When COVID-19 put a stop to all group events, including literary events, authors Melanie Conklin (Every Missing Piece), Ellen Oh (The Dragon Egg Princess), and Christina Soontornvat (A Wish in the Dark) wanted to find a way to give marginalized stories and characters the stage they deserve. Partnered with We Need Diverse Books, Everywhere Book Fest is hosting two days of virtual panels, readings, and interactive conversations with new and established authors who have written picture, middle grade, and young adult books. The authors and organizers have created the event around authors with marginalized voices, specifically on those authors who had events cancelled because of the pandemic.
Books are my love language. They are one of my favorite ways to connect with my kids and are the strongest tool available to teach others about lives not their own. Books educate, entertain, and give people a place to be seen and heard. This is especially true for stories by and about disregarded voices. I often tell people who are looking for ways to be better allies to the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities that they need to get to know us without asking us to do all of the emotional labor of explaining ourselves. For marginalized authors and the stories they tell, the labor of love has already been put into their books and I am excited, as a queer person, a reader, and a parent who is trying to homeschool with the rest of America, about the literature that will be highlighted during the Everywhere Book Fest.
Starting on Friday, May 1st at 9:45 a.m., the festival will kick off with a live introduction by organizers of the event and will then officially start with an opening keynote speech by Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints). He will discuss his latest and highly anticipated graphic novel Dragon Hoops and jumpstart two days of amazing discussions. The event runs on Friday (5/1) and Saturday May 2nd from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Some speaker sessions and panels are pre-recorded and others are offered live. The event can be seen on the Everywhere Book Fest website and YouTube channel. The organizers and authors can’t wait to connect with their readers who are also our kids.
The two-day schedule can be found here with panel descriptions, author bios, and information on how to buy their books from indie bookstores. You can kill two birds with one stone by financially supporting both a marginalized voice and small business being hurt by the pandemic. And with two days filled with over 30 sessions with titles like Dinosaurs, Ghosts, and Gods, Oh my!, Picture Book Draw-Off!, I Am My Own Hero, Magic in Queer YA, and Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope featuring books from all genres, you could probably place some snacks nearby and leave your book-loving kiddo to their own devices. Consider this book fest to count towards credits in reading, history, art, and social studies. And if you can’t see the sessions during their scheduled showings, you can watch them later or check out some of these books which will be highlighted over the festival’s weekend.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
This beautiful and lyrical picture book was inspired by Indigenous movements across North America to protect our planet’s water supply from greed and corruption. Lindstrom is a member of Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians. She and the illustrator of the book, Michaela Goade, will be part of a panel called You Make a Difference: Activism in Picture Books.
Ways To Make Sunshine, A Ryan Hart Novel #1 by Renée Watson
This is the first book in a new series by bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor award winning author Renée Watson. Ways To Make Sunshine is the beginning of a middle grade series that follows Ryan Hart as she navigates a new home, frustrating older brother, and parents who just don’t get her sometimes. But when the unexpected happens, she always finds her way. One review called Ryan a modern day Ramona Quimby. Watson will be speaking on a panel called It’s All Relative: Sibling Stories.
Juliet Takes A Breath, Gabby Rivera
Juliet Takes A Breath is about Juliet, a self-proclaimed “Puerto Rican baby dyke” who comes out to her family right before flying across the country to intern for her favorite feminist author. It was picked as one of People’s Best Books of Fall 2019 and Roxane Gay gave it an enthusiastic review. Juliet Takes A Breath is a YA book that explores coming out and coming of age while trying to understand both sexual and racial identity. Rivera will be speaking on a panel called Write #HerStory.
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
The Everywhere Book Fest will close with NYT Bestselling Author Nic Stone. She will talk about her latest book, Clean Getaway, a middle-grade book with stories about America’s race relations during the past and present told in road-trip format.
Nic Stone is also the author of Dear Martin, a YA book about Justyce McAllister, a black honor student and good kid, who finds himself in the handcuffs of a white police officer. He starts journaling to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to seek answers to the injustices around him.
When social distancing began, everything considered non-essential was stopped. I would argue that the arts are essential, but the crowds that come with them are not safe during a pandemic. Writers’ book tours and speaking engagements and book festivals have been canceled indefinitely. Income, security, and the ability to get eyes on their books have decreased but the need for the arts has never been higher. People are turning to live streams of musical performances and art tutorials. Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ have never been more important. And parents and kids alike are finding relief and entertainment in story hours read by librarians, actors, and even the authors of the books themselves. Starting on May 1st, we can add Everywhere Book Fest to our list of essential comforts during quarantine.