Recapping the 2022 Neustadt Lit Fest


Festival Presenters Anna Badkhen and Marame Gueye / Photo by Gavyn Redd

FOR THE FIRST time since the start of the pandemic, World Literature Today resumed hosting the 2022 Neustadt Festival (October 24–26) as an in-person gathering with a simultaneous livestream feed to a worldwide audience. Nine in-person events—featuring more than a dozen writers, artists, and scholars—attracted several hundred attendees to the University of Oklahoma campus, and the livestream option (including two Zoom-only events) drew participants from some forty countries, making the festival a truly global celebration of literature.

On the first day of the lit fest, WLT executive director RC Davis-Undiano and editor in chief Daniel Simon kicked off the festival, followed by roundtable discussions devoted to “West African Film, History, and Culture” and “Understanding the Work of Boubacar Boris Diop.”

The following morning, the nine jury members who selected Gene Yuen Lang as the winner of the 2023 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s & Young Adult Literature read from their work on Zoom, and a random drawing featured giveaways of signed books by each author/illustrator. Later that day, Kathy Neustadt formally announced Yang as the eleventh laureate of the NSK Prize. Immediately afterward, Boubacar Boris Diop and Bojana Coulibaly took part in a conversation called “Writing Africa Today,” and Diop delivered his “How Do We Say ‘Genocide’ in Wolof?” keynote talk, which is published here.

On day three, the festival culminated with the world premiere of the Black and Blues dance film, a roundtable called “Reclaiming African History, Culture, and Languages,” a conversation with Senegalese filmmaker Maky Madiba Sylla, and the Neustadt Prize ceremony. During the ceremony, University of Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz Jr. offered a video greeting, and Jennifer Croft introduced Diop by way of delivering a tribute in his honor (also published here). Nancy Barcelo, Susan Neustadt Schwartz, and Kathy Neustadt spoke in turn about various aspects of the Neustadt tradition. After receiving the prize and its symbolic silver feather with gratitude and deep humility, Diop offered moving acceptance remarks and received a standing ovation from the audience. In a closing ceremony, Kathy Neustadt, RC Davis-Undiano, and Daniel Simon reflected on the fifty-two-year history of the prize and how the Neustadt programs have impacted thousands of lives.

October 26 also happened to be Diop’s seventy-sixth birthday; at a concluding dinner in Diop’s honor, Maky Madiba Sylla read the tribute that can be found on page 7 of this issue.

Visit neustadtprize.org to learn more about the 2022 lit fest, and check out WLT’s YouTube channel to watch archived videos from all three days. Last but not least, save the date for the fall 2023 festival (October 23–25) that will celebrate the work of Gene Yuen Lang!

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