November 2011, Volume 15, Number 5

Cultural Spotlight

Delights Abound at Book Fair

It will snow in Miami this fall during Miami Book Fair International, when Jeff Kinney, author of the megaselling Wimpy Kid books, appears to greet fans and sign books.

Organizers of the beloved event – which packs Downtown Miami with more than 400 authors, hundreds of exhibitors, hundreds of thousands of book lovers and millions of books – have declared Nov. 20 "Wimpy Kid Sunday," lining up activities inspired by the latest book in the series, The Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever, and even including a street full of snow brought in by truck.

Since the series debuted in 2007, an astounding 56 million copies of Kinney's Wimpy Kidbooks have been printed.

"We are really excited about the Fair this year," said Alina Interián, executive director of The Center for Literature and Theater @ MDC, which produces the Fair. "Jeff was here in 2008 and created our official poster in 2009. The popularity of his books is just more proof that kids are reading and that they get hyped about books, and that gives me great hope for the future."

International Spotlight

This year's featured country is China, and the Fair has partnered with the Confucius Institute at MDC to present a day-long symposium on China's culture and language. On Nov. 18, in a roundtable discussion moderated by Chinese American author Da Chen, some of China's most important contemporary writers will talk about their work and literary trends in China. Visiting authors will also read from their works during Book Fair weekend.

"This is a very significant program," Interián said. "Every year, the Fair brings global literary perspectives to our community. And of course, the entertainment will be fabulous and fun – Chinese acrobats, musicians and dancers. Our partners at the Confucius Institute here at MDC have really worked hand-in-hand with us to make this year's program and pavilion stellar."

The unique and important IberoAmerican authors program is also broadening its scope this year. A series of "transatlantic dialogues" will bring together authors from Latin America and Spain to discuss generational differences, the craft of storytelling and the intersection of literature and cinema. The former presidents of Uruguay and Ecuador will participate in a panel discussion on democracy in Latin America, and Prometeo Theater, another program of The Center for Literature and Theatre @ MDC, will stage dramatic readings in Spanish of plays by the legendary playwright Tennessee Williams in commemoration of his centennial.

Something for Everyone

Other new, out-of-the-box events at this year's Fair include cooking demos by cookbook authors/chefs at the Miami Culinary Institute; the Book Fair  debut of Literary Death Match, an Idol-style reading event that pits authors against each other; and a "date night" twist to one of the events in Friday's "Evenings With" series  that gets fairgoers dinner or drinks at a glitzy Miami restaurant, and admission to the evening's program, for one low ticket price.

Fairgoer favorites are back and better than ever. Twilight Tastings will feature a different restaurant each night, including the popular Soyka, Maitardi and Dogma. The entertainment stage will feature sophisticated acts all three days of the Street Fair, including musical groups presented by Putumayo World Music. And the Children's Alley will feature a bigger stage and more children's authors, storytellers and magical performers.

Then there's the main event: Miami Book Fair's Festival of Authors – celebrities, promising debuts, controversial topics, enthralling novels, lyrical verse, edgy graphic novels, tell-all biographies, teen favorites and so much more. "Evenings With" run from opening day on Sunday, Nov. 13 through Friday, Nov. 18, presenting two authors every night. The weekend, Nov. 19 and 20, boasts 18 venues featuring back-to-back readings, discussions and book signings with more than 400 authors.

"We are the largest and finest literary gathering in the country," says Mitchell Kaplan, chair of the Book Fair Board of Directors and festival co-founder. "People come from all over the world to enjoy it. We top ourselves every year, making it fresher, newer, bigger and better. This year is no different."

Hundreds of Authors, Millions of Books

Praised by Vogue Magazine in Paris for having "no equal in the country for size, bilingualism or sheer fun" and The Los Angeles Times Book Review for being the "paragon of what a city that loves books ought to be like," this year's Miami Book Fair International offers more than ever, with more than 400 authors, including:

  • Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza
  • Harry Belafonte
  • David Brooks
  • Rosanne Cash
  • Dan Clowes
  • Bob Edwards
  • Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Dr. Paul Farmer
  • Angela Farris Watkins
  • Senator Robert Graham
  • Darrell Hammond
  • Yu Hua
  • Ben Katchor
  • Jim Lehrer
  • Mark Kurlansky
  • Megan McDonald
  • George McGovern
  • Leslie Marmon Silko
  • Michael Moore
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Michael Ondaatje
  • Susan Orlean
  • John Sayles
  • Esmeralda Santiago
  • Javier Sierra
  • Calvin Trillin
  • Scott Turow

— Staff Report

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