By Gene Lambey,
Special to the AFRO
The Library of Congress will be hosting the 2023 National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Aug. 12, 2023, located at 801 Mt. Vernon Pl NW Washington, D.C. 20001. Doors for the event open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. This festival celebrates the works of many authors, writers, actors and poets across the country.
Avid readers come from all over the country to see their favorite author, writer, actor or poet at this event. The Library of Congress states that over the last 20 years, “the Festival has become one of the most prominent literary events in the nation.” It has become the perfect place for readers to gather and share their interest.
The National Book Festival is free and open to the public. This event features author talks, panel discussions, book signings, book sales, arts and crafts and more activities.
The theme for the 2023 National Book Festival is “Everyone Has a Story,” which is the very foundation of being a storyteller.
The AFRO had the opportunity to speak with native Washington D.C. award-winning author, filmmaker, and rapper, Mr. Nick Brooks, who will be participating in this year’s National Book Festival. Brooks spoke briefly about his latest young adult novel, “Promise Boys,” which was published in January 2023. His novel, “Promise Boys,” won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in 2023.
“Promise Boys,” centers on Urban Promise Prep, which is a fictional all-boys charter school in the heart of D.C. Its core values really revolve around discipline and on a tragic evening of a basketball game, the principal, Principal Moore is killed. Three boys who attend the school emerge as suspects in the crime and over the course of the book they work to find out who really did it.”
Brooks is a former educator in Washington D.C. Growing up in Washington D.C.– and with his experience working in the education system– he has many perspectives that influence his storytelling. Brooks spoke more on his inspiration behind “Promise Boys.”
“Promise Boys” is a story in part about how we educate our young Black boys, how we view them, the lack of grace that we give them– how our education system treats them. I was an educator in D.C. for many years.
] our schools– not just our public schools, but our charter schools–
] a lack of attention paid to our Black and Brown boys.”
Brooks based the main characters of his novel, “Promise Boys,” from the student that he taught during his time as an educator. The three boys of the novel, Trey, JB, and Ramon, all live in different parts of Washington D.C, coming together in this novel. Brooks writes his novels based on the community he grew up around in northeast Washington D.C. He writes stories about his community and the people he grew up with. As a storyteller in multiple media, he strives to express his stories in multiple ways.
Brooks is currently working on another novel, which is a three book series. His first novel, “Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont”, was released in October 2022. His second novel in this three book series, “Too Many Interesting Things Are Happening to Ethan Fairmont”, is set to release November 2023.
Brooks is also a rapper and performs under the name, “BEN KENOBE,” composing music for movies and shows such as Netflix’s “They Cloned Tyrone” and HBO’s “The Cypher.”
Brooks told the AFRO that he is “excited to meet and greet fellow authors and readers” at the National Book Festival on August 12.
The AFRO spoke with another author who will be participating at the National Book Festival. Author, actress and writer, Brittany N. Williams.
Williams spoke briefly about her young adult novel, “The Self-Same Metal,” which is a fantasy novel in a three part series, “Forge and Fracture,” and what inspired her to tell her to write. “The Self-Same Metal” was published in April 2023. As an actress, she has a wide range in Shakespearean theater, along with her performance in several TV series such as “Queen Sugar” and “Leverage: Redemption.”
“‘The Self-Same Metal’ follows sixteen-year old Joan Sands. She has the magical ability to manipulate metal and she only wants to use those powers to create swords and choreograph fights for William Shakespeare’s Acting Company, but when malevolent Fae invades London, she finds she’s one of the few people who can keep the city safe.”
Williams spoke about her inspiration behind her novel, “The Self-Same Metal.”
“I was researching Orisha, specifically researching West African religious traditions and came across the Orisha and Ogun. I wondered what would happen if someone who had been blessed by Ogun to have the power to manipulate iron had to fight the Fae, who are vulnerable to iron. That made me want to write a fight set during a performance of a ‘Midsummers Night’s Dream.’ That all boiled down into what the book is.”
Williams had worked on this book since 2018. She started in National Novel Writing Month, recognized in November, by writing 50,000 words within 30 days. She later decided to focus on her novel instead. She had worked and polished her story, “The Self-Same Metal.”
Williams is a Howard University alumni and said she is “excited to be back in D.C.” She stated that she’s “excited to see a bunch of other authors” at the National Book Festival. Williams says this will be her first time attending the National Book Festival. Williams grew up in Baltimore and used to live in D.C. She now lives in New Orleans, La.
Williams bases her novel within her own interest in her theater work and extensive research into African studies. She enjoys Shakespearen literature. Williams is currently working on her second book in the “Forge and Fracture” saga, which began with “The Self-Same Metal.” She is currently drafting her third book in this three book saga.
As an actress, Williams had performed in the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia area (DMV) for recent shows such as Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” at the Adventure Theater MTC in Glen Echo, Md. She did another recent performance called “Petite Rouge,” also at the Adventure Theater MTC.
This year’s National Book Festival features over 70 authors, journalists and poets. A number of well-known authors will have their own presentations such as former NFL player Ryan K. Russell, actor Elliot Page, and Raquel J. Palacio, author of the New York Times best seller, “Wonder.”
The event will be livestreamed. Videos of the presentations from the event will be posted after the event has concluded.
The first National Book Festival occurred on September 8, 2001. The event was founded by former First Lady, Laura Bush and former Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington. Mrs. Bush held the honorary chair until 2008.
In past events, the Festival had several locations before making a stationary placement with the Washington Convention Center. The Library of Congress states that the Festival began on its own grounds, then afterwards Capitol Hill, “expanding soon thereafter to the lawn of the Capitol and then to the National Mall,” (loc.gov). After several years and still going, the Washington Convention Center has been the set location for the National Book Festival.
The number of attendants has grown over the years. In 2001, the first National Book Festival had 25,000 attendants. In 2019, the number of attendants expanded to over 200,000.
The event is funded by several private donors, supporters and corporate sponsors. Some of these sponsors include the American Psychiatric Association (APA), The Washington Post, Scholastic, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The lead benefactor, David M. Rubenstein has been serving as co-chairman for the National Book Festival since 2010.