Miami Book Fair International, one of the largest literary festivals in the Western Hemisphere, has always spotlighted books by LGBT authors, but this year, the festival symbolically adds a “Q” to the mix, thanks to a partnership with Reading Queer.
Reading Queer was founded in 2012 to promote local LGBTQ writers and thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation produced its first literary festival last year at the Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach, according to co-founder Neil de la Flor.
“Reading Queer promotes queer literary culture in South Florida,” said de la Flor. “What we are at this point is more of a production company and we produce writing workshops that are open to anybody in the community who wants to work with a mentor on their craft.”
The first festival attracted more than 100 writers and de la Flor expects even more, thanks to a partnership with Miami Book Fair International.
When asked about the inclusion of the word, “Queer” in the organization’s name, de la Flor said it was intended to be provocative, despite the different perceptions across LGBT generations.
He explained, “We’re reclaiming the word and honoring queerness as a creative tool, thinking outside the norm. It goes beyond sexual orientation. It’s a way of thinking, a way of writing, inner creativity….Being queer or being weird or being outside the norm is something to be nurtured and nourished.”
De la Flor even suggested that many queer people are not even gay, bi or trans.
For the first two festivals, the programming emphasizes poetry, also a conscious choice. He said poetry is often marginalized within the literary world like sexual minorities in society.
The 2015 Miami Book Festival International/Reading Queer Literary Festival features four events:
The first reading, “Paris is Still Burning,” on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Olympia Theater in Miami, is inspired by the well-known documentary film, “Paris is Burning.” David Tomas Martinez, Dawn Lundy Martin, Justin Phillip Reed and Danez Smith, four poets of color, will read works that voice various forms of social, racial and economic injustice. The reading will be followed by a “mini-ball” featuring members of South Florida’s burgeoning drag ballroom scene. The event is free and open to the public.
On Sunday, Nov. 22 at 11 a.m. on the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus, “Queer Verses/Celebrating the Lammys” will bring winners and finalists of the LAMBDA Literary Awards to South Florida to read from their latest work, followed by discussion.
At 12 noon, “Intersectional Poetics: Multiple Identities, One Readership” a panel of poets will explore the convergences and divergences of sexuality and disability, religion, and race. Both presentations will be in Room 8303 (Building 8, 3rd Floor), 401 NE 2nd Ave. in Miami.
The literary festival celebrates its coming of age with a Queen Quinceanera at 5 p.m. at The Swamp, a nod to Miami’s strong Latino community. Graduates of the Reading Queer Writing Academy will read from their work and refreshments will be served. Admission to the street fair includes entry to all three events on Sunday.
For more information about the Reading Queer Literary Festival at Miami Book Fair International, go to ReadingQueer.org.