Las Vegas Sun

December 3, 2021

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Las Vegas Book Festival brings bevy of literary delights this weekend

Las Vegas Book Festival 2019


Attendees browse the books on sale during the the 2019 Las Vegas Book Festival.

The Las Vegas Book Festival, a celebration of novels, their authors and the audiences that read them, is returning this weekend for its 20th year after last year’s virtual events.

The festival, which is hosted at the Historic Fifth Street School in downtown, has a little bit of everything: Discussions, cooking demonstrations, a youth poetry competition and more.

“We are proud to support the Las Vegas Book Festival through our shared goal of expanding literacy throughout the valley,” Kelvin Watson, executive director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, wrote in an email. “As a young man, the joy of reading expanded my horizons and helped me to see the opportunities that existed through education, which is what both of our organizations strive to bring to our community.”

A conversation between writer Fran Lebowitz and Dayvid Figler, a local opinion writer and criminal defense attorney, is one of the notable events. Lebowitz will conduct a 30-minute interview then host an hourlong Q&A with the audience at 4 p.m. Saturday in the school’s auditorium. Signings with Lebowitz will take place after the interview.

“We're really thrilled that local writer Dayvid Figler is going to be interviewing [Lebowitz],” said Ally Haynes-Hamblen, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs for the city of Las Vegas, who is helping coordinate the event. “I just think they're going to have a great conversation that's going to be super entertaining.”

Along with Lebowitz, Sandra Cisneros and Dr. Oriel María Siu are the festival’s keynote speakers. Cisneros will read a portion of her novel “The House on Mango Street” virtually at 10:45 a.m. Saturday in the auditorium. 

Siu, who was born and raised in Honduras before moving to Los Angeles, noticed the lack of diverse options among children’s books when taking her daughter to libraries around California. The books largely focused on white children or animals, she said.

This inspired her to write her first children’s book, “Rebeldita the Fearless in Ogreland,” and her latest, “Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over.”

“Rebeldita the Fearless in Ogreland” follows a young Black and Indigenous girl named Rebeldita who lives in Ogreland, a place where Ogres steal children’s parents and put them in cages. “Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over.” is a retelling of the classic and familiar story of Christopher Columbus.

The books are written in rhymed prose and remind children of th​​eir worth, Siu said. 

“A great majority [of books are] centering the experience of white children, and so it became very difficult to find books,” she said. “But it wasn't just about representation. To me, it's really not just about which children are getting represented or not. It's about how those representations are happening as well.” 

Some of the festival will still take place digitally, starting with the ongoing pre-festival virtual reading week. A few of the Saturday events will also be livestreamed. The full schedule can be found here.

“In the virtual space, we really wanted to give people the opportunity to actually be able to see and experience everything in real time, so in order to do that and really maintain the volume of awesome topics that we like to cover in the Book Festival, we spread it out over the whole week,” Haynes-Hamblen said.