The Harlem Book Fair took place this month with the launch of the “One Book, One Harlem" Award. Sponsored by the HBF and Hue-Man Books, the inaugural award was bestowed upon New York author Bernice L. McFadden's Glorious (Akashic Books).
Glorious was named as one of the "5 Books to Watch For" in the May issue of Oprah Magazine and described therein as, among other things, "riveting." McFadden's story is set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era, and she has blended the truth of American history with her amazing imagination to tell the story of “Easter,” a fictional writer who sees more horror and challenge than any woman ought to, including the most egregious loss any writer can know.
"I feel honored, privileged and humbled to have my novel Glorious chosen as the debut title for the One Book, One Harlem initiative," McFadden told me. "Having been a long time reader and fan of Terry McMillan, it is a dream come true to have her as a supporter of my work and advocate for African-American writers."
The "HBF" is the largest gathering in the nation celebrating African American authors as well as family literacy, community empowerment and community cooperation. Activities connected with this year’s Fair took place in multiple venues including the Schomberg/Hughes Auditorium in the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library, the Countee Cullen Library Auditorium, and the Thurgood Marshall Annex Auditorium. Events were recorded and broadcast live on C-Span’s Book TV.
The theme of this year’s gathering- “Women of Word and Power”- was evidenced by the presence of many well-known women writers, including contemporary fiction icon Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale), who interviewed McFadden, Sonia Sanchez, Queen Afua, and Gloria Browne-Marshall. The “One Book, One Harlem” interview was not only a celebration of McFadden’s brave novel, but also a call to aspiring authors to follow their paths, to avoid the trap of urban fiction, and to otherwise write with truth and beauty their “her-stories.”
Panels, such as one entitled “God is Not a Christian: Can We All Get Along in a World of Holy Wars and Religious Chauvinism?” bore out the themes of encouraging and fostering community development. Four scholars and religious leaders with diverse backgrounds- Bishop Carlton Pearson (God is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu… God Dwells With Us, In Us, Around Us, as Us; Simon & Schuster), seminary professor Obrey Hendricks (The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How Thy Have Been Corrupted; Doubleday), and board member of Women in Islam Dr. Sarah Sayeed) - talked about their views of how humanity’s attempts to answer the question of “why” for war, terrorism, oppression and the like has caused the branching of religions into groups of people pitted against one another. Moderator Malaika Adero, Vice President, Senior Editor, Atria Books, set the tone for what was a time of communication and sharing that earned not a few, but many “amens” from this writer and others, and also a well-deserved standing ovation.
Many other panels were offered, including those addressing racial justice, living against resistance, diversity in children’s and young adult book publishing, bridging the market-driven literacy gap (“Digital Divide to Digital Inequality”) as well as workshops through the QBR & AALBC.coms Publishing YOU-niversity on publishing, marketing, branding, and media. Authors presented readings in an outdoor courtyard, and a “block party” market and bandstand area surrounding 515 Malcolm X Boulevard showcased many publishers’ and authors’ exhibits for goods and services as well as offered delicious foods and amazing tunes.
Organizers of the event this year welcomed Heart & Soul magazine, the National Black United Fund, the National African American Read-In, and AALBC.com as Charter Community Partners of the Harlem Book Fair.
National Leadership Sponsors of the event are the Penguin Group USA, the NAACP, UNCF, the New York Urban League, and the National Black United Fund. Returning HBF Media Partners are Urbintel, Parle Magazine, aalbc.com, and returning Community Literacy Partners are the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York Public Library, Harlem World, and WHCR 90.3 FM (the Voice of Harlem).
For more information about the Harlem Book Fair, please contact Max Rodriguez at 212/348-1681 or at [email protected].
For more information about Hue-Man Bookstore, please contact Marva Allen at 212/665-7400 or at [email protected].
For more information about Bernice McFadden's book, Glorious, please contact Ibrahim Ahmad at Akashic Books at 718/643-9193 or at [email protected].
©2010 Text and photos M. D. Caprario
M. D. Caprario is an author, editor and journalist working in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York covering for the media all good things in the book, film and entertainment worlds- and people and things striving to make our World a better place. Reach her at [email protected].