Miami held its first book fair, called Books by the Bay, in 1984. The two-day street fair grew steadily each year and by the 1990s, the renamed Miami Book Fair International had become the largest literary festival in the country. The eight-day book party draws hundreds of thousands of book lovers to downtown Miami each November for a festival of all things read and written.
Festival of Authors
The centerpiece of the Fair is the Festival of Authors. Previous year’s guests have included recipients of the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Premio Cervantes, Pushcart Prize, O’Henry Award, National Magazine Award, Commonwealth Prize, MacArthur Fellowship, and Edgar Award.
The Festival of Authors features the Evenings With… series, a week of readings and discussions with noted authors and a two-day showcase of experienced and emerging authors presenting their work and answering reader questions.
Among the noted authors at early Book Fairs were Mario Vargas Llosa, Garrison Keillor and Allen Ginsberg. And that was just at the second annual fair. Book Fair attendees have watched Hunter S. Thompson douse himself with a bottle of Wild Turkey. They’ve also seen Anne Rice address a group of Vampires in a Baptist Church in downtown Miami and listened to readings from John Updike, Isabel Allende, Tom Wolfe, Alice Walker and hundreds of other famous authors.
Not Just Novelists
The Fair has drawn writers of all stripes since the very beginning. Politicians and pundits have appeared, from President Barack Obama, before he was president, to former Vice President Al Gore, well after he left office. Chris Matthews, Ariana Huffington, former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, Mike Wallace and Al Roker are all among former Fair headliners. Carl Sagan, Jonathan Kozol, Faye Dunaway and Julia Child are too.
Along with many American voices, the Book Fair draws acclaimed authors from around the world. The Fair has proudly hosted authors from almost every country in Latin America and from the Caribbean.
The Fair has also featured writers from South Africa, France, England, Hong Kong, Spain, Bosnia, Ireland, Russia, Taiwan, Finland, Canada, and the Philippines.
Over time, the Fair has developed a core group of special programs that Book Fair regulars look forward to each year in addition to the Festival of Authors.
- Ibero-American Authors Program, a full program in Spanish (Programa de Autores Iberoamericanos en español)
- Children’s Alley, fun, interactive activities for young readers
- Student Literary Encounters, sessions with students, on campus and at outreach locations
- Antiquarian Annex, a rare books showcase
- Comix Galaxy, a celebration of the visual storytelling of comic books and graphic novels
The Florida Center for the Literary Arts
In 2001, the Florida Center for the Literary Arts was founded as an academic and cultural initiative of Miami-Dade College, and since then has overseeing the planning of the Fair, embracing a festival that is very much a part of the cultural fabric of South Florida.
The Center also organizes a wide variety of literary activities aimed at transforming South Florida into a bustling nexus of year-round international literary events. For more information about programs being developed by the Center, please contact (305) 237-3940 or visit www.flcenterlitarts.com.