Festivals and events are a must in the summer. Here in Chicago, you have your food fests, art fests, and music fests, but the best of these festivals (to me anyway) are the book and literary events. This past weekend, I attended two such events: Printers Row Lit Fest and the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE).
Printers Row Lit Fest is a free literary festival that celebrates books, readers, writers, and publishers. I headed over there on Saturday afternoon with my tote bag and cash ready. Tables from various presses and publishers, as well as universities and organizations, lined the sidewalks, while huge tents with books for sale stood in the center of the streets.
I came across a table run by Shimer College, the great books college I was supposed to attend after high school. (I’m not a millionaire so I couldn’t afford to attend.) The books they were selling were offered a sample of what students read for class. I bought a book by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, whom I studied a bit back in high school. That one table got me reminiscing about my high school bookish-self and I got even more stoked about trying to dig for interesting books among the piles and boxes.
The amount of books at these tents was insane. There are literally boxes full of books, comics, and even some journals and magazines. In some tents, each time a book is sold, a volunteer picks up a book from a box and places it in the empty spot. Pricing varied from tent to tent. Some used-book tents were more generous, selling $2 books or three for $10; others kept the books at $5 each. There’s certainly better deals at different book festivals, but when you see a book that really grasps your interest, you will end up buying it.
Sunday was CAKE time! This was my first venture into the expo and I had a pretty good time. There were different independent illustrators, cartoonists, and writers selling their comics, graphic novels, and prints. Some were even giving things away for free!
I was a little disappointed with the lack of diversity at the expo. Not even gonna lie about that. Regardless, I was very impressed with the talent. Each person had their own style, which is important when you want to be successful in anything that has to do with art. These artists’ dedication is something to see as well. A lot of them had handcrafted comics, so each copy is unique, one different from the next.
The main reason I headed down to CAKE was to see the Hernandez brothers, Jaime and Gilbert. It shouldn’t come as surprise that I heard about them from a Junot Díaz blurb. These two, along with their brother Mario, are huge in the indie comic book scene. Their comic series “Love and Rockets” tends to focus on women characters, and they follow the characters throughout their lives as they age. I’m so glad I got to hear them talk; I learned so much about comics from the panel, which is great since I’m still in my early stages of comic book reading.
There’s still plenty of literary events to come and you can bet I will be there! And of course, I will write about it!