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Southern Voices Guests 2019

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.  Under his leadership, the EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School.  His book, Just Mercy is an award winning New York Times best seller that tells the story of the EJI, the people they represent and the importance of confronting injustice.  Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu states that Just Mercy is “as gripping to read as any legal thriller and what hangs in the balance is nothing less than the soul of a great nation.”  The movie Just Mercy starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx is set to release in 2020.

Friday, Feb. 22 at 7pm - $40 • The Library Theatre - Book signing and reception to follow.

Melanie Benjamin

Melanie Benjamin is The New York Times best-selling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Aviator's Wife and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Before turning her focus to historical fiction, she published short stories in the In Posse Review and The Adirondack Review, as well as two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser. Her first historical fiction novel, Alice I Have Been, was inspired by the life of Alice Hargreaves Liddell, the real-life Alice in Wonderland. In her latest historical novel, The Girls in the Picture, Publishers Weekly praised her portrayal of the “loving but competitive friendship” between Golden Age screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford, “women on the rise in a man’s world.”

J. T. Ellison

A graduate of Randolph-Macon Women’s College, J. T. Ellison is a former presidential appointee who worked in the White House and the Department of Commerce before moving to the private sector to work as a financial analyst and marketing director. She is now a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author who writes stand-alone domestic noir, psychological thriller series and the international thriller series A Brit in the FBI with The New York Times best-selling author Catherine Coulter. In 2015, she was named cohost of the Emmy Award-winning literary television show A Word on Words. Her latest novel, Tear Me Apart, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly who called it “outstanding” and stated that she is “at the top of her game.” Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

Patti Callahan Henry

Growing up in Philadelphia as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Patti Callahan Henry learned early the value of storytelling, a lesson which has served her well as The New York Times best-selling author of 13 novels. Her contemporary Southern fiction novels centering on women navigating family life and romantic relationships have won her much praise over the years. She has been a finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, an Indie Next Pick, an OKRA pick and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year. Her newest novel, Becoming Mrs. Lewis, is her first foray into historical fiction, telling the story of the friendship and love between Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis, which Library Journal called “a magical and literary experience that won't be soon forgotten.” Patti currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama.

Roger Johns

Roger Johns is a former corporate lawyer, retired college professor and the author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries Dark River Rising and River of Secrets. During his nearly two decades as a professor, he served on the editorial staffs of several academic publications and won numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and scholarly writing. He is the 2018 Georgia Detective/Mystery Author of the Year, a 2018 Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award nominee and a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award for best police procedural. Roger, along with four other crime fiction writers, also co-authors the MurderBooks blog at

David Joy

David Joy's novels tell the stories of the men and women whose lives are tied to this land and its history. He is the author of the Edgar finalist novel Where All Light Tends to Go, as well as the novels The Weight of This World and The Line That Held Us. His stories and essays have appeared in Time, The New York Times Magazine, Garden & Gun and The Bitter Southerner and have been nominated for awards such as the Pushcart Prize. Author Wiley Cash says “No one writes about the issues facing rural America as clearly, as fairly or as well as David Joy.” David Joy lives in North Carolina.


Gin Phillips

Born in Montgomery, Gin Phillips graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a degree in political journalism. With the success of her first novel, The Well and the Mine, winner of the 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award, Gin was able to transition from her day job as a freelance magazine journalist into writing fiction fulltime. Her latest novel, Fierce Kingdom, was one of the most critically acclaimed novels of 2017, earning praise for its page-turning plot while also highlighting the daily stresses of parenthood through a terrifying scenario.

Lori Roy

Kirkus Reviews calls Lori Roy’s latest novel, The Disappearing, a “twisted Southern gothic winner” that “oozes with atmosphere.” Set in an isolated Florida town, Lane Fielding must come to terms with the crimes of her father, the former director of an infamous boys’ school, while dealing with the disappearance of one her daughters. Lori is a two-time Edgar Award winner for her novels Bent Road and Let Me Die In His Footsteps. Her novel Until She Comes Home was an Edgar Finalist. Her work has been twice named a New York Times Notable Crime Book, included on various best of lists and summer reading lists and named an Editors’ Choice by The New York Times. Lori lives with her family in west central Florida.

Sean Deitrich

Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, Good Grit, The Tallahassee Democrat, South Magazine, Yellowhammer News, The Bitter Southerner, Thom Magazine, The Mobile Press Register, and he has authored ten books.

A mediocre sailor and fisherman, a biscuit connoisseur, and barbecue competition judge, when he’s not writing, he spends much of his time aboard his fourteen-foot fishing boat (The S.S. Squirrel), along with his coonhound, Thelma Lou.

The Cahaba River Watershed Project

The Cahaba River Watershed Project is an artistic collaboration, lecture and exhibition by new media artist Elisabeth Pellathy, printmaker Scott Stephens and sculptor Lee Somers. It is an exploration of the natural environment, the Cahaba River Watershed, and how it has been shaped by human activity and serves as a ubiquitous vessel for memory and history. Their investigation centers around the river’s ecological and geological features as well as the economic and social history of the area. The exhibition features the working methods of the artists using drawing, photography and CAD generated and 3D modeling images that are laser engraved into acrylic plates and printed using traditional intaglio and relief techniques.

The Cahaba River is Alabama’s longest substantially free flowing waterway with some of the greatest biodiversity and scenic beauty in the nation. Beginning in a wide area of natural springs northeast of Birmingham, it flows southwest to the Alabama River just below Selma. It traverses a rich geography and history in what is now some of the most densely populated areas of the state. This project is exploring three visual themes around the Cahaba: its ecological and geological features; its natural resources, especially the coal, limestone, and iron ore mining that was the foundation of the early iron industry in the area; and its social history, from important battles in the Civil War to modern-day civil rights events and environmental issues.

Opening Reception:
Tues., Feb. 19 • 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Lecture by Artist Panel • 6:00pm
Theatre Level - Free and open to the public.