2007 Celebrate Reading Recap
The 10th Celebrate Reading: Book Clubs & Literature Festival concluded yesterday at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, after visits to the Big Island and Kauai. The purpose Celebrate Reading is to encourage reading and disucssion, especially among those ages 12-24, by bringing readers and authors together. A booklist is created each year, and many of the authors will attend the culminating festival, giving readers the opportunity to discuss the book, and other questions they may have, with the authors.
Not being a high school or college student anymore, or the book club type, I had never been tempted to go in previous years. Then I saw the list of authors who would be appearing this year and decided this would be my first festival. Chris Crutcher, Chris McKinney, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Lynne Cox, Graham Salisbury, Lois-Ann Yamanaka (who was scheduled to attend, but couldn’t make it)… I couldn’t stay for the whole day, but it was still a very worthwhile experience.
The day began with a performance by Kealoha and readings by several of the authors. First up was Graham Salisbury, who didn’t actually read from one of his books, but rather told a funny story about boys and mud and machines. If there is another Guys Write for Guys Read book, this story should totally be in it. Next Lakambini Sitoy read an excerpt from one of her short stories. It was a brave choice, I thought, since it was about a young woman in the Philippines who decides to have an abortion. Alohi Ae‘a read several short poems. The morning reading concluded with Célestine Vaite, and if you ever have a chance to see her in person, go! Because, man, she has such a cool accent. I was tempted to go to one of her sessions just to listen to her talk.
Then we were off to the first of the breakout sessions. (There are three breakout sessions during the day, each 45 minutes long.) I went to see Graham Salisbury, and it’s a good thing I got there early. There must have been more than 100 people in the room by the time the session started. Every seat was taken. This session took the form of a Q&A so audience members could ask questions about his books, his writing habits, or Salisbury himself. It was very informative; he discussed his plans for the last two books in his Hawaii at War series, admitted that he took a phone book from his uncle back to Oregon so he can look at the local names (and he’s partial to Portuguese names), had a number one song (in the Philippines), and in general learned a lot of cool things about him.
Since Lois-Ann Yamanaka was unable to appear, I decided to go to Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s session next. She had a much smaller crowd, and thankfully this wasn’t a group discussion, since I hadn’t read the books (I know, bad librarian). Instead of a Q&A (though she did take questions), she spent most of her session discussing how and why she wrote Farewell to Manzanar, memoirs, and the power of traumatic experiences. It was inspiring, though I think I would have gotten more out of it if I was interested in becoming a writer.
So thanks to Lorna Hershinow and the generous sponsors and organizers of Celebrate Reading for putting on such a great event.