Max Rodriguez, founder of the Quarterly Black Book Review (QBR), started the Harlem Book Fair in 1999. The annual event that is usually held in July takes place at West 135th Street between and Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
The Harlem Book Fair Begins
During its first year, the fair was a small community event that mainly spotlighted books. The crowds were not what they have become. However, books sold in large quantities, testament to the passion that African Americans have for memorable storytelling.
Ten years since its inception, the numbers of people who attend the celebration of African American writers and books has swelled by the hundreds. Representatives from major book publishers and local magazines and newspapers set up booths at the fair. The fact that independent authors and publishers are afforded the same consideration as are large imprints makes the fair a welcomed experience.
C-SPAN, Media and the Harlem Book Fair
C-SPAN’s “Book TV” covers the event live. Sponsors for the 2009 Harlem Book Fair included the Dallas County Community College District, C-SPAN, the African American Literature Book Club, Parle, Magazine, radio station KISS 98.7, Urbintel, American Legacy Magazine, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Kenworth Consulting.
As soon as book lovers enter the fair, they are met with tables of new and classic books. Getting an autograph copy of a favorite book is as easy as shaking a good friend’s hand. All readers have to do is request an autographed copy of a featured title.
Throughout the day bestselling writers take the stage that is placed near the fair’s entrance. The writers read excerpts from their latest books from the stage. Previous years have seen writers like the National Basketball Association’s Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Zane, Tracy Price Thompson, Carl Weber and Denise Turney featured at the main stage. Book and media businesswoman, Heather Covington, owner of New York City’s Disigold Soul, served as co-emcee for the 2006 Harlem Book Fair.
Discussion Panels and Entertainment at the Fair
Across the street from the Harlem Book Fair at the Schomburg Center author book discussions and talks are held. The discussions are open to the public. Prior featured author talks include Life is Short and Wide: Memoir and Biography in the Diaspora, The Politics and Legacy of Ama Ata Aidoo and They Lived Before Adam.
The fair has also hosted live stage performances at the Schomburg Center like the one man play, Growing Up Daddy. Writers hoping to break into print can attend panel discussions led by published authors to learn how to land an agent, find an editor and market and promote their books.
Poetry, children’s books, photograph, non-fiction and fiction titles line the many tables at the fair. It is not hard to find great price deals. The event that generally starts about 10:00 a.m. does not wind down until 6:00 p.m. Crowds remain steady until the last event wraps up.
The night before The Harlem Book Fair, the QBR holds an honoree’s banquet to pay tribute to talented African American writers, literary pioneers and activists. Previous banquets have honored people such as Carla Ranger, Dr. Jerrie Scott, Catherine Achonolu, Sekou Sundiata and Abiodun Oyewole. Attending the event that is free to the public upon reservation is an excellent way for book lovers to spend an intimate evening with their favorite writers and other literary front runners.