The Virginia Festival of the Book Comes to Crozet

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Renee Brooks Caracalos, Lee Graves, and Marijean Oldham discussed the best places to find local food and drink at the Old Trail Lodge’s Third Thursday event. Photo: Clover Carroll.

Crozet residents no longer have to drive into Charlottesville to enjoy the enriching and stimulating celebration known as the Virginia Festival of the Book, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year March 20 – 24, because more and more events are planned right here in the thriving town of Crozet. Though many still wanted to sample the hundreds of offerings all over Charlottesville and environs. Two local events were well attended.

The first time Nicole Chung visited Seattle in her teens, she was astounded by the number of Asians who surrounded her. Growing up in a small Oregon town as the adopted Korean child of American parents, she could count the number of Asians she had ever seen—besides when she looked in the mirror—on one hand. In Seattle, she felt a fleeting, longed-for sense of belonging, and scanned the faces of the crowd searching for her birth mother—with whom she was sure she would share a feeling of connection or awaken a memory. 

Nicole Chung read from her memoir, All You Can Ever Know, at the Crozet Library during the Virginia Festival of the Book. Photo: Clover Carroll.

This moving reading by Nicole Chung launched the discussion of her memoir All You Can Ever Know at the Crozet Library on Friday afternoon, March 22. Chosen partly as a tie-in with the Same Page Community Read novel The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, Chung’s memoir chronicles the blend of deep love and pain she experienced as a transracial adoptee, her search for her birth family even as she was pregnant with her own first child, and her search for a sense of belonging between cultures.

The book’s beautiful cover shows a tree bough with multiple branching shoots, one of which is frayed almost to nothing—a metaphor for the tenuous, but never quite severed, family bonds of a transnational adoptee. Chung is an online essayist and editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Catapult whose articles have appeared in The New York Times and GQ. Her memoir was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, The Washington Post, Goodreads, and more.

“Small actions can lead to big things,” reflected Renee Brooks Catacalos, author of The Chesapeake Table: Your Guide to Eating Local at the Third Thursday event at Old Trail Lodge on Thursday evening, March 21. A graduate of U.Va., she is the former publisher of Edible Chesapeake magazine and a member of the steering committee for the Chesapeake Foodshed Network. “Thanks to many dedicated advocates, it is getting easier to find local, sustainable, healthy, and nutritious food.”

“Locavores Unite: Guides to Eating and Drinking Locally” teamed Catacalos with Lee Graves, the author of Virginia Beer: a Guide from Colonial Days to Craft’s Golden Age and Marijean Oldham, author of 100 Things to Do in Charlottesville Before you Die, for a wide-ranging discussion of how to participate in and support the growing (no pun intended) local food movement. From regional farmers markets to restaurants to the many craft breweries that flourish in our area, the audience learned about the economic and social benefits of exploring our many delicious local food and beverage options.

“The history of beer in Virginia goes back to 1607,” Graves informed us. “And now, the U.S. is the leading beer brewing country in the world. There is a shared passion and strong sense of collegiality among brewers, as well as a synergy with small farmers,” Graves explained. “Breweries sell spent grain to farmers to feed their cattle, then buy back beef to make the hamburgers and steaks they serve with their beer.” 

“My perfect fall weekend in Charlottesville,” counselled Oldham, “would include brunch at Blue Grass Grill, Beer Run, or Marie Bette, a walk in one of our many beautiful parks and trails, a couple of winery tastings, and taking in a play at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton.”  

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