LitFest 2021 wordmark (AMHERST, Mass., Jan. 21, 2021)—Amherst College will host the sixth annual LitFest this year, an annual literary festival celebrating fiction, nonfiction, poetry and spoken-word performance—as well as the College’s extraordinary literary life—Feb. 25-28. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, the event has gone virtual, but it will still feature top-notch readings and conversations with award-winning authors. This year’s lineup includes Charles Yu, winner of the 2020 National Book Award (NBA) for fiction; 2020 NBA fiction nominee Megha Majumdar; 2020 NBA poetry finalists Tommye Blount and Natalie Diaz; and Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum, among others.

Since its inception in 2016, more than 20 renowned writers—including Mark Bowden, Jamel Brinkley, Michael Chabon, Susan Choi, Jennifer Egan, Masha Gessen, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stacy Schiff, Jesmyn Ward, and Zadie Smith—have participated in LitFest, many as a result of a partnership between Amherst College; its award-winning literary magazine, The Common magazine; and the National Book Foundation (NBF) Presents program.

All 2021 events will be livestreamed, and more information about the events and the writers is available at amherst.edu/go/litfest »

The 2021 schedule is as follows (all times are Eastern Standard): 

  • Friday, Feb. 26, 7-8 p.m.: A reading and conversation with 2020 NBA fiction winner Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown, and 2020 NBA fiction nominee Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning. The event will be moderated by Amherst College visiting writer Thirii Myint. An audience Q&A will follow.
  • Saturday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.: A reading and conversation with 2020 NBA poetry finalists Tommye Blount, author of Fantasia for the Man in Blue, and Natalie Diaz, author of Postcolonial Love Poem. The event will be hosted by John Hennessy, poetry editor of The Common and a 2020 judge for the National Book Award in poetry. An audience Q&A will follow.
  • Saturday, Feb. 27, 2-3 p.m.: Emily Dickinson’s Amherst College. In partnership with the College’s Bicentennial, join the Emily Dickinson Museum staff for a talk about the impact of the College on the life of poet Emily Dickinson.
  • Saturday, Feb 27, 4:30-6 p.m.: Alumni Author Cocktail Hour and Student Readings. From 4:30-5 p.m., Amherst College student interns at The Common will read from their own creative work and engage in discussion. From 5-6 pm, Jennifer Acker ’00, director of LitFest, will host readings from recent books by standout alumni authors. An audience Q&A will follow.
  • Sunday, Feb. 28, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.: The Poet’s Prose: Rereading Joseph Brodsky’s Essays Today. Hosted by professors Catherine Ciepiela ’83 and Polina Barskova, a conversation with author/critics Christopher Benfey, Sven Birkerts and Jonathan Galassi.
  • Sunday, Feb. 28, 1-2 p.m.: A conversation between Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy, and Cullen Murphy ’74, The Atlantic editor-at-large and former chair of the Amherst College board of trustees. An audience Q&A will follow.

“The isolation of the pandemic makes this year’s celebration of the literary arts even more a reason to unite,” says Jennifer Acker ’00, director of LitFest and editor-in-chief of The Common. “Together, from our separate spaces around the world, we can delight in words and each other’s company.” 

Books can be purchased in advance from Amherst Books or Bookshop.org. All registrants will be invited to enter a raffle for a chance to win a book from one of the guest authors.

This year’s festival is sponsored by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst College, The Common magazine and The Emily Dickinson Museum. It is made possible by the generous support of the Croxton Lecture Fund, established in 1988 by William M. Croxton ’36 in memory of his parents, Ruth L. and Hugh W. Croxton. Income from this fund is to be used to educate Amherst students and to bring publicity to the College by virtue of the renown of speakers underwritten by the fund. 

About LitFest 

In addition to welcoming prestigious writers to campus, LitFest aims to illuminate Amherst’s distinguished literary history and the tradition of creative writing at the College—“the writing college”—as well as the extraordinary resources and opportunities available for current and prospective students, scholars and others. These opportunities include chances to study with renowned faculty and alumni authors; the College’s award-winning literary magazine, The Common, and its Literary Publishing Internship that teaches participating students editorial skills and the ins and outs of publishing; extensive holdings of manuscripts related to Emily Dickinson, Richard Wilbur ’42 and other authors and poets in the College’s archives; and the College-owned Emily Dickinson Museum in downtown Amherst and Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Read more at amherst.edu/go/writingcollege.

All 2021 LitFest events will be livestreamed. Find the schedule at amherst.edu/go/litfest »