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Event open to the public at Fordham Plaza at Webster Avenue and East Fordham Road features first-class authors, publishing professionals

Bronx Book Festival planned for Fordham Plaza

The Bronx Book Festival is followed online with the hashtag #TheBronxIsReading.
Bronx Times
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A festival, promising to bring authors to the borough and promote youth literacy, is in the works.

The Bronx Book Festival, featuring six panels discussing literary works and keynote speakers, is set for Saturday, May 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Fordham Plaza.

Saraciea Fennell, a book publicist who grew up in the Webster Houses in Morrisania, founded the event so that children and adults can have access to books and first-hand experiences with authors, illustrators and publishing industry professionals.

“This will get people interested in reading or at least get them curious,” said Fennell, adding that she believes many adults in the borough are reading at the eighth-grade level, making it vital to foster literacy in adults and children alike.

To help young people, the festival will feature a program with authors called The Bronx is Reading on Friday, May 18, with three as-yet-to-be-selected schools from the borough attending panel discussions with authors and their books: Elizabeth Acevedo, author of the The Poet X; Sayantani DasGupta, The Serpent’s Secret and Tracey Baptiste, The Jumbies.

Before she attended middle school at P.S. 89, and visited the now shuttered Barnes and Noble at Bay Plaza, she had never set foot in a bookstore, said Fennell.

As a youth, she relied heavily on her New York Public Library.

“The only way I could purchase books was literally from street vendors who were selling on Fordham Plaza and Third Avenue,” said Fennell.

She started out studying accounting, but then changed her major when she switched to CUNY school.

As an English major, she was inspired by many of the professors in a publishing certificate program, many of whom were people of color like herself.

“It was the first time that I encountered African-American professors working in publishing,” she said, adding her love of books drew her to her current work.

She hopes The Bronx Book Festival and The Bronx is Reading will have a similar effect on others.

To raise funds to buy 150 to 200 copies of the authors’ books for The Bronx is Reading, she embarked on a kickstarter.com fundraising campaign that is very close to its $30,000 goal. The schools selected will have many high-need students, she said.

In addition to Acevedo, Baptiste and DasGupta, Festival speakers include authors Vashti Harrison; Heidi Heilig; Rakesh Satyal; Daniel José Older, as well as authors with ties to the borough as either past or present Bronxites: Lilliam Rivera, Adam Silvera and Kem Joy Ukwu.

The festival will include three adult panels, three panels for children and young adults, a picture book tent featuring 12 authors and illustrators and publishing information tent.

Donating their services to make the festival a success are Bronx Native, which created T-shirts for the fundraiser; Bronxer, which filmed a video used on kickstarter.com; and The Lit. Bar, book vendor for the festival that plans to open a indie bookstore in the south Bronx this spring.

To donate to the kickstarter.com campaign, visit:www.kickstarter.com/projects/1895431533/bronx-book-festival-the-bronx-is-reading

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018
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