In 1984, the crime-fighting duo of Crockett and Tubbs went face-to-face with dangerous drug lords and other unsavory characters, making Miami famous for cocaine, synths, and violence. While Miami Vice was lighting up every living room in America in pastel shades, Miami Dade College was launching the Miami Book Fair, a literary establishment that, unlike the TV show, continues to thrive 34 years later.
For eight days in November, the annual fair is headed by the staff at MDC and indie bookseller Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books. It’s the hot ticket in town for literati across the globe. While much of the world is shivering through the dark, late fall, Miami is buzzing with heat and light.
But that’s not the only reason the fair brings the biggest names in writing to South Florida. Featuring nonstop attractions and oddities, it truly is a gem in Miami's crown. There’s the street-fair portion, November 16 through 18, with 250 publishers and booksellers, which includes Children’s Alley and an antiquarians exhibit; the series Evenings With…, presenting international superstar writers; and the Festival of Authors, featuring 450 writers, including members of the IberoAmerican Author Program.
Miami Book Fair’s director of programs, Lissette Mendez, says the current-events programming is designed to represent the interests of locals. “We bring in dozens of authors from the Caribbean and nearly a hundred authors for our Spanish-language programs because this is who we are here — a beautiful mix of people with roots all over the world, and specifically those regions,” she explains.
This year, one of the most significant and relevant names you’ll see is U.S. Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. She will be hosted in conversation with the first Mexican-American Poet Laureate and author of Jabberwalking, Juan Felipe Herrera. Sotomayor's illustrated children's book telling the tale of her unusual life — Turning Pages: My Life Story, or Pasando Páginas — is out in English and Spanish, as is a version of her book My Beloved World, adapted for middle-schoolers as The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor.
Also featured will be Family Ties actress and Fame author Justine Bateman, Liane Moriarty of Big Little Lies, Pulitzer Prize winners Anna Quindlen and Lawrence Wright, The Vanity Fair Diaries' Tina Brown, and Barack Obama’s presidential photographer, Pete Souza. You can also catch Tomi Adeyemi, author of the New York Times Young Adult Hardcover best seller Children of Blood and Bone; creator of comics Adventure Time/Regular Show and Wired journalist Conor McCreery; and the Pushcart Prize-winning author of Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng.
Mendez points out the fair is also a way to highlight Miami’s finest scribes. “We also very much like to support our hometown talent,” she says. “Though we do not have a dedicated Florida program, we always feature writers who live and work in Florida, and we make an effort to cover Florida-specific issues.”
Local authors include Neil de la Flor of Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos and P. Scott Cunningham, a former Miami New Times writer and editor who founded the poetry festival O Miami and whose book of poetry, Ya Te Veo, was released this past March. Miami’s favorite comedic force, Dave Barry, will tout his newest endeavor, Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog.
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“There’s so much talent here!” exclaims Mendez, a proud Miamian.
Another of the fair’s highlights, this one after-hours, is the Porch. An outdoor tent and entertainment area offers a stage for local musicians, performers, and multidisciplinary artists to share their voices and visions. “It’s a really chill space with a very Miami vibe,” she explains.
The Miami Book Fair elevates the 305's stories to national discourse and attracts the best storytellers in the world to introduce this city to new ideas and perspectives. It's a worthy endeavor that's certain to endure at least another three decades.
Miami Book Fair 2018. November 11 through 18 at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; miamibookfair.com.