The Library of Congress National Book Festival is among the most anticipated annual literary gatherings bringing together readers and authors. In partnership with this year’s festival, Washington Post Live will feature conversations with actor Michael J. Fox and U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo about their recent memoirs.

In “No Time Like the Future,” Fox reflects on his journey with Parkinson’s disease and the power of optimism. In “Poet Warrior,” Harjo discusses her Native American roots and path to becoming the voice of a nation. Join opinions writer Jonathan Capehart for the back-to-back conversations. The Washington Post is a charter sponsor of the National Book Festival.

Highlights

The actor recounted a dark period after falling and breaking his arm post-surgery, saying he struggled to regain a positive outlook on life. “I started to think, what is this ‘make lemonade out of lemons’? I’m out of the lemonade business, I can’t put a shine on this, I can’t make this happy, I can’t make this good… It was a real lesson to me in that moment and I really wallowed in. Took me months to get over it… You can do damage to yourself saying the wrong thing to yourself at the wrong time.” (Washington Post Live)
The actor began to work again by channeling his experience with Parkinson’s to influence the characters he played. “I decided not to work anymore because the doctor said I had ten years left to work, and I figured 10 years had passed and I wasn’t functioning the way I used to, I couldn’t do work the way I used to… I just thought all my tools were gone. And then I got an offer to do my friend Bill Lawrence’s show “Scrubs”… And I did it, and I realized everyone has Parkinson’s, it’s just finding that person’s Parkinson’s, whatever that is.” (Washington Post Live)
The Poet Laureate of the United States said despite grappling with the racist history of Black and Asian peoples, the U.S. still does not recognize enough the harms perpetrated against Native Americans. “Usually our numbers are much higher than any other group when it comes to these racial injustices. And yet… we are either called as it happened not too long ago, ‘ something else’ or ‘other.’ Which is strange in a country in which not that long ago we were 100 percent of the population.” (Washington Post Live)
Harjo on harmful stereotypes and popular cultural depictions of Native people. “All of us struggle so hard to shift that narrative of stereotypes… I always say my grandmother Naomi Harjo played saxophone in Indian Territory, put that in your book of images of Natives. When I was coming up as a young artist, I thought if I do anything else in my life with my art, whatever that art is, I want people to see us as human beings.” (Washington Post Live)
Harjo has felt the weight of being a public representative of the Native community since she was “a young person making art.” “I have been aware of that responsibility since I was a child, since I was a young person making art… I see myself as someone holding the door open… not a doorkeeper… just somebody saying, ‘Okay, I might be the first, but I’m not the last.’” (Washington Post Live)

Michael J. Fox

Provided by representatives for Michael J. Fox.

Michael J. Fox gained fame playing Alex P. Keaton on the sitcom Family Ties. His blockbuster movies include Back to the Future, The Secret of My Success, Doc Hollywood, Casualties of War and The American President. He returned to television in his award-winning lead role on Spin City, followed by guest appearances in series like Rescue Me, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Good Wife. His many awards include five Emmys, four Golden Globes, one Grammy, two Screen Actors Guild awards, the People’s Choice award, and GQ Man of the Year. In 2000, he launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which is now the leading Parkinson’s organization in the world. He is the author of three previous New York Times bestselling books: Lucky Man, Always Looking Up, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future. Michael lives with his family in New York City. For more information about the Michael J. Fox Foundation, please visit michaeljfox.org.

Joy Harjo

Provided by representatives for Joy Harjo.

Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The author of nine books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior, her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. As a musician and performer, Harjo has produced seven award-winning music albums including her newest, I Pray for My Enemies. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.