The Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Miami Book Fair (MBF), now in its 40th year, takes place Saturday, Nov. 12 through Sunday, Nov. 19, in downtown Miami bringing some of the biggest literary and celebrity names, including singer Joan Baez, New York Times columnist David Brooks, mystery writer Walter Mosley and actors Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington and Henry Winkler, among others.
In addition, many home-grown authors including Kristal Brent Zook, “The Girl in the Yellow Poncho: A Memoir,” M. Evelina Galang, “When the Hibiscus Falls,” and confessional poet Nicole Tallman, “Poems for the People,” and “Fersace,” will speak about their latest works.
“The Miami Book Fair is a source of pride for me, MDC and the MBF founders, to reach this milestone,” says Lissette Mendez, executive director of the Fair. “I am lucky to be involved in continuing its legacy – promoting reading, dialogue and the exchange of ideas.”
Mendez says the fair takes its cue from the college's mission to change lives through education.
"We are committed to being a force for good,” she says.
Galang, a Filipina-American, and professor of creative writing at the University of Miami, spent 18 years researching the Filipina “Comfort Women,” Filipina women who were kidnapped into sexual slavery by the Japanese during WWII, resulting in her book, “Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War.”
Her current book is "When the Hibiscus Falls."
Much of the 62-year-old's writings center around women – daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, cousins and Lolas (the grandmothers), sisterhood and community.
Recently back from a summer book tour, Galang was energized by the conversations she had with former students and literary sisters around issues of community and legacy.
Writing since seventh grade, Galang says her high school guidance counselor pushed her into something more lucrative, so she pursued journalism, but the urge to write fiction never left.
“I love language and being engaged in creating a good story,” says Galang.
She admires authors Louise Erdich (“Love Medicine”) short story writer Lorrie Moore, Sandra Cisneros (“The House on Mango Street”) and Patricia Engle (“The Faraway World”) - “one of my favorites.”
Growing up in a Polish and German suburb in Wisconsin, Galang, the daughter of Filipino immigrants read mostly white, male-centric literature and wanted to write the stories she yearned to read.
For Galang, one of the most gratifying aspects of her work is hearing the reaction of readers who relate to the stories and see themselves on the page.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Galang is already at work on her latest novel, “Beautiful Sorrow, Beautiful Sky, ” a love story between two 70-year-olds.
To write, she finds a quiet space – in her backyard or garden and meditates to clear her mind. If she’s not in the mood to write, she journals about what she doesn’t want to write about.
“If you have an inkling to write, follow your heart,” she advises.
Also following her heart is journalist and author Kristal Brent Zook, whose coming-of-age memoir, “The Girl in the Yellow Poncho,” recounts her experience growing up the child of an inter-racial union – her mother is Black and her father is white.
A professor of journalism at Hofstra University in New York and former contributor to “The Village Voice,” “The LA Weekly,” and freelanced for “The New York Times Sunday Magazine,” the book began as a work of journalism, but evolved into a memoir.
“Memoirs don’t sell,” Zook, 58, says she was told. “Especially if you’re not famous.”
Famous or not, Zook, who is based in Coconut Grove and the author of four books, says this book resonates for those who have had an absent parent or who feel left out.
“I’m interested in social justice and fighting for representation of women and women of color,” Zook says. “This is a multi-layered book – about generational addiction, sexual assault and the search for my white father.”
The result, (“not a fairytale ending, but a healing one”) Zook says, is a book of generational healing for the black women in her family.
Influenced by the African-American author, Toni Cade Bambara, Zook sits down each morning excited to write. With a clear desk, she often uses Natalie Goldberg’s stream of consciousness journaling technique known as “Morning Pages,” to stimulate creativity.
Her advice? “Write from your heart,” she says. “Write your passions and follow your instincts.”
Poet and author Tallman, who is the poetry ambassador for Miami-Dade County, knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer.
“I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing,” the 47-year-old Tallman recalls.
As her parents pushed her toward something lucrative, Tallman, who wanted to be a journalist, went into public relations and became a ghostwriter and speech writer for Eduardo J. Padrón, past president of Miami-Dade Community College, former Miami Mayor Carlos A. Giménez and Daniella Levine Cava, the first woman Mayor of Miami-Dade County.
She published her first book of poetry, “Something Kindred” in 2020, after feeling her vulnerability and mortality during the COVID-19 shutdown.
The death of her mother from cancer in 2017 freed her to express herself emotionally, and from there, “the floodgates opened.”
Influenced by both Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton (“two of my favorites”), she counts deceased Miami poet Maureen Seton, a friend and collaborator and hometown Michigan poets Alex Dimitrov, Diane Seuss and Victoria Chang as inspiration.
A poet for modern times, Tallman pens a first draft in the Notes app on her I-phone where she can re-read and edit quickly.
She tries to write one poem per week, and is currently working on her latest book of poems, tentatively titled, “La Dolce Vita,” exploring our digital dependency and its influence on our desires.
“I want people to read more poetry,” Tallman says. “And, not just mine and not just dead poets.”
“Let’s celebrate our poets while they’re alive,” says Tallman, who will also host a tribute to Seton and her last book of poems, “The Sky is an Elephant” at the MBF.
“We have a great literary community here in Miami,” she says. “Come out and join us. There are some heavy hitters.”
Miami Dade College’s (MDC) 40th Miami Book Fair (MBF) starts Saturday, Nov. 12 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in downtown Miami
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