September 2011, Volume 15, Number 4

Cultural Spotlight

Literary Center Celebrates Decade of Growth

This year, literary culture at Miami Dade College celebrates a milestone – the 10th anniversary of the Florida Center for the Literary Arts, now known as The Center @ MDC. Housed at the College’s Wolfson Campus, Center programs are far-reaching, taking place throughout South Florida and engaging children and adults alike.

Book Stars to Rock Miami

Acclaimed as the nation´s finest literary event, Miami Book Fair International is the Center’s most world-renowned undertaking. An eight-day extravaganza attracting hundreds of thousands to downtown Miami for readings by more than 400 authors, along with other activities, the Fair was founded 27 years ago, setting the pace for Miami’s phenomenal cultural growth.

Excitement for the 2011 Fair is already building locally and as far away as China. The Fair has partnered with the Confucius Institute to showcase China’s literature and traditions in a grand pavilion and throughout the Fair.

The Fair’s lineup of authors is also creating buzz in the literary community and beyond. “The star power of this year’s ‘Evenings With’ lineup will light up the town,” said Alina Interián, executive director of the Center.

Rosanne Cash, singer/songwriter extraordinaire, will open the Fair on Sunday, Nov. 13. Later in the week fans can expect legendary entertainer Harry Belafonte, and film director John Sayles. In addition, Dr. Paul Farmer will discuss Haiti after the earthquake, and The New York Times columnist
David Brooks will talk about how humans develop character and achieve goals. The Ibero-American author roster also will pack a wallop, with, among others, Esmeralda Santiago offering a historical novel set in Puerto Rico, TV personality Jaime Bayly presenting a novel destined to be a bestseller, Gioconda Belli reading from an award-winning Utopian story, and Javier Sierra enthralling with a new supernatural tale.

Developing Writers’ Talents

Center staff members plan the Book Fair in the spring and summer, while shepherding year-round Center programs, including the Writers Institute, a conference for writers that draws participants from all over the United States.

The Institute, which takes place every May, has garnered much acclaim. “Workshop seats are in such demand – we had a student travel from Thailand this year – that we’ve decided to add a fall Institute during Book Fair week,” Interián said.

The Book Fair is growing in other areas, too. The Center’s commitment to student success is driving the expansion of one of the Fair’s oldest programs, Student Literary Encounters.

Literacy Program Expands

 “More than 20 years ago, we started out with school visits during the week, and three authors' presentations on Friday,” Interián explained. “Over the years, we have added to meet demand. Last year, we had more than 20 writers presenting to schoolchildren. So, this year, we are adding a second day of author presentations and writing workshops for kids in K-12.” Free books, underwritten by Fair sponsors, are given to the children who come on field trips to the author readings.

Participating in the Student Literary Encounters and in the Fair’s Children’s Alley will include Rose Lewis and Cristoph Niemann, authors of Orange Peel’s Pocket and The Pet Dragon: A Story About Adventure, Friendship and Chinese Characters. The two form the centerpiece of another Center program that promotes children’s literacy and is also growing this year: One Picture Book, One Community.

The Center will target two grades with these titles, distributing 7,000 free books together with teacher activity guides in partnership with Miami-Dade and Broward county schools. Both books address aspects of Chinese culture, part of the fall’s theme, culminating at the Book Fair. Next spring, plans call for adding a third book encouraging literacy in kindergarteners.

The fall programming will deliver on the Center’s commitment to the community it serves by building quality literary programs that promote cultural engagement, Interián said.

“Reading, taking part in theater, writing – all are wonderful fun because the act of creation is so satisfying, so much a part of the essence of what it means to be human. And that is at the heart of what we offer – many ways of deepening the human experience, of having a good time.”

Hundreds of Authors at Nation's Finest Fair

Year after year, the largest and finest literary event in the country presents prestigious authors from the U.S. and beyond. Among others, this year the Miami Book Fair International welcomes:

Graphic novelist, Dan Clowes, The Death-Ray; NPR Radio host, Bob Edwards, A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio; Pulitzer Prize-winner Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot; Senator Robert Graham, Keys to the Kingdom; China’s preeminent novelist Yu Hua, China in Ten Words; McArthur Fellow and cartoonist Ben Katchor, The Cardboard Valise; journalist and former PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer, Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain; children’s author Megan McDonald, the Judy Moody series; critically acclaimed debut novelist Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife; Booker Prize-winning novelist Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table; National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates, A Widow’s Story: A Memoir; former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky, Selected Poems; Native American Renaissance writer Leslie Marmon Silko, Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir McArthur Fellow; and novelist Colson Whitehead, Zone One.

— Staff Report

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