Danielle Fineza ‘22 / Emertainment Monthly Books Staff Writer
Readers flocked to Copley Square and the neighboring Boston Public Library last weekend to participate in author panels and signings during the Boston Book Festival. The festival began Friday night with a Kick Off Keynote at the Old South Sanctuary. A Sold out event, readers filled the Sanctuary to listen to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, speak about his newest release How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. Meghna Chakrabarti, host of WBUR and NPR’s On Point hosted this event, starting the festival off with an in-depth interview with Pollan.
Despite the rain and cold temperatures on Saturday, attendees strolled through Copley Square where 69 exhibitor booths were located. Publishers, bookstores, colleges and publications managed booths throughout the event, sharing information with the public as well as the occasional giveaway item. The Festival promoted a variety of literature including poetry, memoirs, nonfiction and fiction. There was also entertainment, singers as well as authors performed at the Berklee stage in Copley Square throughout the day. Children crowded the stage in the morning to watch Jef Czekaj, author of the picture book Hip & Hop in the House, rap as his characters Hip, a turtle, and Hop, a rabbit.
Emerson College also had a presence at the festival, with booths dedicated to graduate programs, ArtsEmerson and Ploughshares. Marketing Assistant Rikki Angelides and Editorial Assistant Colleen Risavy, both Emerson students, ran the booth for Ploughshares, Emerson’s award-winning literary journal. The journal attends the Boston Book Festival every year for promotion and to sell stock. This year the focus was on its newest issue, with an early release for festival attendees.
Amy Pattee, an associate professor at Simmons College’s School of Library and Information Science, hosted a panel on Young Adult novels centered around the theme of space. The panelists included; Sasha Alsberg, Andrew Smith, and Tillie Walden. Stepping away from fiction, the “Young Adult Space!” panelists shared views on the use of social media in modern day society. Alsberg, who is also a Booktuber, regarded social media as a necessary evil. Walden shared that while she does not manage her own online presence, sharing work online is important for authors and artists to gain public recognition.
The Church of the Covenant housed the event’s closing Young Adult Keynote. Young Adult Authors Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera spoke on the panel, looking out into an audience packed into pews of the church. Albertalli and Silvera centered the Keynote discussion on their newest novel, What If It’s Us, co-written by the pair. Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, commented on the importance of including diverse characters in young adult fiction. Representation allows teenage readers to see themselves in the stories they read. Both authors shared stories of older readers thanking them for writing characters that did not exist when they were growing up. The discussion also centered around the topics of sexuality and race. Silvera, author of They Both Die at the End, discussed his personal connections to the issue as a Puerto-Rican gay man. He shared that the character Ben was written to resemble himself, as he dove into the concept of being a white-passing Puerto-Rican in America today, something that Silvera himself struggles with.
The Boston Book Festival events wrapped up with the organizers asking attendees for donations and suggestions for next year’s event, so that this inclusive festival can continue. Readers left Copley Square with fond memories of meeting their favorite authors as well as new books and stories to share.