Miami Book Fair opens with most flexible programming
After devising an all-virtual work-around in compliance with pandemic restrictions a year ago, Miami Book Fair is back at Miami Dade College’s downtown Wolfson Campus with its most flexible programming yet. The 2021 edition, continuing through Sunday, Nov. 21, offers programs in several formats.
“Last year covid restrictions forced us to go entirely online,” said Lissette Mendez, the fair’s director of programs. “So instead of in-person presentations, we created an online platform and author conversations, and also recorded videos of those conversations so that they could be streamed at any time on a Netflix-like platform.”
Since planning for this year’s event began in January and February, she said, “we’ve been rolling with the punches, making changes as necessary depending on what was recommended.”
With Miami-Dade’s vaccination numbers up and covid cases down, a hybrid format seemed the most practical solution in the end.
Fair organizers are still taking special precautions this year to keep everyone safe. To keep numbers to recommended levels, tickets are required for all author readings and conversation as well as scheduled programming at Children’s Alley. Chairs and tables will be positioned appropriately. At the end of each author conversation or reading, the room will be cleared out for cleaning.
This year’s fair offers almost 300 programs, about 150 of which are accessible by streaming.
They include authors writing in English, Spanish, French and Haitian Creole.
“A number of the writers are from other countries,” Ms. Mendez said, “and were unable to come in person because of travel restrictions. Those folks are participating online. It’s a great way to bring them to our audience.”
Diversity has always been a priority.
“Our city is home to people from all over the world,” Ms. Mendez said, “including American Latinos, African-Americans and a large Haitian community. We try to pay attention to the dialogues all these communities are having. I am a firm believer that what concerns me should concern you, whether we are in the same community or not. We need to make sure that dialogue is accessible to all. This is true also of race and gender, and even of genres – mysteries and romance as well as literary fiction.
“This is one reason I like that the fair is returning to downtown, where people of different communities can come together and recognize ourselves in others.”
While virtual programming has been essential to the fair’s survival in recent times, Ms. Mendez said she doesn’t see it as a replacement for in-person encounters.
“They’re two different kinds of things,” she said. “Connecting in person with an author is one type of conversation and dialogue. In essence, the writer performs for the audience. It’s an invitation to come on in and listen to another point of view.
“In the online format, where the audience is invisible, that intimacy takes place between author and interviewer, and conversations can get really deep.
“Though it’s true that when the audience is brought into the space where the author lives, funny things that happen can create a feeling of intimacy. A kid opens the door, or a dog or cat comes in.”
Tomorrow evening (11/19) starting at 5 p.m., the Miami Book Fair invites guests to enjoy Downtown Happy Hour, featuring live music and free drinks, at The Porch on the Wolfson Campus. This event requires a ticket for admission.