SMU Dallas literary festival brings compelling authors to city

Free festival features Nikole Hannah-Jones and other authors on theme of ‘resilience’

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU’s Dallas Literary Festival is back March 12-22 with discussions from more than 100 acclaimed national and local authors as well as literary events across the city. Authors representing relevant and diverse voices will converge at a series of in-person events on the SMU campus, at Fair Park’s African American Museum and at other locations throughout Dallas. 

Headlining the festival is the 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story and 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work-Nonfiction. She will close the festival at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, at SMU.

Find the full schedule for the free programs here.

The festival’s theme, resilience, was chosen when organizers expected to be looking back at how the country to survived the turbulence of 2020 and 2021, said Sanderia Faye Smith, Dallas Literary Festival executive director, SMU creative writing faculty member and author of the award-winning novel, Mourner’s Bench.

“As the festival date approaches, we realize we’re going to need even more resilience to stay the course and not give up,” she says.

While related events begin March 12, the first official festival event is Friday, March 18, featuring National Book Award finalist David Treuer and scholar, poet and author DeMaris Hill.  Truer’s The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is a new narrative that demonstrates how Native Americans have maintained their culture and civilization through dark years, while Hill’s Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood is anarrative in verse that takes a personal and historical look at the experience of Black girlhood.Truer and Hill will speak at 7 p.m. at SMU’s McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall.

Two full days of author panel discussions, readings and interviews follow, March 19 and 20, at SMU’s Dallas Hall and Fair Park’s African American Museum. Panelists and speakers include journalist and author Jelani Cobb discussing the state of American journalism, former SMU and NFL running back Eric Dickerson discussing his life and new autobiography, and Dawnie Wilson, author of the acclaimed debut novel The Final Revival of Opal and Nev.  Also featured will be national award-winners, memoirists, scholars, romance writers, poets, historical fiction writers, and authors of gems you haven’t heard of yet, but will.

Here is a sample:

Saturday, March 19, Dallas Hall, SMU


  • SMU and NFL football great Eric Dickerson, Watch My Smoke
  • Joaquin Zihuatenejo, National Poetry Slam finalist, Grand Slam Spoken Word champion
  • W. Bruce Cameron, New York Times bestselling triology A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Way Home, A Dog’s Courage
  • Longform narrative writer Catherine Prendergast, The Gilded Edge, named by Artnet as one of top 20 books about art in 2021. 
  • Brittany Barnett, A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice and Freedom, NAACP Image Award Nominee


Sunday, March 20, African American Museum, Fair Park


  • Dawnie Walton, The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, 2021 Good Morning America Buzz Pick, named one of best books of 2021 by Barack Obama, the Washington Post, NPR
  • Elisa Dusapin, Winter in Sochko, 2021 National Book Award-winner for translated literature
  • Novelist Nathan Harris, The Sweetness of Water, Oprah’s June 2021 Book Club pick
  • Scholar and commentator Jelani Cobb, author of The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from The New Yorker
  • Culinary historian Adrian Miller, Black Smoke
  • Daniel Black, author of Don’t Cry for Me, February 2022 Book-of-the-Month pick


In other related events, the South Dallas Cultural Center is hosting a women’s poetry workshop on March 12. Dallas Public Libraryis hosting a literary preview March 13-18 including craft and story-making projects, readings, a Shakespeare Adventure Walk and writing workshops. Friends of the SMU Libraries is hosting its annual Tables of Content fundraising dinner March 19 and SMU’sTate Lecture is hosting biographer Walter Isaacson on March 21 – the only festival events requiring purchased tickets.

“I suggest the attendees start early and stay late,” says Sanderia Smith. “Learn from everything we have provided for you.”


SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.