Portland BIPOC Book Fair for Kids & Teens December 23rd 2023

Building a Better Book Fair (With Your Help)

In the last couple of years the USA has seen an exponential rise in literary censorship efforts, most prominently in the form of children’s book bans. The number of state and local governments attempting to force or scare teachers and librarians into removing “dangerous” titles from shelves is bad enough. But then we have entities like Scholastic segregating books by mostly BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors in their book fair offerings instead of using their corporate might to fight back against the tide of nonsense. Sadly, this isn’t surprising given that a few months before that news hit we found out that Scholastic had asked author Maggie Tokuda-Hall to remove references to racism in her book (about checks notes how her grandparents met in a Japanese internment camp) in order to be included in the book fair.

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It’s enough to make anyone cry out: Won’t someone think of the children?!?

Seriously, think of the children. The marginalized children who don’t get enough representation as it is and who will now see even less of it on their classroom and school library shelves. 

And also the children whose identities aren’t marginalized, yet who need to see good representations of kids and adults who aren’t like them so they’re aware how wide the world is and how varied experiences can be.

And while we’re at it: The children whose parents may not be able to afford the books at the Scholastic or other school book fairs.

I was thinking about those children (and teens and young adults…) when I came up with the idea for the BIPOC Book Fair, happening for the first time this week (December 23, 2023, 12PM – 4PM) in Portland, Oregon. And I’d like you to think about the children along with me, since I’m hoping to spread the literary love around Portland in the short term and across the country in the long term.

At the BIPOC Book Fair kids and teens will get to explore a room full of books written by BIPOC authors featuring BIPOC characters. We have books for kids as young as 3 on up to 17+ from genres including science fiction, adventure, mystery, romance, fantasy, and non-fiction. Every kid between 3 and 17 who attends gets a free book of their own choosing.

Yes, a free book. That they can choose from any book in the room, not only a specific pile.

This was part of my vision for this event from jump. Giving kids agency in choosing what they read is huge when encouraging literacy. Plus, taking home a book is more meaningful when it’s one you really wanted.

How is it possible for us to give away this many free books? Donations! And this is where you thinking of the children comes in.

The BIPOC Book Fair exists because I was trying to win a contest offering $10,000 to put on an event. Though I didn’t win, a friend and fellow speculative fiction author loved the idea and offered to donate that very generous amount to make the fair happen. I looped in the Carl Brandon Society to be the sponsoring organization and accept the donation. To make up for the few extra thousand still needed, I got grants from The Awesome Foundation, Portland Chapter, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association.

The funds we received will cover this one book fair. Now I’m looking toward the future.

First, I want to raise enough money so the Carl Brandon Society can purchase (at the wholesale price) any books we don’t sell at the fair. We’ll then donate the books to children’s literacy organizations in Portland, such as the Children’s Book Bank, Bookmobile Babe, community centers, and more.

Next, I want to create a funding foundation for future BIPOC Book Fairs. I’ve had inquiries from several people who are interested in replicating this event in their city, which fills me with joy. Plus, I hope to make the event in Portland a yearly one.

So, dear reader, won’t you think of the children and support the BIPOC Book Fair? If you live in Portland or know people who do, join us and urge others to come! If you can’t get here, please make a tax-deductible donation to the fair via the Carl Brandon Society. If you’re not able to donate, please share this post or the BIPOC Book Fair page widely. We, and The Children, thank you in advance!

K. Tempest Bradford is an award-winning teacher and media critic who writes speculative fiction steeped in Black Girl Magic. She’s the author of Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion, winner of the Andre Norton Nebula Award, and over a dozen short stories. Her essays have appeared on NPR, io9, and more. Tempest gives talks and teaches classes on representation and diversity through Writing the Other and is President of the board of the Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.

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