Book lovers can delight in variety at Miami Book Fair International

By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld….
As usual, the Miami Book Fair International continuing through Nov. 21 is jam packed with of authors ranging from mystery writers, to former presidents and even a former gymnast.

The popular Street Fair in downtown Miami runs Friday, Nov.19, through Sunday, Nov. 21, with more than 200 exhibitors from around the country selling books in a festive atmosphere.

The list this year includes a number of children’s writers and illustrators including Rosemary Wells, author of My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood, a biography of Secundino Fernandez, a Cuban immigrant who settled in New York.

“I think it’s time we had a really good book of a Cuban boy, of being a fine example of manhood,” she said. “Dino is a model citizen, a wonderful architect and had a wonderful middle class childhood. He was part of the elite class in Cuba. People need to be aware of that. A lot of Americans are quick to jump to conclusions about Hispanic people.”

She discovered him when listening to an interview on NPR. It took her four years to track him down. One of the things that fascinated her was how Fernandez dealt with homesickness.

“He built the city of Havana on the floor of his bedroom in cardboard to stave off the homesickness,” she said. “It was an age of much more toughness on the part of children. No one had ever heard the word self-esteem. He picked up his socks and got on with it.”

In his life before immigrating to the U.S., Fernandez lived under three dictators, Franco in Spain, Batista and Castro in Cuba.

“Our American kids need to know the hardships other kids have gone through,” Wells said.

She has written or illustrated more than 120 books. She is known for creating the beloved Max and Ruby stories for younger children and she is author of several non-fiction books, including Lincoln and His Boys.

Wells will be appearing with Judith Viorst who will read from Lulu and the Brontsaurs on Sunday, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m. in the Auditorium.

Also speaking on Sunday, but at 4 p.m., is Kim Hamilton Anthony, the first African-American gymnast at UCLA. Anthony lives in Broward with her husband Corwin.

“I used to do it [gymnastics] on the brick sidewalk in front of grandma’s house,” she said. “My mom though I was going to hurt myself so she got me into a class at the Richmond Olympiad.”

Anthony was almost 10 when she officially started gymnastics. She eventually received a scholarship to UCLA and became the first UCLA woman to win an individual gymnastics title. While Anthony did not make the Olympic first team, she did make the second team and represented the U.S. in South Africa.

Anthony wrote the book, Unfavorable Odds, at the urging of people who had heard her speak.

“It really is a story of overcoming obstacles and being told you couldn’t do something and overcoming disappointing circumstances,” she said. “I was never going to become the first African American anything. It just happened.”

Florida mystery writer Tim Dorsey also will appear at the book fair, on a panel with James O. Born and James Grippando.

Dorsey, who writes mysteries with very dark humor, is promoting his new book, Gator-A-Go-Go, featuring Serge Storms. Dorsey is a former newspaperman who quit his day job on the day his first book came out. His 13th book, Electric Barracuda comes out in January.

He’s excited about coming to Miami to be in the book fair once again.

“I love them. Everyone’s always so nice, especially the Miami book fair,” he said. “It’s an annual thing I mark my life by.”

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