Internationally Famous Author Alice Sebold Brings Star Power to 2018 Festival of Books

‘We are Only Powerful When We Admit We are Powerless’

By South Dakota Magazine & South Dakota Humanities Council

Editor's Note: A version of this feature story was originally printed in our 2018 South Dakota Festival of Books Guide, which was produced by South Dakota Magazine. Download a free copy here or by clicking the button below.

Alice Sebold has a powerful message to share with readers and fans of her book "The Lovely Bones" when she visits Brookings for the 2018 Festival of Books

'Lovely Bones' Author to Tackle Tough Subjects at 2018 Event, Featuring Collaboration with SDSU Common Read

"It's not 'the thing that happened to me,' or 'the assault,'or 'the beating,' or 'that,'" Sebold writes in her 1999 memoir, "Lucky."

"I think it's important to call it what it is."

"Lucky" recounts, in painfully honest detail, Sebold's rape as a Syracuse University college student and its aftermath — the trial that followed, the misguided but well-meaning reactions of family and friends and Sebold's own determination to save herself.

The 2018 South Dakota Festival of Books will be held Sept. 20-23 in Sioux Falls and Brookings.


Sebold Leads 2018 Festival of Books Fiction Track

Sebold leads the fiction track at the 16th annual South Dakota Festival of Books, which will be held Sept. 20-23, 2018 with events in Brookings and Sioux Falls. Other tracks include non-fiction, literature, history/tribal writing, children's/YA, writers' support, and poetry.

She brings star power to the 2018 Festival of Books, having achieved a rare and coveted coup in the author world with her debut novel, "The Lovely Bones." Not only was her book read by millions, it was also turned into a screenplay that would be seen by millions on the big screen. In 2009, director Peter Jackson and Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg and Susan Sarandon brought her novel to life as a major motion picture.

"The Lovely Bones" is written in first-person point of view by 14-year-old protagonist Susie Salmon; she narrates from heaven, describing her kidnapping, rape and murder and her family's subsequent struggles.

Alice Sebold will be featured at the 2018 S.D. Festival of Books, discussing her hit debut novel


Director Peter Jackson: Sebold's Book is 'Hopeful and Strangely Comforting'

"As soon as I read the book, I was inspired by how unique this story could be as a film — both in a narrative sense and as well as visually. Perhaps most of all, I responded to the hope and good humor that runs throughout the book," Jackson said in an interview with "USA Today" upon the film's release.

"It's an emotional experience reading Alice's book, but it's far from a grim and depressing story. I found it to be both hopeful and strangely comforting, I think perhaps because Susie herself comes to terms with her death, and her attitude helps to inform our own. As narrator, she never veers into self-indulgence or self pity."

Jackson said "The Lovely Bones" is "one of the most satisfying" films he's ever worked on.

A literary sensation when it was published in 2002, "The Lovely Bones" is also one of 100 novels included in the PBS series "The Great American Read." As part of "The Great American Read" activities with SDPB, SDHC is featuring three titles from America's 100 Favorite Books List in its Book Club to Go program: "The Lovely Bones," "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and "The Book Thief" by Marcus Zusak.

Partnering with SDSU's Common Read

While Sebold is in Brookings, she will address South Dakota State University students and community members who have read this year's Campus and Community Common Read selection, "Wrecked by Maria Padian."

Padian's novel spins multiple perspectives to show the emotional impact of a sexual assault on a fictional college campus.

"I think having Alice Sebold in the community to speak to the issue of sexual violence will be an integral addition to the programming we already have in the works for the Common Read," says Kate Stock, Common Read committee member.

"It's exciting for us to be able to share messages of awareness and prevention of sexual assault not only with the students on our campus but also with our community members."

Alice Sebold will be featured at the 2018 S.D. Festival of Books.

South Dakota State University students pick up copies of "Wrecked," the 2018 Common Read selection, at the Hilton M. Briggs Library.

Shared Reading Program Benefits SDSU, Brookings Community

In 2009 the Common Read series started as a way to challenge SDSU students and introduce diverse perspectives on subjects that are controversial through a shared reading experience and a variety of events held throughout the fall semester. In her three years of involvement with the committee, Stock has seen benefits on campus and in Brookings.

"Any time we can get students and community members to engage in open dialogue about challenging but important topics, that's a success," says Stock.

Acknowledging difficult issues can bring us strength, according to Sebold.

"There also will be, no matter how much we keep it at bay, chaos and trauma. To embrace it is to understand we are only powerful when we admit we are powerless," Sebold said in a 2014
interview with the "Homer News."

"That is how I go about writing and living."


Alice Sebold 2018 Festival of Books Schedule

Brookings Events


More About Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold is the author of three #1 bestselling books, including the memoir Lucky and two novels. Her 2002 debut, "The Lovely Bones," was an international bestseller, with translations in over 45 languages and sales of over five million copies in America alone. 

It was named a Book Sense Book of the Year and made into a major motion picture with an all-star cast. A frequent speaker on violence against women, Sebold is a member of the National Leadership Council for RAINN.org (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

Alice Sebold will be featured at the 2018 S.D. Festival of Books.

More About the South Dakota Festival of Books

To read more about Alice Sebold and other authors at the 2018 South Dakota Festival of Books, and for scheduling information, click below to visit our website listing everything you need to know about the 2018 Brookings and Sioux Falls event.