Your View: Local Book Love for Black Lives Matter

By: Daniel Palugyai

Black lives matter.  And Miami’s Book Fair and Books & Books are amped up in full support.

“It’s not going to stop.  What we do is not going to stop.  It’s going to continue and we’re going to double down on everything that we do,” Mitchell Kaplan says.

Kaplan’s always kept conversations about race front-and-center as a major part of his stores’ and fairs’ programming with Miami Dade College.  And plans for this November’s fair will honor that tradition.

You don’t have to wait until then though to join the movement.  In light of peaceful demonstrations for racial justice growing in Miami and worldwide these weeks, the Book Fair is reprising past author panels “and we’re bringing people’s attention to keep the conversation going and bring all of this into even more focus,” Kaplan explains.

Ibram X. Kendi discusses his book, How To Be an Antiracist, in conversation with fellow non-fiction authors Sarah M. Broom (The Yellow House) and Mitchell S. Jackson (Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family), in one of the videos.

And you can hear former Black Panther, Albert Woodfox, talk about Solitary—his National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-nominated memoir on confinement, transformation, and hope at Mitchell’s podcast (The Literary Life).

People are rediscovering a wide range of genre-expanding classics in poetry and prose by James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Nikki Giovanni, as well as contemporary greats like Colson Whitehead (The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between The World and Me and The Water Dancer).  Toni Cade Bambara’s final novel, edited by Toni Morrison—Those Bones Are Not My Child: A Novel—also speaks powerfully to the moment.

James McBride (The Color of Water) has a new novel out this year—Deacon King Kong.  But don’t sleep on Hialeah-born, Jennine Capó Crucet’s recent My Time Among The Whites, either.  Or, for that matter, Haitian-Miamian Edwidge Danticat’s latest short-story collection—Everything Inside.

Some highly anticipated releases this summer, Kaplan also notes, include Professor Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.’s Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, as well as Megha Majumdar’s debut novel, A Burning—the anti-Muslim problems in India she covers say something to our society.  Majumdar is discussing her novel at a joint, store- and fair-sponsored virtual event June 24th.

These works are “as essential as individual letters are essential to the writing of a text—it is one and the same,” says Lissette Mendez, Miami Book Fair’s director of programs.  In this spirit she spotlights the fair’s newly recurring ReadCaribbean and Little Haiti Book Festival virtual events.  Lisette also reveals that Speak Up, the fair’s free poetry and performance workshops—featuring artists like Aja Monet (My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter)—is expanding to people of all ages nationwide virtually in mid-July. 

“I think with the incredible support that we’re seeing across the country and across the world,” Kaplan closes—in awe of Black Lives Matter’s mainstream acceptance— “I think for the very first time in my long life we may see some very serious change and discourse go on and not just people give lip service to it.”

Books & Books stores are serving the public through the pandemic at various locations across South Florida.