Authors, Book Lovers Converge at 27th Oxford Conference for the Book

Free public annual event set for April 1-3

The 27th Oxford Conference for the Book will kick off with a celebration of 50 years of the University Press of Mississippi.

Editor’s note: In response to the rapidly evolving situation with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), all university-sponsored events have been canceled or postponed until further notice. Please visit for continued updates from the university.

OXFORD, Miss. – Ernest Hemingway said, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” Along those lines, both book lovers and friends are set to converge April 1-3 in Oxford for the 27th Oxford Conference for the Book.

Free and open to the public, the conference is the longest-running event produced by the University of Mississippi‘s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Events take place on the Ole Miss campus and around Oxford. 

“This year, we are partnering with the Glitterary Festival to bring Dorothy Allison, whose works are so often used in the Southern studies curriculum,” said Jimmy Thomas, the center’s associate director of programs. “I hope that people will come for either the book conference or Glitterary and end up staying for both.”

The inaugural Glitterary Festival is a queer literary festival coming up April 3-5 on campus.

Hanif Abdurraqib, author of ‘Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes on a Tribe Called Quest,’ is one of the National Book Foundation longlisters set to speak during the Oxford Conference for the Book. His talk is set for 3 p.m. April 3 at the Lafayette County Courthouse on the Oxford Square. Photo by Kate Sweeney

“Additionally, the National Book Foundation approached us with the idea of bringing two authors from their longlist of finalists, and I immediately jumped on the opportunity,” Thomas said. “So we have Hanif Abdurraqib and Iliana Regan on April 3.”

Kicking off the conference at 11 a.m. April 1, Craig Gill, Todd Lape, JoAnne Prichard Morris, Tonia Lonie and Ann Abadie will celebrate 50 years of the University Press of Mississippi. Founded in 1970, UPM is the publishing arm of Mississippi’s state universities and has long been a friend to the center, publishing the Mississippi Encyclopedia and various faculty works.

The group will discuss the history and future of the press at a luncheon sponsored by the Friends of the Library in the Faulkner Room in the Department of Archives and Special Collections in the J.D. Williams Library. Lunch is free, but reservations are appreciated.

“The University Press of Mississippi has been another great partner of the center,” Thomas said. “Our most recent successful collaboration has been the award-winning Mississippi Encyclopedia, and we are happy to kick off the book conference and help celebrate their 50th year.”

This year’s participants also include poets Julian Randall and Rosebud Ben-Oni, in honor of April as National Poetry Month. This celebration of poetry takes place each April and was introduced in 1996. It is organized by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry.

The poetry panel, set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Southside Gallery, will be moderated by Beth Ann Fennelly, Mississippi poet laureate and UM professor of English.

Lily King is slated to read from her latest novel, ‘Writers and Lovers,’ at 5 p.m. April 1 during the Oxford Conference for the Book. Submitted photo

Authors and sessions are still being added to the conference schedule, but confirmed participants also include Laura-Gray Street, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Lily King, Zachary Vernon, Jay Watson, Joseph M. Thompson, Tommy Tomlinson, Dorothy Allison and Jeff Sharlet.

The Book Conference Authors Party, cohosted again by Friends of the J.D. Williams Library, is set for Wednesday evening at the Brandt Memory House, 406 University Ave. Attendees have an opportunity to mingle with fellow conference attendees and guest writers at this fundraiser, which is $50 per person. All reservations are made online.

This year’s OCB includes two sessions that spotlight the center’s broader focus on the future of the South.

“In addition to discussing his recent novel, ‘We Cast a Shadow,’ Maurice Carlos Ruffin will consider the role of the writer and the function of literature in a modern South unsettled around a variety of issues, most particularly race,” said Katie McKee, the center’s director.

“The panel featuring the new essay collection ‘Ecocriticism and the Future of Southern Studies’ will involve several of that volume’s contributors in an interdisciplinary conversation about the urgent challenges we face as a region on the front lines of environmental change and global warming. Both of these sessions reflect our deep commitment in Southern studies to thinking, writing and talking about the now and future South.”

Maurice Carlos Ruffin is set to read from his debut novel, ‘We Cast a Shadow,’ a satire story concerning a father’s fear about his son growing up black in America, at 2:30 p.m. April 1. Photo by Clare Welsh

At 1 p.m. Thursday, the Southern Foodways Alliance presents chef and author Martha Foose and former SFA oral historian Amy C. Evans with “A Good Meal is Hard to Find,” storied recipes from the Deep South.

As in past years, “Thacker Mountain Radio” will host a special Oxford Conference for the Book show at the Lyric Theatre, 1006 Van Buren Ave., on Thursday. The guest authors are Leesa Cross-Smith, author of “So We Can Glow: Stories,” and Maria Reva, author of “Good Citizens Need Not Fear.”

Friday’s sessions are held at the Lafayette County Courthouse on the Oxford Square and conclude with a reception and book-signing at Off Square Books.

At noon Friday, the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library will host a poetry talk and lunch. Both the lunch and talk are free, but reservations are required. 

Campus visitors may purchase parking passes for $3 per day at the welcome center on University Avenue, adjacent to the Grove, upon arrival each day. 

This year, the Children’s Book Festival will be held March 27, the weekend before the Oxford Conference for the Book. More than 1,200 students from Oxford and Lafayette County schools are expected to attend the event at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Leesa Cross-Smith is scheduled to read from her book ‘So We Can Glow: Stories’ on the ‘Thacker Mountain Radio Show’ at 6 p.m. April 2. Photo by Mickie Winters

Oge Mora will speak to first-graders at 9 a.m. about her book “Thank You, Omu!” and Cassie Beasley will speak to fifth-graders at 11 a.m. about her book “Circus Mirandus.” 

The Oxford Conference for the Book is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and is supported by Square Books, the Lafayette Council Literacy Council, the J.D. Williams Library, Friends of the J.D. Williams Library, the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, the John and Renee Grisham Writers Fund, Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, and the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library. 

The conference is partially funded by the university, a contribution from the R&B Feder Foundation for the Beaux Arts, a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council and promotional support from Visit Oxford. 

For a complete schedule and more information about the authors, and to register for special events, visit the conference website at and the conference’s Facebook page