The publishing industry in the United States has always underrepresented writers and readers of color. It still does today. But if you really want to know what is happening among African American writers and readers go the Harlem Book Fair.
Started in 1998, The Harlem Book Fair is a celebration of much that is happening in the literary world of African American lives. This is a two block long celebration of reading and writing. Most of the authors are self-published, or published by small independent presses. I would break them down into four categories - Children’s Books, Urban Lit, Political/Historical and Self-help. What you find here are books that just do not appear in Barnes & Nobles or any other large store that caters to the latest commercial successes.
Along with space for authors to sell their books, The Harlem Book Fair also has indoor panel discussion on many topics. Many of the non-fiction panels were covered by CSPAN2 - BOOKTV , this year covering 7 hours of panel discussions on such topics as Economics, African-American Identity and Race and Politics. There are also panels on literature. This year The Amazing Ms D. (Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa) participated on a panel entitled Literature and Diaspora along with the authors Ifeona Fulani (Ten Days in Jamaica); Gillian Royes (The Rhythm of the August Rain); and Tiphanie Yanique (Land of Love and Drowning). It is too bad that CSPAN only covers non-fiction, because this was a fascinating discussion on the issue of writing about the African diaspora from a Caribbean point of view.
|Gillian Royes, Ifeona Fulani, Cheryl Sterling, Dahlma Lanos-Figueroa, Tiphanie Yanique|
In addition to celebrating the writing of African Americans, The Harlem Book Fair also gives space to musicians and craft people. I heard wonderful love jazz performed by Atiba Wilson & The Befo' Quotet.
An example of the crafts was booth run by DIOUM BASKET who import goods from Senegal.
If you are interested in finding out about what is happening in the world of books that are not covered on the NY Times best seller list then make time next July to come to the Harlem Book Fair.