It’s that time again! Summer has arrived, and with it, books! Printer’s Row Lit Fest is the largest outdoor literary festival in the Midwest, and it takes place each summer in the Printer’s Row neighborhood of Chicago. This year was my 4th year attending the fest, and I am yet to be disappointed. The author line-up was also great this year: David Levithan, Cory Doctorow, Gillian Flynn, Jonathan Safran Foer, and many, many more. The top-billed guests were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Al Franken. I did not actually see any of these people… but that’s ok, cause that wasn’t the plan for me anyway.
The plan was to wander the fest (a.k.a. shop) and have brunch with a friend to catch up on life. It was lovely. But also very hot. Luckily we ducked in and out of air-conditioned shops along the way so we didn’t completely melt. I never get tired of wandering this neighborhood for its bookish roots.
I have 2 rules about going to PRLF each year:
- Buy a Chicago-themed book
- Don’t buy anything you’ve seen or heard of before* (*unless it’s super cheap or a really cool edition)
Lots of indie presses and authors attend this event, so I make sure to stay away from best-seller booths with your average stock in favor of the independents who I wouldn’t have seen anywhere else. This year I had a lovely encounter with a local author who writes fairy tale spin-offs, Danielle Shipley. I wandered over to her booth, and she started her pitch. I was interested but wasn’t convinced enough to purchase yet (on a budget, yo). Then she described one of her series that stars Robin Hood in which Robin Hood is living in the real world and living at a Renaissance Faire to blend in. So I was sold. I was even MORE sold when she told me she worked at the Renaissance Faire near the Chicago area, Bristol Renaissance Faire, which I absolutely adore (it has won lots of Ren Faire awards and is pretty much the greatest place on Earth). She was super excited that I was super excited, and I bought her book and she signed it. It was absolutely lovely and one of my favorite PRLF moments to date. She posted about the fest, too, and mentioned me! I can’t wait to read the book!
I had “tickets” (almost every author event/panel is free) for a few events but only ended up attending one, which was based on my Chicago-themed pick. It’s a book of poetry called A People’s History of Chicago by Kevin Coval, the director of Young Chicago Authors and Louder than a Bomb (which you may have heard of from the documentary of the same name), organizations for youth writers and poets. I bought the book and attended his reading, which was outstanding. He had 4 young poets perform pieces they had written about Chicago, and then he read several pieces from his book. I didn’t get it signed because I had to duck out during the Q&A to catch my train back home, but I was so glad I went to that event. I have never lived in the actual city of Chicago, so it was very interesting to see these young people talk about their city – a city that, based on the news media, people tend to think is riddled with crime and gangs and poverty and corruption. Although that’s not entirely false, it’s way more complicated than that. These young people expressed the love and pride they have for their neighborhoods, despite gentrification and bad reps and misunderstanding. Kevin Coval expressed the need for the “2 Chicagos” (the rich and the poor, black and the white, etc., etc., etc.) to unite over a mutual love for the city. It was a powerful program, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of his poetry book.
I also found a cool old paperback of The Catcher in the Rye with the original cover art that I could not pass up, a few free buttons from various organizations, a super cute Jane Mount Hobbit enamel pin, and a Harry Potter-themed dictionary print. My book haul was much smaller than previous years because I’m trying to do a book purge at the moment and want to start curating the books I own much more carefully (perhaps I’ll write a post about that soon). All in all, another fabulous Printer’s Row!