Miami Book Fair International 2010

This is one of those busy weekends where several fall and/or literary events are going on and I want to go to them all, only that’s not feasible. We allocated Saturday to the Miami Book Fair International at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus is Downtown Miami, though we hoped to get there early enough so that we could go to Miracle on 136 Street Parade at The Falls Shopping Center with my son. That last part didn’t happen for two reasons: 1) had a crappy night the night before where my son didn’t sleep well (which means we┬ádidn’t sleep well) so we got to the book fair late and 2) we stayed longer than we anticipated.

The Miami Book Fair International is one of those events I look forward to every year. I stalk the website months before the event, looking for clues that detail the upcoming authors. I also look for workshops that may be offered in conjunction with the fair. This year, Cristina Garcia (Dreaming in Cuban) was giving a workshop on the first day of the street fair, Friday, but unfortunately, I had meetings and work that had to be taken care of. The Book Fair consists of both street fair and author readings. Everywhere you look you see authors proudly displaying their books and eager to sign them for you, if you buy them, of course.

The tents – with their red, green, orange roofs that contrast on the white shells – line up the street of MDC’s Wolfson Campus/Downtown in the shape of a cross. Book vendors include bookstores (like Books and Books), publishers (like University of Florida Press), self-publishing, electronic publishing, book T-Shirts (these were NEAT! They’re T-shirts that resemble sports shirts: a name and number on the back, only the name is a famous author! Some have images on them; e.g. Edgar Allan Poe’s shirt had a black raven on it. It was awesome!), literary magazines, the world’s smallest books, newspaper subscriptions, and so many more. Some of the booths house an author displaying his/her work.

There’s a Children’s Alley where characters from children’s stories walk through, getting pictures taken with children. Clifford the Big Red Dog, Olivia, Curious George, and others I’ve seen but don’t know were there. My son’s favorite was Curious George – when he saw him, my son squealed his name, jumped up and ran towards him with a grin on his face. In Children’s Alley, several larger tents, all themed, are set up with stations inside for stories, games, activities for the kids. These were a little too packed so we only looked around before continuing.

We mostly meandered throughout the street fair. I think we covered every side twice: Once before my son fell asleep, and once after. We spoke to authors, we bought books, and we ate ice cream and frozen lemonade. It was a hot day, but in the shade, a nice breeze kept us comfortable.

I enjoyed getting there rather early (not as early as I’d have liked, but before noon). The street fair hadn’t gotten packed yet (which it does), and we could comfortably move.

The best line of the day was my husband’s. When we arrived, a lady asked him, “What kind of books are you looking for?” To which he replied, without missing a beat, “One with words.” She automatically looked at her list only to stop and look at him quizzically; then she just laughed, and my husband laughed, and my son laughed (though he had no idea why he was laughing) and I laughed.

Miami Skyline

I never get tired of seeing the Miami skyline. Or maybe it’s because I don’t see it that often that every time I have to drive towards Downtown and enter the highway, either from US1 or from 836), I suck my breath in and hold it for a few seconds. Awe washes over me and I feel poetic. You’d never think concrete buildings, glass, and towering structures could do that, but they do. As much as I feel I belong in the country (because, really, I’m a country, mountain girl at heart), the city sights really do it for me.

Today was one of those days. After rushing out of a doctor’s appointment, and needing to head up north for a meeting, I decided to take a different route, one that took me by the city’s center. As soon as my car entered the lanes of I95, I felt the change. The towers of white, gray and green rose from the side of the bridges and I inhaled sharply. It’s beautiful. On either side of me, the buildings grew. Blues and yellows came in focus, adding to the palate. The glass window panels of the buildings reflected the sun; we had no rain today, so the clouds couldn’t take away from the beauty.

The most striking part about this scenery is the contrast of wealth and poverty. I guess it’s like this in many centers, but on that drive on I95, the differences are sharp. The roads need work, the cement sides are peeling, with graffiti in some corners. New buildings are erected everywhere, next to dilapidated towers, some barely standing. Camillus House stands next to the highway, reminding travelers of the reality of the homeless that, in this plummeting economy, have grown in number.

The pictures of the skyline are abundant. It’s fed into advertisements for tourism precisely because of its beauty. It’s undeniably impressive. But just looking at the buildings, really looking, gives us a glimpse beyond the facade.