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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of English Language and Literature

Dinah Johnson to Represent S.C. at National Book Festival

The book "All Around Town", by Dinah Johnson, has been chosen to represent South Carolina at the 2014 National Book Festival in Washington, DC.

COLUMBIA, SC – The South Carolina State Library’s Center for the Book has selected All Around Town, by Dinah Johnson, to represent South Carolina at the 2014 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. The book is the state’s selection for the National Book Festival’s “Discover Great Places Through Reading Map”. Each state selects one title of fiction or non-fiction, a book about the state or by an author from the state that is a good read for children or young adults. The map is distributed at the Pavilion of the States at the Festival and lists “Great Reads About Great Places”.

Johnson’s inaugural children’s book offers a rare view of life for African Americans living in Columbia, SC, during the 1920s and ’30s, through the photography of Richard Samuel Roberts. This self-taught photographer’s carefully composed shots capture the emotion behind his subjects’ often stoic facial expressions and reveal all the highlights of daily life: a bride and groom, a funeral procession, a baseball team and a family portrait, to name but a few.

Many of the photos are formal portraits of adults, either alone or in groups; child subjects ranging in age from infant to teenager will be particularly appealing to youngsters, especially one displaying a welcome touch of whimsy: a boy pictured with his arm around a tame rooster, which is incongruously perched on a chair indoors. The book’s unadorned, album-like design effectively sets off Roberts’s crisp, sepia-toned photographs, elegantly framed with simple line borders. Readers will likely be left with a feeling that they’ve visited a long-ago time that has much in common with their own. Ages 5-up. -Publishers Weekly

About the Author: Dr. Dianne “Dinah” Johnson received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University in English, with concentrations in African American Studies and Creative Writing. She then received her Master’s Degree in African American Studies, and her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. She is currently a professor of English at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Johnson has written six picture books for children, and edited or co-edited various publications including: The Best of the Brownies’ Book (a compilation of fiction, poetry, photographs and more, from the 1920’s children’s magazine edited by W.E.B. Dubois and Jessie Fauset); the African American Review (a special issue devoted to black children’s authors and illustrators); and The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. She is also involved in the production of a documentary film called Beautiful by Design: The Story of African American Children’s Literature. For more information, please visit


The National Book Festival will be held in Washington DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday August 30, 2014. This year’s festival will feature authors, poets and illustrators in several pavilions. Festival-goers can meet and hear firsthand from their favorite poets and authors, get books signed, hear special entertainment, have photos taken with storybook characters and participate in a variety of activities. The Pavilion of the States will represent reading and library programs and literary events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. trusts and territories. Children attending the festival are given maps to take to each state’s table to have that state stamped to receive a prize. For more information, please visit

The South Carolina Center for the Book is the South Carolina Affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book and is a cooperative project of the South Carolina State Library, the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science, and The Humanities CouncilSC. The Center is located at 1500 Senate Street, Columbia. For more information, please visit

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