Beach Reads

Big names? Big Deal. An alternative take on the Book Fair.

Who is your audience in Miami, and what is your previous Miami experience?

Back when Copper Sun came out, I went on my first and only book [store] tour. The bookstores brought in scores and scores of high school and middle school students. There were excited teachers, excited kids. Of all of the cities I went to, Miami was the best. Miami is so huge and so spread out and diverse that's it is hard to get a feel of my audience, but I know that there is interest there. Lyssa Oberkreser


Joseph Kanon
Joseph Kanon

Details

Congress of Authors, November 12-19; Street Fair, November 17-19. Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, downtown Miami between Biscayne Boulevard and NE 1st Avenue from NE 3rd Street to NE 5th Street; www.miamibookfair.com.

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Into Africa
Melissa Fay Greene, There Is No Me Without You: One Women's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Orphans
Saturday, November 18, 11:30 a.m., Room 7128 (Bldg. 7, 1st Fl.)

Journalist and author Melissa Fay Greene says she never quite recovered from her 2001 trip to Ethiopia, where she witnessed firsthand the magnitude of the AIDS pandemic. Though originally commissioned by the New York Times to write an article about the plight of Africa's 12 million AIDS orphans, her research evolved into a book, There Is No Me Without You. In an attempt to put a face on the estimated 25 million people with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, Greene tells the true story of one woman, Haregewoin Teferra, an Ethiopian who turned her home into a makeshift orphanage to care for hundreds of children whose parents fell victim to AIDS-related illnesses. Weaving harrowing tales within a historical framework that traces the history of AIDS in Africa, Greene brings to life the predicament of a continent battling a crisis of staggering proportion.

Why Ethiopia?

My husband and I have four children, and when they began leaving home, we decided to adopt, and Africa was being called a continent of orphans.... I saw these lively, affectionate, playful children, and I realized the same fate awaited all of them — they were all going to die. The whole continent had been written off, and all these people were considered dead — they just happened to still be walking around.

How well has the book been received?

There was a tremendous reaction to the story I did for the New York Times, but within mainstream American media, the book reviews have been mixed.

Describe one of your most memorable book tour experiences.

Some of the most ridiculous and most offensive things have come in online. I did a Q&A discussion on Salon.com, and one person wrote, "AIDS in Africa is overrated." — Joanne Green


Moral Mystery
Joseph Kanon, The Good German
Saturday, November 18, 3:30 p.m., Auditorium (Bldg. 1, 2nd Fl.)

Joseph Kanon made a bundle in publishing before he penned his first piece of historical fiction, Los Alamos. His third book, The Good German, has been adapted into a major Hollywood movie starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett and directed by Steven Soderbergh. The plot (an American journalist ventures into Ally-occupied Berlin in search of his illicit love interest) involves a film-friendly marriage of murder mystery, espionage, and romance. But for Kanon, his examination of the lives of Germans trying to survive devastation — rendered by both Allied bombs and their complicity in the Holocaust — is much more complex: He describes his novel principally as "moral intrigue."

What is your audience in Miami, and what do you think of this place?

I don't know that there's any specific niche audience in Miami. Certainly because there's a large Jewish population, there's an interest in these kinds of books because they touch on the Holocaust, but I wouldn't like to think they're any more interested than anyone else.

I like Miami very much; it's kind of hard not to. I enjoy myself, as I imagine most tourists do. Pleasure is kind of built into the quotient down there. But it's more than a beach; it's a really interesting city. The Latin influence over the last 20 or 30 years has given it new life. It's not just retirees; it's a vibrant, interesting city. I always like going there.

What's it like to sort of give your book over to Hollywood?

Well, as a publisher, I've had a chance to observe the process many times. The best way to go about it, I'd say, is just let it go. As an author, you'll always have your own movie playing in your head. But film is a different medium; you can only hope that someone smart is handling it. And I think they are smart. I like the people involved; they're terrifically friendly to me. They kept me in the loop. The producers asked me about historical background, and my son even got a nonspeaking role. If he hasn't ended up on the cutting room floor, look for a tall, handsome, young man lingering in the background of the bar scene.

You've said, though, that when you think of your principal characters, you see George Clooney and Cate Blanchett. Has your own "movie" been co-opted?

That's true. I think it's an inevitable process — particularly if these actors are effective visually, and these actors are. And that's okay. I don't object to it.

Any nightmare stories in book touring?

Well, as a publisher, I received a panicked phone call from someone we'd accidentally booked on a Spanish-language show — and those sorts of things happen. But it's really a pretty wonderful way to see the country. It's not just the inside of airports. You go out and meet people, talk with them, really see the places. And these people haven't come out to boo you. They share a genuine interest in your work, or if they're really bookish, the work in general. Calvin Godfrey

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