MIAMI — The 28th edition of the Miami Book Fair International, with live presentations by several of the country’s most celebrated contemporary authors in the black diaspora, kicks off on Sunday, Nov. 13 at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.
Featured authors of African American descent, as well as those whose work highlight black culture and interests include:
Harry Belafonte: One of several authors taking part in the fair’s popular Evening With series, Belafonte will present and discuss his memoir My Song (Knopf, $30.50) on Tuesday, Nov. 15. In the book, Belafonte shares his poverty-ridden childhood, his rise to become one of the world’s most popular singers, how he broke racial barriers, achieved equal popularity with white and black audiences, his lifelong involvement in the civil rights movement and countless other political and social causes.
Alan Cheuse: Although not of African descent, novelist, essayist, and short story writer Cheuse has been described as “The Voice of Books on NPR.” His latest novel, Song of Slaves in the Desert (Sourcebooks Landmark, $25.99), is the story of one man’s struggle with the legacy of slavery and the loyalty of family. Beginning in Timbuktu in the 1500s, Cheuse traces the history of slavery to the American Civil War, and evokes life on a Jewish plantation in the 1800s.
Nelson George: His noir novel, The Plot Against Hip Hop (Akashic, $15.95), is set in the world of hip hop culture. When the stabbing murder of an esteemed music critic is dismissed by the NYPD as a gang initiation, bodyguard/security expert D Hunter suspects there's much more to his death. George is the author of Hip Hop America and The Death of Rhythm & Blues.
Peter Godwin: In The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe (Little, Brown, $26.99), Godwin explores Robert Mugabe's isolated Zimbabwe. Godwin worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa and Eastern Europe for The Sunday Times of London, and contributes regularly to National Geographic, New York Times magazine, and BBC Radio.
Helon Habila: Representing Nigeria, Habila's novel, Oil On Water (Norton, 14.95), is told through the eyes of a 25-year-old rookie reporter, who takes readers deep into the Niger Delta and into the furnace of a brutal war raging between government forces and indigenous rebels. Habila is the author of Waiting for an Angel and Measuring Time.
Jessica B. Harris: In High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America (Bloomsbury, $26), acclaimed cookbook author Harris tells the story of the African diaspora through food, from the foodstuff brought along with African slaves to barely maintain them on the Middle Passage to the undeniable imprint of African-American cuisine on southern American and Caribbean food.
Marlon James: In the novel, The Book of Night Women (Riverhead, $26.95), James explores the ferociously cruel and dehumanizing practice of slavery in Jamaica. The book is narrated in a lilting Jamaican patois that at once underscores and eerily conflicts with the disturbing images of violence and degradation that James conjures.
Mat Johnson: In his novel, Pym (Random House, $24), a professor of African-American studies devises a mission to find the lost, black-inhabited island near Antarctica described in Poe's only novel. They discover that something else described in Poe's narrative is also real: giant, yeti-like, albino humanoids living in large colonies below the ice in Antarctica. Johnson is the author of the novels Drop and Hunting in Harlem, the nonfiction novella, The Great Negro Plot, and the graphic novels, Incognegro and Dark Rain.
Tayari Jones: Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, Jones' novel, Silver Sparrow (Algonquin, $19.95), explores family secrets and lies, revolved around James Witherspoon’s two families — the public one and the secret one.
Kadir Nelson: A pre-sentation and discussion with award-winning au-thor/illustrator Nelson on We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball (Hyperion Books for Children, $18.99), followed by a tour of an exhibit of Nelson’s paintings, will be held on Monday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at MDC’s Wolfson Campus, Auditorium, Building 1. Nelson is the also the author of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
Elizabeth Nunez: Nunez's novel, Boundaries (Akashic, $22.95), is the story of Anna, the head of a specialized imprint at a major publishing house, who is challenged for her position by an ambitious upstart. Nunez is the award-winning author of seven novels, including Anna In-Between, a New York Times Editors’ Choice.
Nell Irvin Painter: In The History of White People (Norton, $17.95), eminent historian Painter guides us through more than 2,000 years of Western civilization, illuminating not only the invention of race but also the frequent praise of “whiteness” for economic, scientific and political ends. Painter is the author of Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol and several other scholarly works on the history of slavery and race relations in America.
Randall Robinson: Makeda (Akashic, $15.95), a novel by Randall Robinson, takes place in 1950s Richmond, Va. Robinson is an author and activist, noted as the founder of TransAfrica, an advocacy organization that seeks to influence the foreign policy of the United States concerning African countries and the African diaspora.
Randall Kennedy: The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency (Pantheon, $26.95), by Randall Kennedy is the first book by a major African-American public intellectual on racial politics and the Obama presidency. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He is the author of four other books, including Race, Crime, and the Law.
Martha Southgate: Southgate’s new novel The Taste of Salt (Algonquin, $13.95), captures the struggles of living with alcoholic family members. Southgate is also the author of the novels, Third Girl from the Left and The Fall of Rome.
Deborah Willis: Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to Present (Norton, $35) draws on Willis' 10 years of research and photos from archives, galleries, photographers, friends, and family. The photographs, organized thematically, reach back to the 1890s and forward to the current first family. Willis, a MacArthur Fellow, is professor and chair of the department of Photography and Imaging at New York University.
Paul Farmer: In Haiti After the Earthquake (Public Affairs, $27.99), Dr. Farmer, who has worked in Haiti for nearly 30 years, describes the earthquake’s impact on that country, both as a physician in the days and weeks immediately after the event, and over the subsequent year, when he and his colleagues worked along with the UN to try to marshal international support for Haiti’s recovery efforts. Dr. Farmer is the Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard University and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Cedella Marley: Written by Bob Marley's oldest child, Cedella, and adapted from one of Marley’s most beloved songs, the illustrated children's book, One Love (Chronicle Books, $16.99), brings the joyful spirit and unforgettable lyrics of his music to life for a new generation. Cedella performs internationally with the three-time Grammy Award-winning Melody Makers. She is also the author of a number of books about her father, including 56 Thoughts from 56 Hope Road and Bob Marley: My Son.
Touré: In Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now (Free Press, $25), iconic commentator and journalist Touré tackles what it means to be black in America today. Touré is a novelist, essayist, music journalist, cultural critic, and television personality.
Geoffrey Philp: Philp's new children’s book, Marcus and the Amazons: A Story of Resistance (Mabrack Press) combines the values of Marcus Garvey and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into the story of a courageous ant that saves his colony from an evil tyrant. Philp is an award winning Jamaican poet and fiction writer.
Angela Farris Watkins: My Uncle Martin's Words for America: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Niece Tells How He Made a Difference (A-brams, $19.95), is an inspirational illustrated children's book. King's niece Watkins and illustrator Eric Velasquez use his own words to expose young readers to important events during the civil rights era.
Colson Whitehead: Whitehead's novel, Zone One (Doubleday, $25.95) is a zombie-horror story that also serves as a pop-culture, satirical send-up. Whitehead, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award and Pulitzer Prize, is the author of the novels Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days and Apex Hides the Hurt.
Isabel Wilkerson: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson is the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting in the history of American journalism.
The Miami Book Fair International will take place November 13 – 20 at the college’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. Unless otherwise noted, all Evening With presentations will be held in the Chapman Conference Center (Bldg. 3, second floor) at the Wolfson Campus, 300 N.E. Second Ave. Tickets for each session are $10 and must be purchased in advance. To purchase tickets, or for updates, visit miamibookfair.com, call 305-237-3528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Tayari jones