Texas Book Festival Offers Diverse Literature and Panelists
By Matthew Collier
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – This year’s Texas Book Festival boasted hundreds of authors and sessions in its 28th year of operation.
The festival took place Nov. 11-12 along Congress Ave. and attracted an estimated 50,000 attendees of all ages.
“It’s always important to promote literacy and literature, it’s what [the festival] believes in wholeheartedly, connecting books with readers, with authors,” said Dalia Azim, the festival’s interim executive director. “We believe that books are important for everybody to engage with.”
Festival staff responds to the needs and wants of their audience each year by creating programs for diverse audiences and offering new options for children.
“We have a lot of adult programming,” Azim said. “We also have a lot of programs for families and for children. We have [a] ‘Read Me a Story’ tent, we have a young adult tent, and we have activity tents for both children and teens.”
The festival’s communications and public relations coordinator Jose Rodriguez said programming for different audience demographics became especially important in 2023, as the Texas Book Festival team created programs like the Leamos live Spanish reading events in response to the shifting majority audience for the festival.
“This is the first year where Latinx and Hispanic populations of the United States are the majority [of festival goers], and we recognize that there are a lot of Latin acts and Hispanic identifying readers in the area,” Rodriguez said.
“We have a lot of pride in being able to say that the 2023 Texas Book Festival is the first year that we’re introducing a slate of programming entirely in Spanish.”
The importance of diversifying what types of stories are told was a topic of conversation in panels, programs and pop-up booths featuring authors such as E. R. Bills, Roxane Gay, and Stacey Abrams. Bills and Gay have a particular interest in issues of censorship after multiple institutions censored or banned their work.
“My small contribution is to try to dig up some of these stories and get them out to the public, you know, so they can see what’s going on here,” Bills said. “I didn’t set out to be a crusader or take on topics that the most popular writers ignore, but it just seemed like it’s something that needed to be done and something I just wound up involved in.”
Rodriguez said the festival community is committed to sharing these new perspectives in literature and addressing the needs of changing audiences from author to organizer.
“Our audiences are diverse, they have a very diverse constituency, so it only makes sense that the literature that we promote reflects a slate of human experience,” Rodriguez said.
The Texas Book Festival team also conducts literary, library grants and school outreach programs throughout Texas during times of year surrounding the festival’s annual celebration on a November weekend. Information on the 2023 and future festivals is available at the Texas Book Festival website.