This year’s Miami Book Fair ended with a torrent of rain and wisdom

As the Miami Book Fair reached its conclusion this past weekend, rain poured down on Haley Kilgour. But it was no match for her sunny disposition and book recommendations.

Kilgour was one of many authors who appeared during the event’s 38th year, which began Nov. 17 and featured readings and discussions online and in-person.

The open-air street fair, where Kilgour was drenched, was crowded with tents full of books, records, jewelry, and more.

“I was here twice before, a couple years ago,” said Kilgour, a fantasy author whose book “Nanagin,” tells the story of adventurers entwined by fate in a world of magic. 

Kilgour and her publisher, Rockhill Publishing of Virginia Beach,  were back this year with a mixture of science fiction, psychological thrillers, romance and more. They met in Miami.

“I came here when I was in grad school and then he decided he liked my book,” she said. “So he picked me up.” 

“Nanagin” was published in May 2020, during the early months of the pandemic. It was hard for Kilgour to show it off during last year’s online book fair. 

“It was online,” said Kilgour. “No one really knew who we were.”  

This year’s fair was a mixed bag: One tent had a stack of books next to boxes of fresh produce. 

“I’m having a great time,” said Leah Olman, a volunteer with Urban Oasis, a Miami-based non-profit that runs farmers’ markets, plants vegetable gardens for residents of low-income neighborhoods and sells produce from local farms.  

People dropped by Olman’s table to learn about Uran Oasis and buy veggies. 

“We have had some pretty good sales,” said Olman. “People liked our mushrooms a lot.” 

Books were everywhere and there was something for everyone. 

Akashic Books had everything from illustrated children’s books on the history of hip-hop and punk to crime noir collections based on cities around the world, including Miami. 

Akashic Books, home to every kind of book, from children’s stories to crime noir. (Elise Gregg/SFMN)

The vendors at Akashic were very different too. One was a boy no more than 13-years-old who was hustling the crime noir series. One older lady joked about wishing she’d worn her Beastie Boys shirt. 

For kids who weren’t quite ready for Tupac or Ramones, the book fair had magic shows and performers on stilts at “Children’s Alley.” 

Magic tricks kept kids entertained while parents waited out the rain. (Elise Gregg/ SFMN)

When it wasn’t raining, Writer’s Row was an ideal place to grab a frosted lemonade, stretch and meet some of the featured authors. 

Right across from one of the lemonade stands was poet Celia Alvarez, who waited out the rain long after many authors left. 

“Unfortunately, it started raining very early,” Alvarez said. “Nevertheless, there was a nice crowd in the morning and I feel like I had a good opportunity to let people know about my work.”

Alvarez was selling her poetry books. Shapeshifting,” for example, describes life as a Cuban-American woman. “Multiverses” is based on Alvarez’s pregnancy with twins, their premature birth, and the loss of her son. In it, she fantasizes what life might have been like if he had lived. 

Celia Alvarez with her books Mulitverses and Shapeshifting. (Elise Gregg/SFMN)

These are hard subjects to discuss, of course, but Alvarez hopes that she’s able to bring comfort to others who have lived similar stories.

“I was telling someone that I couldn’t tell what ethnicity she was, and she said, ‘Oh, chica, I’m Cuban-American too!’ so she bought the book,” Alvarez said, laughing.

Elise Gregg is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in criminal justice. Upon graduation, she would like to pursue a career covering international crime, particularly human rights violations and religious oppression around the world.