A literary bus driver’s holiday
Think bus driver’s holiday. Everyone has a favorite event at the annual Boston Book Festival, which takes place Saturday at various locations around Copley. But what about those who work with books for a living? Are they even interested? Turns out many are, so we decided to ask some librarians and booksellers which events they are most excited about. The fiction keynote by best-selling novelist Tayari Jones (“An American Marriage’’) drew keen interest as did the panel on “Choices and Challenges” for middle-grade readers. Here is what they said.
Norah Connolly works as a librarian and technology specialist at Cambridge Street Upper School — a school that, according to Connolly, frequently discusses race and culture and the impact of both on education. Consequently, “I am most looking forward to the events having to do with race and discussions about race,” Connolly said. That includes “Not Just a Game: Sports and Social Change,” which features the perspectives of Etan Thomas (“We Matter”), Amy Bass (“One Goal”), Wil Haygood (“Tigerland”), and Howard Bryant (“The Heritage”). Bill Littlefield, former host of WBUR’s “Only a Game,” moderates the conversation. “I’m interested to hear the author [of “The Heritage”] speak about athletes and activism,” she said. “A lot of our students have their eyes and ears on that.’’
Cagen Luse (“LunchTime ComiX’’), artist and cohost of Comics in Color, a group for creators and fans of comics by and about people of color, will run a drop-in workshop for kids in the morning and a “Mini Comicon” for members of his group to showcase their work at the Roxbury satellite fest in the afternoon. What is he personally hoping to catch? He says he would love to see Jabari Asim (“We Can’t Breathe’’), a presenter at “America’s Original Sin: Racism,” where Asim will discuss racism with fellow presenters Monica Muñoz Martinez (“The Injustice Never Leaves You’’) and Laura Wides-Muñoz (“The Making of a Dream’’) with moderator Maria Garcia of WBUR.
Dan Sullivan, co-owner of the Book Oasis in Stoneham, calls himself “a history person,” and is looking forward to the “On Leadership’’ event: Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin (“Leadership: In Turbulent Times’’) will discuss the topic with former secretary of state John Kerry (“Every Day Is Extra”), and former UN ambassador Samantha Power (“A Problem From Hell”) will moderate. “The biggest thing, going to anything like that, whether it’s a trade show or a book festival, is just the atmosphere,” Sullivan said, “being immersed in book people, the conversations, and all that kind of stuff.”
Anna Rakityanskaya, a librarian in the European languages division of Harvard’s Widener Library, said she is particularly looking forward to “Crossing Languages: A Journey of Poetry and Translation,” which features Boston-area literary translators Catherine Ciepiela, Jim Kates, and Elizabeth Oehlkers.
“I love to hear the conversation about the art, the very art of poetry translations, which fascinates me,” Rakityanskaya said. “I have the greatest respect for people who have this gift for translating poetry . . . because it takes a poet to translate poetry.”
Rakityanskaya added that there is value to events like “Crossing Languages” that offer a global perspective.
“All events like this I think have special meaning in the world we live in right now — they bring together people and ideas from different parts of the world,” she said. “Anything that strengthens the ties between people is important — [and] poetry does that.’’
Akunna Eneh, a programs and outreach librarian for the Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library, will moderate “Poetry — Live!” a reading at the Roxbury venue featuring poets: Shauna Barbosa (“Cape Verdean Blues’’), Simone John (“Testify’’), Nina LaNegra, and spoken-word artist Anjie Birket, a student at John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science School. “Poetry is one of my favorite parts of literature, and Simone John and Shauna Barbosa in particular are two of my favorite contemporary poets right now,” Eneh said.
But she plans to catch a conversation between novelist and memoirist Kim McLarin (“Womanish”) and Tayari Jones, which will also take place in Roxbury. “[‘An American Marriage’] is a very timely book covering incarceration and sexism . . . and all this stuff that I really related to, so I’m very excited to hear from her,” Eneh said. “I’m just really excited by someone that big coming to Dudley Square.”
Alex Meriwether, general manager of Harvard Book Store, noted several events that caught his interest, including the “Love Letters” panel with Boston Globe columnist Meredith Goldstein (“Can’t Help Myself”) and award-winning podcast producer Amy Pedulla.
“In a world where podcasting is such a vibrant new medium . . . hearing about the production of a new podcast, especially as it interfaces with a new book, looks to be really interesting,” Meriwether said.
As a reader of graphic novels, Meriwether said his interest also was piqued by a conversation between UMass Amherst comparative literature professor N.C. Christopher Couch and Jason Lutes on the graphic novelist’s epic project, “Berlin,” which follows the decline of the Weimar republic.
Meriwether also flagged the “Massachusetts Fiction Writers on Their Craft and Culture” presentation, which features Christopher Castellani (“The Art of Perspective”), Gish Jen (“World and Town”), and Margot Livesey (“Mercury”). Essayist and critic Sven Birkerts (“The Art of Time in Memoir”) will moderate.
“This is a really unique panel discussion on how writing fiction and writing criticism interface, and it will be really interesting to see those local authors all in conversation with each other,” Meriwether said.
Jean Holmblad, a youth librarian at the Newton Free Public Library, is most looking forward to “Choices and Challenges,” a conversation between middle-grade authors on characters who must make big decisions. The panel features Meg Medina (“Merci Suárez Changes Gears”), Tami Charles (“Like Vanessa”), and Kheryn Callender (“Hurricane Child”). Educator Monique Harris will moderate the discussion.
“I’m really looking forward to that because Meg Medina is going to be there, and I love Meg Medina,” Holmblad said. “She’s just a fabulous speaker, and has really interesting things to say. . . . I’m really interested to hear what she has to say about [“Merci Suárez Changes Gears”] and I’m really interested in Latina literature.”
Morgan VanClief, a library media specialist at P.A. Shaw Elementary School in Dorchester, says she is “super excited’’ to catch children’s book author, illustrator, and musician Jef Czekaj at “Hip and Hop in the House,” where he will read and rap his picture book of the same name.
She said that Czekaj has visited her school and that the “kids went nuts over him when he was here. They absolutely love him. He’s super interactive and high energy and entertaining, so I’m glad that he’s part of it, so I definitely want to see him again.”
She also plans to attend the fiction keynote with Tayari Jones, and readings of “Fun and Feminist Historical Fiction,” with authors Laura Andersen (“The Darkling Bride”), Theodora Goss (“European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman”), and Mackenzi Lee (“The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy”). Whitney Scharer (“The Age of Light’’) will moderate.