The Bronx Is Reading

FORDHAM PLAZA, BRONX, NY- Bronxites braved the cold rain last Saturday as Fordham Plaza transformed into a literary event full of inspiration and joy. People took their seats under the tents, anxiously waiting to see their favorite authors, illustrators, and to support friends at the first ever Bronx Book Festival. Saraciea Fennell had brought her vision to life, proving that the Bronx is indeed a community of readers and that we are not to be overlooked when it comes to educational resources. 

Fennell thanked everyone with heartfelt words and tears of joy during her opening speech. The festival took a lot of hard work to put together, and although the weather was dark, she shined on stage expressing her gratitude to her team.  She then welcomed keynote speakers Daniel Jose Older (Shadowhouse Fall) and Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X) to join her in a discussion about the importance of diversity in books. Both authors spoke strongly about how Bronx students have limited access to literature, especially with stories that represent them. They read excerpts from their best selling novels in passionate voices, receiving a huge applause from the audience.  

Saraciea Fennell

Saraciea Fennell

Daniel Jose Older and Elizabeth Acevedo

Daniel Jose Older and Elizabeth Acevedo

Throughout the festival, people listened to various authors discuss topics on immigration, children, The Bronx, art, and publishing. Readings were performed for kids, the illustrations capturing their imaginations. The LitBar set up a mini bookstore and sold copies of books to have signed and Bronx swag. Noelle Santos welcomed everyone with a big smile. 

One of the most popular panels was about the new voices in young adult fiction. Author Tiffany Jackson moderated the discussion between Armin Ahmadi, Ismee Williams, Lilliam Rivera, Mark Oshiro, and NoNieqa Ramos. They talked about the experience of publishing the first novel of their careers. Many started on different paths in their lives before writing young adult fiction. 

From left to right: Tiffany Jackson, NoNieqa Ramos, Armin Ahmadi, Lilliam Rivera, Mark Oshiro, and Ismee Williams. Image: Stephanie Serrano.

From left to right: Tiffany Jackson, NoNieqa Ramos, Armin Ahmadi, Lilliam Rivera, Mark Oshiro, and Ismee Williams. Image: Stephanie Serrano.

Lilliam Rivera

Lilliam Rivera

Mark Oshiro and Ismee Williams.

Mark Oshiro and Ismee Williams.

Patrice Caldwell, founder of People of Color in Publishing, moderated a panel about LGBTQ diversity in the publishing industry. Adam Silvera, Heidi Heilig, Mark Oshiro, and K. Arsenault Rivera shared their struggles with getting their books published. "The publishing industry believes that diverse characters are a new trend. We are here to show them it is not. The stories we are writing are needed." Oshiro said. 

From left to right: Patrice Caldwell, K. Arsenault Rivera, Heidi Heilig, Mark Oshiro, and Adam Silvera.

From left to right: Patrice Caldwell, K. Arsenault Rivera, Heidi Heilig, Mark Oshiro, and Adam Silvera.

Adam Silvera

Adam Silvera

The festival concluded with spoken word performances from Haydil Henriquez, Lacresha Berry, and Roya Marsh. Fennell was overjoyed to see that Bronxites loved the event. The authors were honored to devote their time to meet fans and motivate others to tell their stories. "I am so happy to be a part of the Bronx Book Festival" said Silvera. "To see so many people here brings awareness to the love of literacy the Bronx has. We have always been reading." 

Photo: Rosa Elena Burgos and Stephanie A. Serrano.

Last Updated: July 27, 2019