Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Back To Literature, Past
A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Talks Turin's Book Fair, Palestine, Israel and Just Getting Along

It seems as if there were any place in the world where people could honor free speech and respect diverse opinion it would be at an event where books are celebrated.

See the subjunctive case I've used above? When "were" is used that way, readers sense that the opposite is true. Unfortunately, the rarely used subjunctive case seems necessary once again and this time we're using it in the same breath with the hallowed word "books."

Turin (Italy) is host to one of the world's largest book fairs and this year it is a scene of turmoil. Israel and Palestine and their supporters and detractors are so polarized that they don't seem able to come together even in the cause of reading and literacy. A book fair celebrates learning through reading. It is a place for people to come together with open minds, learn about one another, make an effort to see the other in a new way, come to understand and appreciate the other's ways.

In fact, a slogan at this fair touts "Reading is Freedom."

Rather than endorsing a clear message like this, Palestinian supporters march through Turin to protest. The city posts hundreds of riot police along the route. Israeli flags are burned. Boycotts are sprouting. And all because the fair organizers are honoring Israeli writers at the fair, some of whom have been critical of their own government's policies.

It's all so simple, really. Everyone should come to the fair. In this world that feels more and more polarized, everyone should pick up a book by an Israeli writer and a Palestinian one. They should try walking the streets the other walks, speaking the talk the other talks.

We could choose books by and about other races, other religions, other nationalities, other political parties. We could choose poetry or great fiction or religious tracts or nonfiction. Our choices could be old books or new ones. They could be simple books or difficult. Then we could find a nice warm place by a fire or by a window and read them and consider - actually concentrate - on opening our minds to something new.

That's what book fairs are for.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Writers' Tidbit: Are you blogging? I resisted for a long time because they would take up so much of my writing time. It turns out that blogging is writing. Even large publishers are suggesting that their writers open a blog slanted to the subject of his or her new book. They suggest doing that 30 days before the book is released and continuing it at least 90 days after. For the life of me, I can't see why an author would want to stop there. The Net has opened a new world. With a blog as part of a great media campaign, there is no reason why a book might not live on indefinitely. My "new book" blog celebrates words and great editing upon the release of The Frugal Book Promoter. Find it at

Readers' Tip: Spring is book fair time. And Book Expo America! time. You can tell that I have the celebration of books on my mind. Choose one. A small one. A big one. Go to and click on the Resources for Readers page. Scroll down a bit and you'll find a long list of book fairs to choose from. There is one in almost every part of the country. Then go. Fairs are about more than just buying books (though it would be nice if you supported authors and did just that! Within your budget, of course!) They almost always include demonstrations, seminars, speakers, children's areas and good food.


2008 Past Columns

Turin's Book Fair, Palestine, Israel and Just Getting Along

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.