In an effort to “create great content”, I have been searching for bookish things to do around DC. At the same time, I am a baller on a budget and would like things to be free or cheaper. Enter the Library of Congress National Book Festival.
Two friends and I decided to hit the DC Convention Center last Saturday, and check out the festival. Started in 2001 by then-first lady Laura Bush, the Library of Congress National Book Festival is an annual event that brings together best-selling authors and bookworms for author talks, panel discussions, book signings and tons of other activities. The authors scheduled for 2018 had me like
The festival also had books for sale (including some that weren’t yet released), booths for major literary brands, and a CSPAN mini-studio where authors were interviewed throughout the day.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
“I am only where I am because of books!”– Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was at the festival to promote her new children’s book, Turning Pages: My Life Story /Pasando páginas: La historia de mi vida. Listening to Justice Sotomayor discuss the challenges she faced growing up to become the first Latina (and only 3rd woman) appointed to the Supreme Court was very inspiring. Justice Sotomayor wrote this book to help kids understand and face challenges as well as share her love of books. She stated that it’s extremely important to her that her books are published in England and Spanish, at the same time. I loved her insistence that access to her books in Spanish is not an afterthought but a priority. And if you are trying to learn Spanish (or “re-learn” Spanish like I am), she says that reading her books will help, and to “buy both!” Supreme Court Justice, Sales Lady Extraordinaire. After her interview with the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, Justice Sotomayor answered questions from the audience, and walked around while answering them, shaking hands and taking photos with her fans. She appreciated that everyone came out to see her speak, and thought it wasn’t fair that the people in the back of the auditorium couldn’t see her, so she went about fixing that.
“You have to read a lot. Especially as the president.”Justice Sotomayor with some not so subtle shade
Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, was the session in between Justice Sotomayor and Madeleine Albright. While I am aware of The Joy Luck Club and it’s importance as both a book and film, I had never read any of Tan’s work. That will change in the very near future. Tan was promoting her
memoir “book about writing” Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir. Listening to Tan describe events in her life, from the deaths of her brother and father in rapid succession, her mother’s subsequent struggle with mental health and then with Alzheimer’s, to being in NYC walking home from the CNN studios on 9/11 and watching the WTC towers fall, was fascinating. She uses all of these experiences to inform her writing. I didn’t intend to attend this interview, but I am so glad I did.
Madeleine Albright is one of my personal heroes, and my primary motivation for attending the National Book Festival. I am a foreign policy junkie, and as a former Ambassador and Secretary of State, Albright has had my dream career. The opportunity to see her speak was worth navigating huge crowds (not my fave) and dealing with out of control children. Albright, promoting her newest book, Fascism: A Warning, was interviewed by gazillionaire financier/philanthropist and National Book Festival Co-Chair, David Rubenstein. They kicked off the interview by chatting about how Albright had come straight from attending Senator McCain’s funeral, and a little bit about her friendship with the late senator. Rubenstein then asked questions that led Albright through her childhood as a diplomat’s daughter and refugee, and her career as a journalist, congressional aide, White House Advisor, ambassador, professor, and 64th Secretary of State. Her story is riveting and awe-inspiring, and she had very humorous anecdotes that she sprinkled throughout the interview. They ended with a discussion on fascism in history, and how there are current leaders today that exhibit the tendencies of fascist regimes. Not exactly a shocker, but Albright is really frickin’ smart and I learned a lot during her interview.
Tips to Survive a Book Festival
If you are interested in watching any of the interviews, the National Book Festival’s Facebook page posted a video of all the interviews consolidated.
I really enjoyed my day out at the National Book Festival, and I am already excited for next year’s event. And with some experience under my belt, I will be better prepared for a day at the Convention Center.
Have you ever been to a book festival?