Women's Rights, Baseball And Politics: 12 Talks Not To Miss At Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival

A previous year's festival. (Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Book Festival)
A previous year's festival. (Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Book Festival)

This weekend marks the seventh biennial Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival, a mecca for the literary/culinary/pop-culture/island-life inclined. The programming adheres to no particular theme, but rather runs the gamut of current issues and debates, including everything from race, politics and religion to friendship, cooking and the environment.

The festival (of which WBUR is a media sponsor) kicks off Friday, Aug. 4 and goes through Sunday, Aug. 6. Saturday features themed panels and Sunday focuses on individual authors. The weekend is (mostly) free of charge, and features 28 leading and rising authors; book signings are available following the individual author discussions.

Here are 12 recommendations of what not to miss:

"Tweets, Leaks, and Turmoil: Covering the Trump White House" | Friday, Aug. 4

The Washington Post's Ashley Parker. (Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Book Festival)
The Washington Post's Ashley Parker. (Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Book Festival)

This sold-out opening panel (the only event that requires paid tickets) features the subject that has embroiled the nation and every corner of social media: the White House.

Ashley Parker (Washington Post) and Glenn Thrush (New York Times), highly regarded White House correspondents from dueling papers, will discuss covering the administration in a period of uncontrolled leaks, Twitter feuds and shake-ups. Specific details will likely be determined by whatever President Trump tweets that day.

"Black Female Resistance" | Saturday, Aug. 5; 10 a.m. | Harbor View Hotel

Carol Anderson (“White Rage”), Erica Armstrong Dunbar (“Never Caught”), Tera Hunter (“Bound in Wedlock”) and Beth Macy (“Truevine”) come together to discuss the long history of black female resistance that is so often not covered. Collectively, their work chronicles strong black women who have stood up and found success in the face of incredible barriers.

Ann Patchett, Richard Russo and Amor Towles in conversation | Saturday, Aug. 5; noon | Harbor View Hotel

The novels “Commonwealth,” “Trajectory” and “A Gentleman in Moscow” — though radically different in inspiration, style and story — all share a central theme: the messiness of life. Respective authors Ann Patchett, Richard Russo and Amor Towles join in conversation to discuss not only their stories, but also the details of their craft, why they write and how they create their work.

"Defending Women’s Rights" | Saturday, Aug. 5; 2:05 p.m. | Harbor View Hotel

Alyssa Mastromonaco's "Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?" (Courtesy Martha's VIneyard Book Festival)
(Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Book Festival)

Yes, it is still absolutely necessary to have a panel on the defense of women’s rights. ACLU attorney Gillian Thomas (“Because of Sex”), former deputy chief of staff for the Obama administration Alyssa Mastromonaco (“Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?”) and esteemed author Jessica Harris (“My Soul Looks Back”) look at the defense of women’s rights both legally and practically, everywhere from the arts to the courtroom, the government and the workplace.

Julie Buntin, "Marlena" | Sunday, Aug. 6; 9:30 a.m. | Squibnocket Tent, Chilmark Community Center

Friendships have a profound impact on our lives, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for worse. In “Marlena,” novelist Julie Buntin explores for worse, looking at the impact our childhood best friend can have on the rest of our lives, and what can happen when those pairings are toxic.

Scott Simon, “My Cubs” | Sunday, Aug. 6; 10:15 a.m. | Menemsha Tent, Chilmark Community Center

We all have our sports superstitions — my own family completely changes wardrobes if the Patriots are losing -- and Scott Simon, host of NPR’s "Weekend Edition," is no different. In his extended personal essay “My Cubs: A Love Story,” Simon chronicles his lifelong love affair with the Chicago Cubs, including lesser-known histories of the team and Wrigleyville, familial anecdotes and personal superstitions. With its obvious happy ending (the Cubs won the 2016 World Series, their first ring since 1908), much of the material originated from other Cubs fans — if the Cubs were playing well, Simon had to stay away from the game and any broadcasts, in case his attention spoiled the streak.

Sidney Blumenthal, “Wrestling with His Angel” | Sunday, Aug. 6; 11 a.m. | Squibnocket Tent, Chilmark Community Center

Known for his connections to the Clintons, the Benghazi proceedings and political reporting for major publications, Sidney Blumenthal’s newest book is about an entirely different politician: Abraham Lincoln. The second installment in his comprehensive history of the 16th president, "Wrestling with His Angel" looks at Lincoln’s years out of the spotlight, after his congressional term but before his steps toward the presidency. Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR and WBUR's On Point, will interview Blumenthal.

Joan Nathan, "King Solomon’s Table" | Sunday, Aug. 6; 12:30 p.m. | Stonewall Tent, Chilmark Community Center

"King Solomon's Table" by Joan Nathan. (Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Book Festival)
(Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Book Festival)

In a collection of Jewish recipes from across the globe, Joan Nathan’s cookbook “King Solomon’s Table” follows the historical appetite and interests of the biblical King Solomon. The recipes, accompanied by beautiful illustrations, historical details and personal anecdotes, are both a culinary, and historical, exploration.

David R. Foster, “A Meeting of Land and Sea” | Sunday, Aug. 6; 1:15 p.m. | Chilmark Community Center Hall

For those interested in the local take, David R. Foster’s “A Meeting of Land and Sea” takes a unique look at Martha’s Vineyard through the lenses of ecology, geology, history and culture, all to the tune of conservation. The book encompasses two decades worth of Foster and his colleagues’ research, and posits a guide on how to protect the island in the future.

Madeleine Blais, “To the New Owners” | Sunday, Aug. 6; 2 p.m. | Squibnocket Tent, Chilmark Community Center

Another local angle is Madeleine Blais’ “To the New Owners,” a memoir about growing up with summers spent on the Vineyard. Blais, a Boston Globe reporter in the 1970s, weaves personal and familial anecdotes together with stories about the island itself, as it transformed from the beach town of her memory to a hub of celebrity sightings.

Richard North Patterson, “Fever Swamp” | Sunday, Aug. 6; 2:45 p.m. | Menemsha Tent, Chilmark Community Center

Author Richard North Patterson. (Courtesy Peter Simon)
Author Richard North Patterson. (Courtesy Peter Simon)

Richard North Patterson is known for his thrillers, but in the past year he has made the gap between thriller and political commentary very, very small.

Organized chronologically, the collection of essays in “Fever Swamp” recount the 2016 presidential campaign, and the author’s slow realization of what may — and did — happen. Expect the explosiveness of current politics with the verve of a thriller. Do not expect a bipartisan take.

Meet the Press | Sunday, Aug. 6; 8:30 a.m. | Chilmark Community Center Hall

Just added to the festival program is a new Sunday morning panel. Meet the Press will feature a discussion by E.J. Dionne (Washington Post), Mark Leibovich (New York Times Magazine), Ashley Parker (Washington Post), Mike Bender (Wall Street Journal) and Richard North Patterson (Boston Globe), moderated by Jeremy Hobson of NPR and WBUR’s Here & Now. Be ready for some "astute political analysis" -- coffee is definitely recommended. (This event is free of charge, but a $20 donation is suggested at the door.)

For more information and the full lineup, visit the festival's website


Headshot of Hannah Chanatry

Hannah Chanatry Producer, All Things Considered
Hannah Chanatry was a producer for WBUR's All Things Considered.



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