History Book Festival to cover wide range of topics

August 11, 2023

An idealistic immigrant caught up in corporate corruption, a young Black journalist’s search for answers in the unsolved murder of her great-grandfather in segregated Alabama, and an obscure street in Manhattan and the remarkable artists who got their start there are among the fascinating stories to be featured during this year’s History Book Festival, taking place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30, and Sunday, Oct. 1, in Lewes.

The festival is the first and only event of its kind in the United States devoted exclusively to historical nonfiction and fiction.

In total, 24 authors will discuss their latest works at the seventh annual event. The ticketed Sept. 29 keynote event with NPR host Steve Inskeep is sold out, but Sept. 30 author presentations at several venues in Lewes are available completely free, thanks to the support of funding partners the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices/PenFed Realty and Delaware Humanities.

Here are just three of the books and authors that will be featured.

“Eli and the Octopus” tells the tragic story of Eli Black, immigrant-turned-CEO of United Brands, who seemed an embodiment of the American dream until he leapt to his death from Manhattan’s Pan Am building. Under his leadership, United Brands was transformed from “the Octopus,” a nickname that captured the corrupt power the company held over Latin American governments, to a socially conscious company working with labor unions to improve conditions for its workers. So, how did it all go wrong?

Author Matt Garcia, who teaches history, Latin American, Latino and Caribbean studies, and human relations at Dartmouth College, takes readers through Black’s poignant rise and fall. Garcia’s appearance is presented in partnership with the Historic Lewes Farmers Market and the ACLU of Delaware.

Garcia will also speak at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market about his other book, “Food Across Borders,” earlier in the day Sept. 30.

Inspired by author Cheryl A. Head’s family history, the novel “Time’s Undoing” is a harrowing tale of the unsolved murder of a young Black journalist’s great-grandfather in segregated Birmingham, Ala., in 1929. Determined to find answers to her family’s long-buried tragedy, and spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement, the protagonist travels to Birmingham to uncover the truth.

Head is the author of the award-winning Charlie Mack Motown mysteries, whose female private investigator lead character is queer and Black. Her appearance is presented in partnership with the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice.

In her historical nonfiction book “The Slip,” Prudence Peiffer takes readers back to the 1950s and ’60s, to Coenties Slip, an obscure little street at the lower tip of Manhattan overlooking the East River, which was home to a group of extraordinary, then-struggling artists including Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist, Delphine Seyrig, Lenore Tawney and Jack Youngerman. As friends and inspirations to one another, they formed a unique community of unbridled creative expression and experimentation, producing eclectic and influential works that changed the course of American art.

Peiffer is an art historian, writer and editor specializing in modern and contemporary art. Her appearance is presented in partnership with the Rehoboth Art League.

To cap off a Saturday full of open-access events, attendees are invited to enjoy a spirited discussion after-party at the Lewes Public Library.

The festival’s closing event Oct. 1 will be a discussion with James McBride, author of “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store.” McBride will speak at 1 p.m. at the Cape Henlopen High School Theatre. Closing address tickets are $28 and include a signed, hardcover copy of the featured book. Tickets can be purchased at

The closing address is presented in partnership with Seaside Jewish Community and Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice, and funded through the generous support of Dogfish Head Beer and Benevolence.

For more information on all presenting authors and their featured books, go to

Books can be purchased after each presentation, when authors will be available to sign them, or they may be bought in advance at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, the official bookseller of the History Book Festival, or at Biblion in Lewes. All festival titles may also be borrowed from the Delaware Public Library system as the books are available. 


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