Recapping the 2021 Neustadt Lit Fest

by  WLT

A photograph of the NSK Laureate's medallion

DUE TO UNCERTAINTIES surrounding the Covid-19 delta variant, World Literature Today once again hosted the 2021 Neustadt Festival (October 25–27) as a 100 percent online gathering. Nine Zoom-based events, several hundred attendees, and participants from some twenty-five countries made the festival a truly global celebration of literature.

On the first day of the lit fest, two roundtable panels celebrated diversity in young adult lit and the work of 2021 NSK laureate Cynthia Leitich Smith. That afternoon, the ten members of the 2022 Neustadt Prize jury read from their work, and WLT editor in chief Daniel Simon announced giveaways of signed books by each writer. The following night, Kathy Neustadt announced Boubacar Boris Diop as the twenty-seventh laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, following the jury’s marathon deliberations earlier that day. (Diop will be awarded the prize in fall 2022.)

On the final day, Cynthia Leitich Smith delivered her “Decolonizing Neverland” keynote talk, which is published here. The festival wrapped up that evening with the NSK Prize ceremony. University of Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz Jr. and US poet laureate Joy Harjo each delivered video greetings, welcoming attendees and paying tribute to Smith as a fellow Muscogee writer, respectively. Nancy Barcelo, Susan Neustadt Schwartz, and Kathy Neustadt spoke in turn about various aspects of the Neustadt tradition, and Monica Brown delivered a heartfelt tribute while introducing Smith. After accepting the NSK Prize, Smith gave acceptance remarks and read excerpts from her work, to enthusiastic acclaim from the audience.

In a closing ceremony, Kathy Neustadt, OU professor Joshua Nelson, and WLT advisory board member David Shook engaged in a lively recap of the lit fest with Daniel Simon and WLT executive director RC Davis-Undiano.

To watch videos from the entire festival, visit WLT’s YouTube channel, and check out the Neustadt website to learn more about the fall 2022 festival that will celebrate the work of Boubacar Boris Diop.