Flipping Through the 38th Annual Miami Book Fair

Samantha Elkins, Print-Co-Editor-in-Chief

For many avid readers, reading puts a pause on the world around them. It transports the reader into a realm of new perspectives, possibilities and ideas. Every November, book lovers congregate at Florida’s largest literary gathering — the Miami Book Fair (MBF) — to interact with their favorite authors through literary, cultural and educational events. 

The fair will take place from Nov. 13-20 from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. On Nov. 18, anyone can attend the MBF for free. On other days, a ticket is required to attend. Attendees can purchase their tickets at the event or in advance on the MBF website. Children 12 and under can attend for free. Children between the ages of 13-18 and seniors over 62 can attend for $5 if the ticket is purchased online, or $8 if purchased on-site. Adults can attend for $15 if purchased in person, or $10 if purchased online. The fair remains free for Miami-Dade students, faculty and staff. 

Attracting about 250,000 attendees a year, the MBF fair hosts a mix of 500 authors, poets, photographers, food, music and culture. Nobel Peace Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. presidents, Saturday Night Live comedians and famous musicians are amongst the long list of authors who have previously attended the event. For authors to attend, they are required to have published a book between 2021 and 2022.

For those who cannot make the journey downtown, the MBF hosts over 70 live streams of the events. In 2020, the fair was quickly transferred online due to COVID-19 and has continued live streaming since. Offering the fair online has allowed more people to attend, whether in-person or at their house. 

I think that when people commit themselves to either a book club or even a book fair, they’re committing themselves to the accountability to read. And when people involve themselves in these types of things, I think that they build friendships. And through these connections through the love of literature and books, I think that they are exposed to different perspectives,” Miami Palmetto Senior High English Language Arts Department Chair and coordinator for Silver Knight Andrea Spivak said. I think that open-mindedness is extremely important. The book fair in particular has so many diverse authors. Sometimes people tend to read the same kinds of books, and by attending the Miami Book Fair, they could just see the wealth of literature out there.”

The height of the fair is over the weekend when the Street Fair takes place. This is when different events occur, such as Off the Shelf, which hosts local DJs playing music, art exhibitions, games, food and of course, books. This year, DJ Khaled is just one of the many DJs attending the MBF. The fair also attracts teenagers due to the attendance of countless popular authors who write for their demographic. Teenagers get the opportunity to convene with other fans and ask their favorite authors questions, along with listening to them speak. Families with young children also enjoy attending the book fair at events such as the Children’s Alley, which hosts art projects, science experiments, music, dance and other family-friendly activities.

The MBF hosts several events emphasizing specific stories and people. ReadCaribbean will focus on discussions, workshops and children’s programming concerning the Caribbean diaspora. Another program launching this year is Reading East, a program featuring authors who discuss Middle Eastern and South Asian experiences with poetry, fiction and nonfiction through discussions. The fair also hosts a panel for IberoAmerican authors, which includes Latinx and Hispanic authors, to gather and discuss their work and thoughts. Authors also offer book signings after their events at or near the venues, so keep an eye out for signs and tables directing to where those will take place. 

“I think that books bring to light diversity. And it is only by reading these books that we can think critically about the world. Sometimes we just have such tunnel vision. It’s only through reading that we get to see a more global perspective, and I think that this creates understanding and empathy, which is very much needed in our world today,” Spivak said. 

The MBF began as a two-day festival in 1984, starting with the gathering of booksellers and educators from Miami Dade College. Today, MBF is both an annual eight-day festival and a hub that generates conversations about politics, culture, community and connection. The fair aims to enrich children and adults by emphasizing the importance of reaching people in underserved communities.

Families and friends alike gather at the MBF to connect with authors and each other. The fair highlights various cultural communities and reflects the diverse city that is Miami. To those who often lose themselves in a book, get lost at the MBF this week as one ventures into a scene of book shopping, food, music, activities and more.