Miami Book Fair is back with a street fair, in-person events — and new COVID rules

·4 min read

Miami Book Fair is back — and this edition will include in-person events.

Last year, the beloved annual event that draws thousands to Miami Dade College’s downtown Wolfson campus took place virtually, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no live author readings, no delightfully greasy arepas to eat. No streets packed with happy readers clutching tote bags stuffed with real, made-from-dead-trees books. No Clifford the Big Red Dog hugging starstruck little kids with painted faces.

This year the fair, which runs Nov. 14-21, is a hybrid, a blend of in-person and online events that brings the fair closer to what it was before our story took an unfortunate turn in 2020.

“I’m going to be so happy to see everybody hanging out and enjoying the fair again,” said program director Lissette Mendez. “I’m so happy it’s back. There’s nothing like what we do, focusing on stories and conversations and the issues in an in-depth way. ... Miami is so much bigger and complicated than it was, but I feel we still fit in to what Miami is and what Miami is becoming.”

Naturally, things will be a little different in 2021. The street fair will be in full swing Nov. 19-21. Colorful vendor tents will line the streets, while kids gather in Children’s Alley for activities. The Porch, on a new stage and in a new location, will host live entertainment, poetry readings and other activities, including a booth where you can share a story about your Cuban family with Abre Camino Collective.

You won’t see a crowd this big in the Chapman Conference Center this year. Seating will be limited and spaced for social distancing.
You won’t see a crowd this big in the Chapman Conference Center this year. Seating will be limited and spaced for social distancing.

There will be live author appearances all week and throughout the weekend, kicking off with Amor Towles (“A Gentleman in Moscow”) talking about his new novel “The Lincoln Highway.” The “Evenings With...” nightly programs are back, including a live event with Sandra Cisneros (“The House on Mango Street,” “Martita, I Remember You”) and virtual appearances by Lee Child and Andy Cohen.

But the in-person fair will be significantly smaller than it has been in the past, with around 70 authors (as opposed to the usual hundreds). Only five of the largest venues will be used, including the Chapman Conference Center, and seating will be limited for social distancing. Tickets will be required for all events, even the free ones. Masks will be encouraged at the events, and book fair staff will give you one if you need it.

Most of the Spanish-language authors will appear virtually, as traveling from out of the country is more complicated now due to COVID restrictions. There will be an hour between events so that cleaning crews can wipe down high-touch surfaces and attend to other safety procedures.

“It’s going to be the cleanest place in Miami,” Mendez joked.

Almost 200 authors will participate in the online segment of the fair. Many authors didn’t feel comfortable to committing to in-person appearances so far in advance, and with an online platform in place, the fair could accommodate them. After building the site last year, the staff learned what worked and what didn’t, Mendez said, and the goal has been to make the user experience easier and more streamlined.

Still, the in-person elements of this year’s book fair are the most exciting aspect for Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books and one of the fair’s co-founders.

“When we started the fair, the whole idea was to bring our diverse community together,” he said. “Watching that happen is what sustains me for an entire year. Last year was tough. ... I think that so many of us have been feeling the isolation that COVID has brought. The idea of interacting with people in our community and sharing their love for books and authors and literature is something which is sustaining in and of itself.”

Street vendors will return to Miami Book Fair in 2021.
Street vendors will return to Miami Book Fair in 2021.

Miami Book Fair

When: Nov. 14-21; street fair Nov. 19-21

Where: Miami Dade College Wolfson campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami

Tickets: For street fair: $10 adults; $5 for 13-18 and 62 and up; kids 12 and under free; $15 for two-day pass. All weekend author events require free ticket. All tickets available now for Friends of the Fair; Nov. 3 to general public at www.miamibookfair.com

“Evenings With...” schedule

7 p.m. Nov. 14: Amor Towles (“The Lincoln Highway”); $35 (includes book)

6 p.m. Nov. 15: Jean Becker (“The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H. W. Bush’s Post Presidency”) in conversation with Jeb Bush; $20

7 p.m. Nov. 15: Sarah Schulman (“Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993”); $20

8 p.m. Nov. 16: Sebastian Junger (“Freedom); $20

8 p.m. Nov. 17: Sandra Cisneros (“Martita, I Remember You”); $20

6 p.m. Nov. 18: Mark Oppenheimer (“Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood”); $20

8 p.m. Nov. 18: Rita Dove (“A Playlist for the Apocalypse”) in conversation with Campbell McGrath; $20

6 p.m. Nov. 19: Dantiel W. Moniz (“Milk Blood Heat”) and Deesha Philyaw (“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies”); $20

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