November 2014, Volume 18, Number 4

COVERSTORY

 

A Literary Fest of Epic Proportions

For South Floridians, autumn yields a cornucopia of unique pleasures: cooler temps, the start of stone crab season, the end of hurricane stress . … What’s not to love? But for the local literati, mild weather and crustaceans don’t hold a candle to the whirlwind of bestselling authors, booksellers and lit-centric events that MDC’s Miami Book Fair International brings to Downtown Miami each fall.

In its 31st year, the Fair reached its greatest scope yet, delivering more than 600 authors, 250 exhibitors and exciting new additions to its roster of long-beloved events, Nov. 16-23. In addition to its ever-popular weekend Street Fair, where book lovers hunkered down joyfully in the colorful tents that housed publishers’ makeshift stores, the Fair offered exciting events for people of all ages, from reading, art and theater activities for kids to hundreds of intimate author encounters, readings, lectures and discussions featuring an astounding array of prominent writers. This year, both PBS and C-SPAN broadcast live from the Fair.

The Fair opened Nov. 16 with a presentation by attorney Theodore B. Olson, who along with David Boies chronicled how they fought and won the Supreme Court fight for same-sex marriage in California in their book, Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality.

Top Authors

Among the many notables in attendance this year, the Fair’s Evenings With series featured a bevy of literary greats including Anne Rice, Alexander McCall Smith, Patricia Cornwell, Joyce Carol Oates, Barbara Ehrenreich, Chuck Todd, Nicholas D. Kristof, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. In addition, the Fair joined forces with the National Book Foundation for an evening featuring all 20 winners and finalists of the National Book Awards in a memorable and unprecedented gathering of literary star power.

During the weekend, the list of author encounters grew longer yet: John Waters, Walter Isaacson, Dr. Cornel West, Helene Atwan, Norman Lear, Richard Dawkins, Dr. Judith Rodin, Gwen Ifill, U.S. Congressman James Clyburn, Tavis Smiley, David Rothkopf, Anne-Louise Carricarte, Jeff Chang, Jennifer Devere Brody, Edwidge Danticat, Joyce Brabner, Azar Nafisi, Claudia Rankine, Elizabeth Alexander, Sheila E., Pat O’Brien, Pamela Paul, Ann Patchett, Nicholson Baker, Francine Prose, John W. Dean, Walter Mosley, Richard Blanco, Marlon James, George Clinton and John Cleese were in attendance.

Prominent Spanish-language authors also made a strong showing with Elena Poniatowska, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Julia Navarro, Clara Sánchez, María Teresa Andruetto, Daína Chaviano, Jorge Zepeda Patterson and Jorge Franco, to name a few.

Something New

A new venue gave fairgoers even more to love this year. Presented with the support of a Knight Arts Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Florida-themed literary lounge The Swamp was a den of creativity for artists, writers and performers who presented their own twist on the quirks and perks of their home state. One such Swamp dweller was the legendary children’s author Judy Blume, who talked to Alicia Zuckerman of National Public Radio affiliate WLRN about her childhood years in South Beach.

For the Young’uns

As they do each year, schools from around the county bussed in thousands of children and teens to explore the Fair’s numerous offerings for young readers. During Generation Genius Days, on Thursday and Friday, elementary, middle and high school students had the rare opportunity to meet their favorite – or soon-to-be-favorite – authors and hear them discuss their books in person.

Weekend children’s events were a delight for kids and parents alike. Notable children’s book authors in attendance included Jason Segel, Ann M. Martin, Tony DiTerlizzi, Katherine Applegate and Liniers. Kid-centric sites abounded as well: Children’s Alley bustled with lots of pop-up FUNrooms, Children’s Stage, and Mr. Wembly Wordsmith’s Storytorium, which challenged budding writers to find their own voice. The Park @ Miami Book Fair, a pop-up park in the heart of it all sponsored by The Miami Foundation and the Miami Marlins Foundation, let little ones shake the sillies out with yoga, painting, a fresh market, playground and obstacle course.

Book Fair’s reach was felt all around Miami-Dade County with PlayTime! International Children’s Theatre Festival. Presented with the support of a Knight Arts Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, PlayTime! gave kids a chance to see exceptional acts from around the world at MDC’s Teatro Prometeo and Koubek Center, as well as at Little Haiti Cultural Center.

Fine Fare for Foodies

In The Kitchen, chefs and cookbook authors dished on the art of cuisine in the Miami Culinary Institute’s state-of-the-art Food & Wine Demonstration Theater. Presenters included “The Salvage Chef” Michael Love, Paleo Vegan author Ellen Jaffe Jones, Italian chef Fabio Viviani, The Cuban Table author Ana Sofia Peláez, and Lee Schrager on fried chicken and sides, among others.

— MR


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