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Attention bookworms and bibliophiles: The Greater Roxbury Book Fair is back

Mandile Mpofu
Attention bookworms and bibliophiles: The Greater Roxbury Book Fair is back
Following the success of last year’s Greater Roxbury Book Fair, this year’s will once again be a celebration of reading, writing and Roxbury’s rich literary history. PHOTO: MICHAEL BRYANT PHOTOGRAPHY

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For the second year in a row, Roxbury will dedicate a day to centering the literary arts, as the Greater Roxbury Book Fair returns to the Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library. The free event will once again allow community members to engage with local and nationally renowned authors of today while uplifting the past by celebrating a little-known history.

“We had been talking for a while about the need to just have a book fair where local authors are really highlighted and put out there for the community to know about,” said Akunna Eneh, the program and community outreach librarian for the Roxbury branch, describing the motivation behind the first iteration of the fair. “And we wanted ways to kind of celebrate the literary history in the neighborhood that’s there but doesn’t really get promoted as much.”

The book fair may only be Roxbury’s second, but the neighborhood has a longstanding and rich literary scene, said Eneh, who is involved with organizing the fair. One need only look at the community members who have founded bookstores, including Frugal Bookstore, the only Black-owned bookstore in Boston, and the now-shuttered Jamaicaway Books.

Citing other examples of the neighborhood’s literary roots, Eneh pointed to the bygone Nubian Square book sales, where local authors would sell their self-published works, as well as visits to the Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library by well-known authors and poets such as Sonia Sanchez amid the resurgence of Black-authored books in the 90s.

This history is embedded in the book fair, organized by The American City Coalition, a nonprofit focused on neighborhood revitalization programs, in partnership with Roxbury Main Streets, Frugal Bookstore and the library.

On Saturday, May 18 from 12-5 pm, event-goers will be treated to a cornucopia of book-centered activities and engagements. Visitors can attend story times with authors such as Raúl the Third and Candelaria Silva-Collins; a comic-book-writing workshop led by Comics in Color; and poetry workshops led by Boston natives Abria Smith and Arthur “Art” Collins.

There will also be conversations between authors, a cameo by Roxbury native Ekua Holmes, and keynote speeches by Ibram X. Kendi and Jacqueline Woodson, the latter of whom visited the library years ago and delivered a memorable talk, Eneh said. And those needing a break from books can partake in an ice-cream-making workshop (registration required).

Although rain forced the fair indoors last year, the inaugural book fair was a success, she said.

“People had such a great day seeing authors, and we had some young authors as well — that was a huge hit,” she said. “It was really fun. I am expecting this year to be just as fun, if not more.”

She added that the organizing committee hopes to make the book fair a guaranteed annual event, given its important role in the community.

Nubian Square is a fast-changing neighborhood, Eneh said, and sometimes people “feel like they’re losing grip on the history and culture of the neighborhood.” Programs like the book fair are a way to combat that sentiment and safeguard the neighborhood’s identity.

“It encourages young people who are here now, or kids of parents who have been here forever … to feel the same about our history and culture and about preserving it, about spreading it,” she said. While the neighborhood is undergoing a shift, Eneh added, witnessing different generations unite to learn from each other is what “keeps our community together.”

authors, books, Boston Public Library, Greater Roxbury Book Fair, reading, The American City Coalition

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