By Rob Franklin
In a world that focuses on social media as a primary means to gather information, being able to sit down and snuggle up to a good book seems to have become a lost art. But looking at the lineup for this year’s Wisconsin Book Festival is proof that the literary world is alive and well.
This year’s festival will take place October 22 – 25. Author presentations, panels and activities will take place at various library branches and locations throughout the city. The event is sponsored by American Girl, The Evjue Foundation, Wisconsin Humanities Council, Wisconsin Public Radio and a host of others.
The festival features book discussions on a wide array of subject matter, from starting up a food business from one’s kitchen to life in midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Detroit. Several Wisconsin authors are featured at this year’s festival, including participants in the Wisconsin People and Ideas writing contest. Participants will present a poetry and prose reading on October 23rd at A Room Of One’s Own independent bookstore. The event is sponsored by Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, which produces Wisconsin People and Ideas magazine.
One of the many featured events is a discussion on Poetry and Social Justice featuring UW Madison Poet Laureate Ruben Medina. Medina is author of Nacion Nomadica/Nomadic Nation, a collection of poetry aimed at social change.
“Words are central in human interaction, whether in public and private speech. Words can have a merely instrumental value, an immediate pragmatic content, a clear political goal, or be the result of an spontaneous or profound reflection at the intersection between language as a mean and as an end,” says Medina.
“For example, Donald Trump. He uses language to gain supporters to his candidacy in which words emerge as part of a speech performance characterized by exaggeration, provocation, one-dimensional views, divisiveness (similar to the way media operates), and lacking nuances, elaboration, depth, and other voices but himself.”
“The work of writers, and particularly of poets whose production does not fit well in the capitalistic market, emerge against this use of words and language. Why? Because language is what we have so far to make sense of our lives and the world; language is what we have to claim our presence in this big/small community, and to express our own subjectivity. In the process, words become our voice, our body, our sensuality, our ways to see life and the world around,“ said Medina.
Medina’s discussion will take place on October 25th and will also feature author/activists Margaret Rogza and Thomas R. Smith.
Another discussion will feature author Adam Benforado., author of Unfair: The New Science Of Criminal Injustice.
Benforado, an associate professor of law at Drexel University, offers insight into changing the ways of the current justice system.
“Judges weren’t objective umpires guided by doctrine, but biased interpreters swayed by their own backgrounds and experiences” says Benforado. “Witnesses’ memories weren’t reliable sources of truth, but malleable and frequently mistaken. False confessions weren’t a myth invented by scheming defense attorneys, but a predictable product of the most commonly used interrogation technique. The scary thing was that most people didn’t know anything about what was actually shaping the law and determining outcomes. I decided that to make meaningful progress against injustice, I had to show the broad public what was really going on.”
And with the current climate within some communities, Benforado’s book gives a look into what can be done to make change.
“I make the case that we need to embrace an evidence-based legal system,” Benforado points out. “There has been a great swell of support for criminal justice reform over the last several months, but for it to be successful, we must reject untested approaches grounded in anecdote and gut instinct, in favor of empirically-supported best practices.”
Benforado’s presentation will take place on October 24th.
One of the biggest highlights of the festival is the 10th anniversary celebration of UW Madison’s Office of Multicultural Affairs Initiative. The initiative will be presenting the 2015 Passing the Mic, a multiday hip hop arts festival celebrating world-renowned artists, First Wave scholars, and teen students from across the Midwest.
The theme for the event is “Indigenous Traditions, Multilingual Voices in Hip Hop Today.” It will feature Caban rapper and poet Telmary Diaz, Grammy Award winner and author J. Ivy and hip hop artists Frank Waln, Baba Israel and Kyle Mays.
Passing The Mic will be held in the Overture Center’s Promenade Hall. It is sponsored by the UW Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement, the Department of Afro-American Studies, the UW-Madison Arts Institute, 100State, and Pathways to Excellence. All the events are free and open to the public.
The events for Wisconsin Book Festival start with a book sale that begins on October 21st. The sale, which runs through Saturday, is the largest book sale in our state featuring books, cd’s and dvds. The sale is sponsored by the Friends of UW Libraries.
For a listing on all Wisconsin Book Festival events, go to www.wisconsinbookfestival.org