Toni Morrison and Zoé Valdés will open the 20th annual Miami Book Fair International, which runs November 2—9. Mitchell Kaplan, the fair's co-founder, will not only be celebrating the event's milestone but also the 25th anniversary of his bookstore Books & Books in Miami Beach, Fla. (His other location, in Coral Gables, is 22 years old.)
When the Miami Book Fair began in 1983, it was in a decade in which "Miami had a reputation as not necessarily a book town," Kaplan told PW. As a bookseller, Kaplan was confident of the Miami community's interest in reading. The fair was the result of a collaboration between booksellers and the local community college to produce a street fair where books could be shown and people could meet authors and discover new writers.
The first fair was two days long. "After a few years, it became a week-long event. Now, we have more than 250 authors and over 300 exhibitors," said Kaplan, who expects 350,000—500,000 visitors this year. This year, the free, eight-day, bilingual festival hosts a diverse author roster that includes Garrison Keillor, Dave Barry, Martin Amis, Edwidge Danticat, Mitch Albom, Bertice Berry, Austin Clarke, Nalo Hopkinson, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Al Roker, Dan Savage and Madeleine Albright.
The fair's IberoAmerican program roster features 72 authors from Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Spain. These authors, who will be presenting in Spanish, include Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Alberto Fuguet, Marcos Aguinis and Mario Vargas Llosa. New at the fair this year are international pavilions showcasing the arts, cultures and literature of Mexico, Europe, North America and Central America. This year's fair will also feature an expanded Children's Alley; an exhibit called "20 Years of Great Writers: A Miami Book Fair Retrospective"; and the debut of an international traveling exhibition called "Co-existence: Tolerance, Understanding and Diversity."
Kaplan said he believes that the Miami Book Fair has been successful because of the institutional support it receives; Miami Dade College hosts the fair on its campus. In fact, when advising anyone interested in starting a book fair, Kaplan tells them to "galvanize the literary community: local independent bookstores, the local writing community and, at the same time, to partner with an institution—preferably an educational institution who sees the value of writing."
"Miami is a diverse city," Kaplan said, "and the book fair reflects that. It has become one of the premier events in Miami."