Houston journalists Brittany Britto Garley, Jaundrea Clay, and Brooke Lewis are organizing the city’s first BIPOC Book Fest.
Scheduled for spring 2022, the festival is planned as a two-day event centered on writers of color and literary works that feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and members of other marginalized communities, according to its website.
Organizers will collaborate with writers and readers to curate artist talks, readings, vendors, and literary memorabilia, inspired by the spirit of book fairs.
“Houston is my hometown. It’s a city full of rich culture and diverse backgrounds that I love deeply,” said Brooke Lewis in a tweet. “Houston also represents the America of today. That’s why we know Houston is the perfect spot to host a festival that celebrates diversity in literature.”
While the BIPOC Book Fest will be the first of its kind in the city, Houston has seen notable efforts to support writers of color, locally and nationally – a testament to its diverse literary scene.
The University of Houston is home to Arte Público Press, the oldest and largest Hispanic publisher in the U.S., and the recently-established Puerto Rican Literature Project, which aims to be the most comprehensive digital archive of its kind when fully launched.
Other initiatives in Houston include The Colony, a summit for writers of color founded by poet Deborah DEEP Mouton; Tintero Projects, a grassroots organization that provides opportunities for Texas Gulf Coast-based Latinx writers; and Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, a longtime literary group and radio show founded by writer-activist Tony Diaz
“I know how important it is to see books with characters that look like me in them,” Lewis said in a tweet. “Representation matters, and we hope all who come to this festival can leave seeing a piece of themselves, but also walk away with knowledge of other cultures and backgrounds.”
BIPOC Book Fest organizers see a link between representation in literature and literacy rates, citing studies that indicate that Black and Hispanic adults are more likely to have lower literacy skills and reading habits, along with an analysis of children’s books in 2020 that showed that only 8% were written by Black authors and 12% centered Black characters, while 7% were by Latinx authors and 6% were about Latinx characters.
With literacy a key motivator behind the festival, organizers say they hope to make reading more inclusive, in an effort to impact local academic success, political engagement, and the economy.
The festival will also aim to bring awareness to BIPOC-led publishers and independent bookstores through local and regional partnerships with Kindred Stories in the Third Ward, Native-owned comic book shop Red Planet, SOA Co Books, Arte Público Press, Brazos Bookstore, and San Antonio’s Guadelupe Latino Bookstore.
Organizers are working to raise $10,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to cover costs of the festival, and have applied for a grant from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.
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