This Sunday, I attended the first ever Oakland Book Festival in downtown Oakland. So much inspiration in one place from so many different panels taking place at the same time.
Because there was so many panels occurring at the same time, I only attended four. How people were able to weave in and out of these rooms (that were each at capacity!) beats me.
First panel: The Reshaping of American Literature moderated by Oscar Villalon, from ZYZZYVA. The authors on the panel reflected what the American landscape looks like today: Vanessa Hua, Hector Tobar, and Paul Beatty (all non-white authors). This panel, by far, was the most inspiring of them all. Each person had incredible insights regarding what “America” and an “American” novel looks like. My favorite quote (I was writing notes ferociously) is by Hector Tobar and also his insights regarding what the reflective “American” should look like. He said, “Go out and be a badass.” He continues his train of thought by saying that there hasn’t been an author with the cojones to write a novel that encompasses the American experience that includes African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Irish Americans, working class Americans, & Native Americans. Someone needs to be well-read in all these works to write a novel or work that will allow America to see itself in print. As a Latina, I wondered so much about everything discussed on this panel and I realized I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t wait to come home and write.
Second panel: An interview with Edwidge Danticat. She was lovely, insightful and this interview complemented the panel before. She mentioned how much she feels “very much at home on the page” and she “feel[s] total freedom there.” Listening to her words only confirmed my love of writing and why I do it, because she does it too! A pleasant interview with an author whose work needs to be read by not just me, but everyone!
Third panel: Literary Journals: A New Golden Age? moderated by Jeanne McCulloch. After seeing people of color on the other panels, I was struck by the lack of non-white people on this panel. One panelist, Clara Jeffery, mentioned the lack of people of color in publishing and how mostly people of privilege not only read their work but provide funding for magazines. Honestly, the reason this was my less favorite panel was because it was about the business of publishing. These are never fun because it’s the real deal. This panel completely closed off any inkling of interest to start my own literary magazine or work in the industry on that side. So thank you for that! I’m a writer first and always will be.
Fourth and last panel: Fightin’ Words: Oakland Out Loud moderated by Claire Ortalda and presented by PEN Oakland. The authors that read their work were all fantastic in their own way. Genny Lim had a phenomenal poem inspired by Amiri Baraka’s poem “Somebody Blew Up America” that gave me goosebumps. Judy Juanita‘s excerpts from her novel, Virgin Soul, were both funny and significant regarding one’s position politically. The men (who were bookends respectively in the reading order), Floyd Salas and Ruben Llamas whose performances and readings were interesting and full of historical anecdotes. Lastly, one of my favorites, Lucille Lang Day read a few poems (which has inspired a future post) and part of her memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story.
Overall, a very productive day. I cannot Wait for next year’s Book Festival!
That was my Sunday. How was yours?