The Bronx Is a Book Store Desert. Saraciea Fennell Wants to Change That With This Book Festival

Lead Photo: Photo by Brandon King. Courtesy of Saraciea Fennell
Photo by Brandon King. Courtesy of Saraciea Fennell
Read more

Despite its large population, the Bronx is a book store desert. Noëlle Santos is currently working to rectify this by opening The Lit. Bar, the Bronx’s only bookstore. (Barnes & Nobles was previously it’s only book store, but recently shut down.) And now another Afro-Latina is pushing to bring the New York City borough a book festival. Saraciea Fennell – a publicist in the publishing industry of Honduran ancestry – is hoping to make the Bronx Book Festival a reality in May.

“I’m working hard to bring a book festival to the Bronx featuring best-selling and award-winning authors because I didn’t have that as a kid,” she tells me. “I grew up in the South and North Bronx, attended public schools designated as Title I. There were no authors or illustrators coming to visit my school in the ‘hood. Schools like the ones I attended don’t get visits from authors. I want kids – especially Black and brown kids – and Bronxites of all ages to meet and engage with authors.”

Fennell has worked on this project for years, inspired by the first book festival she attended. But failing to find a base of support, Fennell decided to do it on her own. “When faced with a non-receptive industry, the Bronxite in me decided to crowdfund the project on my own,” she adds.

In the short time since she launched the Kickstarter campaign, she has raised $8,000. But she still has a way to go until she reaches the $30,000 goal, which will go toward purchasing a few hundred books for Title I schools, paying for the venue and permits, and other things that will help the festival go on. As she raises the funds, she’s slowly revealing details about the festival. On Tuesday, she shared that Elizabeth Acevedo and Daniel José Older will serve as the keynote speakers.

Fennell hasn’t taken on this ambitious project on her own. She put out a call on social media, which led her to volunteers who are just as passionate about increasing the Bronx’s literary culture. In the process, she wants to change people’s opinions about the Bronx. “The borough has produced many amazing authors: Mary Higgins Clark, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, James Baldwin, Adam Silvera, Gabby Rivera, Lilliam Rivera, and so many more,” she says. “It’s time to erase the dated stereotypes about the Bronx. It’s time for people around the five boroughs and around the world to realize that the Bronx isn’t burning; the Bronx is reading.”

Donate to the campaign here by April 13.

Editor’s Note: Saraciea Fennell is Remezcla contributor.