: Freadom Festival celebrates Black writers and community

Summer is on the way, with authors discussing hikes and Central Oregon day trips, and an outdoor workshop will show participants how nature can help inspire writing.


Kesha Ajose Fisher, winner of the 2020 Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and author of "No God Like the Mother," is host of the 2022 Oregon Book Awards.
Kesha Ajose Fisher, author of “No God Like the Mother,” is a featured writer in Portland’s first Freadom Festival. Fisher’s novel won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction at the 2020 Oregon Book Awards.

On Juneteenth weekend, Nanea Woods, creator of the Prose Before Bros social book club for Women of Color in Portland, will introduce the Freadom Festival. A conflation of “freedom” and “read,” the Black literary festival will focus on uniting community and uplifting Black authors in a welcoming outdoor atmosphere.

Woods told The Oregonian’s Amy Wang that she timed the festival to coincide with the weekend of Juneteenth, a celebration of emancipation from slavery. “How we obtained our freedom has a lot to do with reading and literacy,” Woods added, noting reading and writing were critical in ending the enslavement of Black people.

Freadom Festival’s tagline, “Read by any means necessary,” is also a testament to literature’s importance within Black communities. The phrase, from a 1964 speech by activist Malcolm X, refers to obtaining freedom and racial justice by any means required.

The festival runs from noon to 6 p.m. June 18 in Peninsula Park and includes an all-ages community book swap (children K-8 get one free book); a kids’ story time with Jelani Memory, founder and CEO of A Kids Company About; a used-book drive for nonprofit Portland Books to Prisoners; raffles and giveaways; a zine-making craft station with local Black artist Christine Miller; and literary vendors, including Multnomah County Library, SMART Reading, Street Books, Third Eye Books, Literary Arts, Big Yard Foundation, and others. Oregon authors Kim Johnson, author of This is My America, and Kesha Ajose Fisher, author of No God Like the Mother, will be featured, reading from their work and participating in an audience Q&A.

Week 1: June 1-7

Nell Zink in Conversation With Justin Taylor

Presented by Powell’s Books
5 p.m. Thursday, June 2, via ZOOM


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A young woman’s nontraditional Southern California upbringing in a biker gang masquerading as a plant nursery leads to a tumultuous romantic relationship for protagonist Bran in Nell Zink’s new novel, Avalon. Zink will be joined by the author of Riding With the Ghost, Justin Taylor, to discuss the catalyst for Zink’s dark, humorous, and mythic coming-of-age story. Pre-registration is recommended.

Author Event: Hike366: A Woman’s Tales of Hiking Adventures All Year Round by Jess Beauchemin

Presented by Roundabout Books
6 p.m. Tuesday, June 7
Roundabout Books
900 N.W. Mt. Washington Drive, #110, Bend

Jess Beauchemin is an avid hiker with more than 15 years of experience traversing the trails and traveling “from shoreline to mountain top, rain forest to desert, city to wilderness, East Coast to West Coast and everywhere in between.” As part of her Hike366 project, Beauchemin decided to record one of her hikes for every day of the year; the result is Hike366: A Woman’s Tales of Hiking Adventures All Year, in which she shares some of her favorite experiences.

Week 2: June 8-14

Author Event: Bend, Oregon Daycations by Kim Cooper Findling

Presented by Roundabout Books
6 p.m. Thursday, June 9
Roundabout Books
900 N.W. Mt. Washington Drive #110, Bend


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If you’re a fan of day trips, come to Roundabout Books for Kim Cooper Findling’s talk about Bend, Oregon Daycations: Day Trips for Curious Families. Findling, editor of Bend Magazine and publisher of Dancing Moon Press, writes about perfect trips within two hours of the Central Oregon city. Originally published in 2017, the popular guide has been re-released to include maps, additional locations, and travel narrations for kids.

Liz Prato in Conversation With Lidia Yuknavitch

Presented by Powell’s Books
7 p.m. Wednesday, June 15
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W Burnside St., Portland

Liz Prato will be joined by The Book of Joan author Lidia Yuknavitch to discuss Prato’s Kids in America, an examination of Generation X’s importance and influence on contemporary American culture. Raised in a time before open discussion of difficult topics was considered appropriate, Prato dives into 1980s- and early ’90s-era Gen X events — from movies like Sixteen Candles to the Rodney King riots to figure out how to reconcile her past and the past of her peers.

Week 3: June 15-21

An Evening of Poetry With Brittney Corrigan, John Sibley Williams, and Paulann Petersen

Presented by Broadway Books
6 p.m. Thursday, June 16
Broadway Books
1714 N.E. Broadway, Portland


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Broadway Books hosts poets Brittany Corrigan, author of Breaking, Navigation, 40 Weeks, and Daughters; John Sibley Williams, author of Scale Model of a Country at Dawn; and Paulann Petersen, former Stanford University Stegner Fellow, former Oregon poet laureate, and author of One Small Sun. Their books are available for purchase online prior to the event.

Henry “Hank” Alley

Author Event With Henry Alley: Reading, Q&A, and Signing

Presented by Tsunami Books
7 p.m. Thursday, June 16
Tsunami Books
2585 Willamette St., Eugene

Henry “Hank” Alley will read from his newest book, Galen’s Legacy, about a gay man who spends most of his life in prison before being found not guilty and released. Galen Melville returns to his idyllic Oregon hometown and begins repairing relationships. Along the way, he discovers parts of his past that he must come to terms with while “fighting to establish his uncle’s mansion as a refuge for gay and lesbian people.” Event attendees are asked to please wear a mask.

Freadom Festival: Portland’s First Annual Black Book Festival

Presented by Freadom Festival
Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 18
Peninsula Park
700 N. Rosa Parks Way, Portland

Prose Before Bros founder Nanea Woods created Freadom Festival to connect literature and community. Coinciding with the weekend of Juneteenth, a celebration of slavery emancipation in the United States, the festival will host talks by authors Kesha Ajose Fisher and Kim Johnson, a kids’ story time, and a community book swap, as well as music and several Black-owned food carts.


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Week 4: June 22-30

Ada Calhoun: Also A Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me

Presented by Powell’s Books
7 p.m. Thursday, June 23
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W Burnside St., Portland

Ada Calhoun, daughter of renowned art critic Peter Schjeldahl, discovers her father’s unfinished biography of poet Frank O’Hara, and decides she must complete the task. The project, which she thought would be simple and carefree, takes her on a wild ride that results in a “kaleidoscopic memoir that weaves compelling literary history with a moving, honest, and tender story of a complicated father-daughter bond.” Calhoun will read from Also A Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me at Powell’s City of Books.

Forest Bathing & Writing: Mount Tabor Park

Presented by Literary Arts
5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 28
Mount Tabor Park
Southeast 60th Avenue and Salmon Street, Portland
$75, access rates available

Join poet Jennifer Perrine — author of Again, The Body Is No Machine, In the Human Zoo, and No Confession, No Mass — for an outdoor workshop in which nature will help inspire writing. Practicing shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing,” participants will explore their senses and cultivate a connection to the natural world to develop prompts that enhance a sense of openness and wonder in their written work. No experience is necessary to participate.


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Photo Joe Cantrell

Amy Leona Havin is a poet, essayist, and arts journalist based in Portland, Oregon. She writes about language arts, dance, and film for Oregon ArtsWatch and is a staff writer with The Oregonian/OregonLive. Her work has been published in San Diego Poetry Annual, HereIn Arts Journal, Humana Obscura, The Chronicle, and others. She has been an artist-in-residence at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Archipelago Gallery, and Art/Lab, and was shortlisted for the Bridport International Creative Writing Prize in poetry. Havin holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts and is the Artistic Director of Portland-based dance performance company, The Holding Project.


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