The recent announcement of the closing of Borders has left many bookworms in disbelief. The big-box bookstore celebrated more than 40 years of nourishing the minds of its customers. While it saddens many, community and small- bookstore owners will undoubtedly gain more traffic.
Living proof is the 13th Annual Harlem Book Fair, which was abuzz on Saturday, July 23, 2011, and was held at 135th Street and Lenox Avenue. Notable authors, including Kola Boof, Wahida Clark, Omar Tyree, BernNadette Stanis, Styles P, book lovers and street-festival fans enjoyed live music, spoken word, book readings, panel discussions, Afrocentric gear and body oils. Even the community and neighborhood bookstore owners who had pop-up stores at the fair weren’t feeling the pressure of digitization that has beleaguered Borders.
Founder Max Rodriguez says that the Harlem Book Fair and others, in general, “represent an opportunity for us to gather to congratulate ourselves, to reconnect, to let each other know that we are still pushing on. More importantly, we get to measure ourselves against the grain, make adjustments and jump back into the fray.”
Here are five additional reasons why book fairs are important for the community:
1. You can meet your favorite author and ask all of those questions that were burning inside you when you were reading the page-turner.
2. Become familiar with authors from different genres and their work. A person’s backstory can be very enlightening. For example, a traffic-stopper was this woman dressed in a white wedding gown. Her name is Kontrena Clark, author of The Day I Met a Wolf. She wrote a piece of fiction, based on a true story, that reveals how she met a man with whom she fell in love. He swindled her out of $55,000 in cash and credit.
3. Find books that are out of print or hard to locate.
4. If you’re an aspiring author, this is your prime opportunity to learn how to get in the book business.
5. Take a break from the mundane. It’s a cultural outing. Book fairs aren’t just about books. At the HBF, there were vendors selling handcrafted jewelry (I copped me a pair with precious stone and a brass ankh.), clothes, furniture and dolls dressed in pieces made from recycled clothing.
If there’s a book fair scheduled in your community, make a date with your significant other, set a girls’ or guys’ day out or even use it as a time to expose your kids to various forms of literature. –yvette caslin