by Susan Fried
Twenty authors, publishers, an online book store and several other vendors greeted more than 400 visitors to the 3rd Urban Book Expo August 26th at the Centilia Cultural Center. Attendees could talk directly with the authors, learn about publishing opportunities and listen to the writers and poets read from their works.
Jeffrey Cheatham II, one of the Expo organizers and author of the children’s book “Why is Jane So Mad?” said he was inspired to start the Urban Book Expo by a Book Fair he attended in Toronto Canada. He said he loved the atmosphere and culture of the Toronto Book Fair and wanted to bring something similar to Seattle, especially for authors of color.
“I wanted to create something,” he said. “It was that whole ‘If you build it, they will come’ type thing.”
He said that the event continues to attract both more participants and attendees.
“I wanted to invite not just African American authors, but Latino authors, Indian authors, make it more diverse and show that we have a voice out here in the literature world to,” Cheatham said.
Many of authors at the event based their works on their own life experiences, including Terry Hill Sr., who wrote two books while serving time in prison, and Christy Lynn Abram, whose book “Little Miss Somebody” is based on her childhood growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, around adults experiencing drug addiction.
Abram, who read from her novel during the expo, answered a question from an audience member about what the experience was like reading her own words out loud.
“When I read this book, and I picked it up the book about two weeks ago before I came to the expo and started reading it again and I was back into tears, it was like I was still there,” she said. “It’s still a process of healing when you’ve gone through such traumatic things but it’s still very cathartic to know that there’s someone else out there who has a similar story and maybe this will empower them to tell their story.”
Abram’s experience writing about her own life prompted her to start Brown Girls Write, which offers workshops, sisterhood circles and retreats so women of color can use writing as a means to heal through the process of writing.
Life Chronicles Publishing Founder and CEO Sharon Blake also works with writers to help them explore their life experiences through writing. Her company motto is “Give your life a voice.” Several of the writers she published attended the Urban Book Expo, including Latoya Dukes, who wrote about sexual abuse in her book “Breakthrough the Unbreakable,” and Shanteria Tipler who wrote “Hidden Messages: Decoding Past Hurt to Unlock New Beginnings.”
In addition to children’s book authors and novelists, several poets brought their work to the expo. Poet Kamari Bright read from her book Emergence, and writer, musician and spoken word artist C.J. Dudley recited his piece “Black in America.”
Featured Photo: “Black in America” is one of the poems found in C.J. Dudley’s book “Letters to a Blind Man.” Mr. Dudley was one of the 20 authors at the Seattle Urban Book Expo. He can be contacted at cjdudley.com. (Photo: Susan Fried)