by Geena SCARPETE WALTERS
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.” (George R. R. Martin)
A few weeks ago, I attended one of the biggest book festivals in the United States that takes place every fall in Austin, at the foot of the Texas State Capitol. As a bookaholic, I couldn’t miss such an event. A trip to Texas also has been in the books for a long time as, for some reason, something about Texas has fascinated me over the years. In an era of Netflix and gaming, I was impressed to see such a large crowd attending the festival. For two whole days, book lovers had the chance to listen to, meet with, and buy books from hundreds of authors. This year marked the 24th anniversary of this book celebration, succeeding every year at taking hundreds of readers on an unforgettable and magical journey across the written world of literary fiction, history, mystery, biography, politics, science fiction, poetry, and more.
When you step inside the dedicated area of the event, everything around gives the impression of a world that masters the art of being joyous, calm, and civilized. Above all, you see a modest décor from which the brightness shines at its best through everyone’s excited and satisfied faces. Some of the book presentations take place inside the Capitol, others outside in tents. It was impressive to see how many activities (i.e. readings, workshops, etc.) were dedicated to children whose imagination was constantly stimulated. Americans’ nondiscriminatory culture was quite visible, too, through a couple of other aspects that drew my attention in particular. First, sign language interpreters were provided for deaf participants during the conferences and book presentations. Apart from that, I should mention that there are multiple associations of the deaf in the United States and many others dedicated to people with different disabilities. Moreover, you can even study sign language in school and college and build a whole career as a sign language interpreter. Second, the books for sale were not organized based on the different publishing houses and their reputation, instead they all were in the same place, displayed in alphabetical order by the name of the authors (not bad!). A good example to follow considering that authors’ writings tend to be judged according to the publishing house’s reputation, and if we can’t change such a mentality, we can at least treat everyone the same during events like book festivals where nothing should matter but the celebration of books and their readers.
As you can imagine, many authors attended this year’s festival, and I felt honored for the opportunity to meet three of them. Lara Prescott is the New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept. Her debut novel, inspired by the Cold War, a CIA typing pool, and Dr. Zhivago, already has been translated in 29 languages and will be adapted for film by The Ink Factory and Marc Platt Productions. Carolina de Robertis, award-winning author of four novels, is a Uruguayan-American writer who also teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University. Cantoras, de Robertis’ latest novel, is a tale of five gay women who, in the midst of the Uruguayan dictatorship, learn how to survive in a violent world where homosexuality is perceived to be a menacing transgression. Last but not least, Meghan Daum, author of five books, takes us on a journey in today’s social and political landscape with her newest book, The Problem with Everything. These are three must-read books of fall 2019, so make sure you add them to your reading list.
Book festivals are always magical, exciting, and filled with knowledge for all ages. They are meant to spread the joy of reading and writing throughout a world that sometimes needs to be shown different ways of celebrating life and have more value added to it. Do you remember the first book you fell in love with? Do you recall the first time you met an author? The joy and love for the written wor(l)d is something that everyone should seek to experience. Speaking of book festivals, what better way to spend your time these days in Bucharest than attending Gaudeamus and add a few more lives to your collection? Also, you get the chance to be surrounded by a bunch of bookworms who share your love for books and book festivals. So, enjoy!
Photo credit: Geena Scarpete Walters