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The Unbound Book Festival comes to downtown Columbia each spring. They aim "to bring nationally and internationally recognized authors of world-class renown to Columbia, Missouri, to talk about their books, their work, and their lives."

Ready, set, Unbound! Nine authors to know about before the festival

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This year's Unbound Book Festival features 32 authors. Here are nine of those authors and their books to get to know before the festival begins on April 21.

Get ready, Columbia. Unbound Book Festival will be back in person April 21 to 24. Unbound programming committee member Phong Nguyen gave us a rundown of the must-know authors and books before this year’s festival.

On Nostalgia by David Berry

David Berry is a writer, cultural critic and journalist based in Edmonton, Alberta. His debut book, On Nostalgia, was published in 2020. This nonfiction book explores the cultural history of nostalgia, a term that initially started to psychologically describe the experiences and emotions of soldiers fighting far from their homes. “It is about the phenomenon of the way we romanticize memory and romanticize the past,” Phong Nguyen says. “He talks about the positive, the negative, the neutral and the inevitable aspects of nostalgia.”

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

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Children of the New World was published in 2016, and it takes place in a near future world.

Alexander Weinstein is a short story writer and an associate professor of English at Siena Heights University. Children of the New World was published in 2016 and was chosen as one of The New York Times “100 Notable Books of the Year.” The book is a collection of science fiction short stories. The first story in the book, “Saying Goodbye to Yang” was recently adapted into a film titled After Yang. It stars Justin H. Min as Yang. “Not only is it an excellent book, but it is also an excellent adaptation,” Nguyen says.

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Sequoia Nagamatsu is a Japanese-American writer and managing editor of Psychopomp Magazine. How High We Go in the Dark was published in January, and it is a New York Times Book Review editor's choice and a national bestseller. This science fiction novel follows a cast of characters who try to rebuild humanity in the aftermath of a climate plague. “It concerns a pandemic, but the book was written before our current pandemic,” Phong Nguyen says. “It is a series of stories that spans different timelines, different regions, different casts of characters, and in this case, even encompasses travels to outer space and beyond.”

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.

Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen

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Eric Nguyen received his MFA in creative writing from McNeese State University, and he is the editor-in-chief of diaCRITICS, an arts and culture blog. Things We Lost in the Water is his debut novel, and it was published in 2021. It tells the story of an immigrant Vietnamese family living in New Orleans who struggle to remain connected to each other while their lives are being reshaped. “It’s unlike other immigrant stories in that it has a skeptical treatment of the value of assimilation,” Phong Nguyen says.

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.

The Rock Eaters by Brenda Peynado

Brenda Peynado is a Dominican-American writer of fiction, nonfiction and screenplays. Her writing genres include magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, surrealism, lyrical essays and more. The Rock Eaters was published in 2021, and it was listed as an NPR Best Book of 2021. It is Peynado’s debut book, and it is a collection of short stories full of symbolism. “There’s stories that often have a fantastical or speculative premise, but you can also see a metaphor underneath that speaks to what is going on now in the world in terms of social relationships and political struggles,” Phong Nguyen says.

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Viet Thanh Nguyen is the keynote speaker for the 2022 Unbound Book Festival. His novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a professor of English, American studies and ethnicity, and comparative literature at the University of Southern California. He's also the keynote speaker for this year’s festival and will speak at 7 p.m. April 22 at the Missouri Theatre. The Sympathizer was published in 2015 and won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. “It exposes the ways that very well-meaning people in progressive communities, like the arts and film, can partake in systemic racism and can exploit populations, such as the Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American population,” Phong Nguyen says.

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.

The Cactus League by Emily Nemens

Emily Nemens is a writer, editor and illustrator. She was a former editor of The Paris Review literary magazine, and under her tenure, the magazine won the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Award for Fiction. Her debut novel, The Cactus League, was published in 2020. “It’s been a widely celebrated book, widely reviewed and immensely popular," Phong Nguyen says.

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

Julie Schumacher is a regents professor at the University of Minnesota where she teaches in the creative writing program. She has published 10 books including her most recent book in 2018 titled The Shakespeare Requirement. Her national bestseller, Dear Committee Members, was published in 2014 and won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. The book is presented as a series of letters written by a professor. “It’s a really funny book written in the voice of somebody who is corresponding with the members of a committee,” Phong Nguyen says. “It mimics academic speech and tells a story at the same time.”

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is a New York Times bestselling author. He graduated from SUNY Albany and received his MFA from Syracuse University. Friday Black is his debut novel, and it was published in 2018. It is a collection of short stories that explores themes of Black identity and relates them to contemporary social issues. The stories are set against a near-future dystopian backdrop. “These are the kind of stories that really wake you up,” Phong Nguyen says. “They really force you to pay attention to what’s going on in the world.”

Purchase the book at Skylark or Amazon.