Brooklyn Book Festival

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By Tremira Mitchell | On Sunday, October 1, I was given the wonderful opportunity to volunteer at the Brooklyn Book Festival at Cadman Plaza. The Center for Black Literature participated in the event’s Literary Marketplace, spreading awareness about their organization. For over 20 years, The Center for Black Literature has dedicated itself to promoting Black literature and generating public interest in their work and the work of Black writers. They offer various literary programs and events available for people of any age. It was my first time at this festival, so I wanted to see what it was all about. I, of course, was interested in seeing all the books being sold. I brought my brother with me so that he could experience it as well.

Since it was on a Sunday, I expected the festival to be more relaxed. However, I will admit that I was surprised to witness a very packed outdoor venue. Based on these observations, I gathered that it is a popular event to attend. I am not a fan of crowded spaces as I find them anxiety-inducing. I will have to remember that the next time I go. I did find the weather quite relaxing, as it wasn’t blazing hot, yet it wasn’t too cold either—perfect weather for the beginning of autumn. A minor nitpick: I was disappointed that no food or water was available at the festival. But the plaza is surrounded by plenty of restaurants.

The Center for Black Literature, who was partnering with the festival, was handing out flyers for their upcoming National Black Writers’ Conference in March 2024. The National Black Writers’ Conference aims to spread awareness about Black writers and their works. This conference is one of the main events held by the Center for Black Literature and furthers their aim of fostering discussion about race and history through diverse literary works by Black people. It sounds intriguing, so I’d be interested in attending if I have the time later.

As a volunteer, it was my job to help the Center for Black Literature out at their booth by passing out fliers and obtaining contact information from any interested patrons. I admit I’m not the best at striking up conversations, especially regarding people I don’t know. But, with some encouragement, I was able to convince festivalgoers to sign up.

I am an avid reader, so I was looking forward to seeing what books were available. I purchased a couple while we weren’t all that busy at the booth. One book I got was The Princess Diaries Collection by Meg Cabot from the bookstore Culture Fusion Books and More. I am aware of the movies, which are based on the books by Cabot; for many, the series is a childhood classic. But, despite the first film adaptation coming out when I was born, I still haven’t gotten around to watching them. Hopefully, the books will give me some context for the story. The collection features the first two volumes in the series, and the books are in good condition. This store sells used books on Washington Avenue to anyone interested.

The second book I picked up was Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, sold by Revolution Books. I skimmed through the book and was intrigued by Woodson’s writing style. From what I read, I assumed it was a book of poems. To be more specific, the poetry style that Woodson uses in the novel is called verse. It is a narrative style of poetry that tells a story; in this case, about Ms. Woodson’s childhood.

Revolution Books is an independent, nonprofit bookstore, whose mission focuses on left-wing politics and starting a revolution against the system. I had an interesting conversation with one of the employees there who expressed his frustration with this country, which he felt is moving backward rather than forward. For example, he was unhappy with the government’s attempts to control women’s bodies and ban drag performers. I, too, am worried for the future of this country; I don’t want the many dangers it faces to cause the nation to fall apart. Knowing how many racist and transphobic people are out there is terrifying. As a Black woman, I am tired of all of the senseless violence and prejudice.

I highly recommend the Brooklyn Book Festival to anyone interested in purchasing books. There are plenty of fantastic publishing companies and bookstores to check out and support. The event embodies what I love about books so much: they bring people together to start conversations about life. Whether fiction, nonfiction, or historical, books allow people to express themselves using words and share what they want to say with the world

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The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College is supported in part by an American Rescue Plan Act grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support general operating expenses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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