This past Sunday, thousands of New Yorkers who love the written word came out for the 10th anniversary of the annual Brooklyn Book Festival, one of America’s premier book festivals attracting a hip, smart and diverse crowd.
Lines formed early for the dozens of panels that offered a closer look at favorite authors followed by book signings.
The Brooklyn Law School — across Joralemon Street from Brooklyn Borough Hall — held 15 panels, most with a connection to law, from roots of social justice, to the right to vote, to the affect of various rulings. In the packed “moot courtroom,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams participated in the Civil Rights and Policing panel discussing issues of race, bias as relating to law enforcement, civil rights, and police behavior.
In a later panel, Law School President Nicholas Allard held a discussion with BBC and ABC Nightline reporter Derek Taylor on the Magna Carta (Magna Carta in 20 Places) and a riveting story by Dina Gold (Stolen Legacy – the successful restitution from Germany for Nazi-stolen family property).
Other panels held at over nine venues offered a wide range of discussions. From science-fiction, to the political, to literary, from non-fiction, to novels or poetry, there was someone of interest for everyone.
Traveling from Haiti, Kettly Mars participated with two other francophone writers whose books have been translated into English — Pierre Lemaitre from France and Fiston Mwanza Mujila from Congo, all set in periods of social upheaval.
Mars’ novel (Savage Season) takes place during the 60s Duvalier dictatorship and explores complex motivations by her main character. “There is no heroine in my story,” she shares. During the discussion, Mars told how she was a child during that time, living always under this shadow of silence when so much went unspoken.
Meanwhile under the warmth of the September sun, book lovers perused the over 500 booths of publishers and literary organizations that snaked the pathways from Brooklyn Borough Hall to Johnson Street.
Author and Caribbean Reads publisher Carol Mitchell, from St. Kitts, with daughter Alexa, could be found at her book display in the Caribbean Cultural Theatre booth. Mitchell’s press has published 24 books.
In 2006, Mitchell had written two children’s books and found that local publishers were only interested in text or scholarly books. “I couldn’t get anyone to look at them. I couldn’t even get the pitch in,” she says. She published them herself.
Other local authors of children’s and adult books came to her asking for advice and assistance. Thus her publishing company emerged. She is selective in what she publishes.
Caribbean Reads carries 12 books for children under age nine, five for middle grades, two for young adults, and three adult books. Mitchell has written about half of these. While several of the books she has written are for early readers, she’s now — with pressure from her 12-year-old daughter — gearing her work toward young adults. She has a four-volume fantasy / history Caribbean Adventure Series.
Mitchell has also recently attended a book tour in the Boston area. “It’s great to read about children in other cultures,” she says, acknowledging that her books aren’t just for Caribbean heritage children. “Kids have different experiences. They’re different yet they are similar too.”
Tanya Batson–Savage author of “Pumpkin Belly & Other Stories” sat with the Read Jamaica collection of books by Jamaican authors that also was based at the CCT booth.