In its 32nd year, Miami Book Fair International brings a bevy of authors — both world-renowned and local gems — to downtown Miami for eight days of all things literature. With headliner Patti Smith having given a successful talk the opening night of the festival last Sunday, and the likes of Achy Obejas, Joyce Carol Oates, and Judith Miller sitting on panels this weekend, this year’s fest indeed highlights women in the industry. Let’s not forget about the men, though. Featuring plenty of celebrity guests — like Jesse Eisenberg and John Leguizamo — discussing their literary endeavors and a plethora of local authors stepping into the spotlight, the fair has a panel for just about every interest, no matter how unique.
New Times caught up with five authors ahead of their appearances at the festival. All will speak at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus at 300 NE Second Ave. in downtown this weekend. For more info, visit miamibookfair.com.
Judith Miller. The New York Times headlines came fast and furious in 2003 as the Bush administration made its case for invading Iraq. Intelligence sources suggested that Saddam Hussein had caches of chemical weapons, the Times reported, and that he was pushing for nukes. At the forefront of that coverage was the pugnacious, Pulitzer-winning veteran Judith Miller.
By the next year, though, when occupying U.S. troops still couldn’t find those WMDs, it was Miller who took the brunt of scorn from critics who thought the Times had been too enthusiastic in joining Dubya on the war drums.
More than a decade later, Miller is now revisiting those stories, correcting the record in places and taking caustic aim at those critics in others. In all, her new memoir, The Story, adds much-needed context to the buildup to a war that everyone now recognizes as a catastrophe.
“When I think back to what I got wrong, I overestimated the threat,” she says. “It’s clear now that overestimating threats has just as much of a cost as underestimating them. I’d spent years thinking if we’d done more, 9/11 might not have happened. But in this case, we did more, and look at what happened.” (Saturday, November 21, at 10:30 a.m. in room 2106) — Tim Elfrink
John Leguizamo. Comedians aren’t known for their warmth or inviting nature, so when Colombian-American actor John Leguizamo opens up about his upbringing and invites the whole world in, things can get a little ghetto. The star of the HBO standup hit Ghetto Klown, Leguizamo decided to turn his skit into a more tangible form that is naturally autobiographical in nature. With his new graphic novel of the same name, Leguizamo explains that out of all his shows, Ghetto Klown was the “most comprehensive and expansive,” hence the best one to revisit and adapt.
When thinking about how to take something as visual as a standup show and turn it into a book, he quickly landed on the graphic novel. It was an easy choice for the comedian because, he says, “Graphic novels are my favorite form of storytelling — especially when they deal with personal things and take you outside the box of the normal comic book world.” Thrilled to be a part of the book fair, Leguizamo says with an audible smile, “I’m very proud of this book, and I feel like the artists did such a fantastic job — every stroke so brilliant, thoughtful, and emotional. So I’m going to be there with my proudest work and sharing it with like-minded people.” (Saturday, November 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Swamp and Sunday, November 22, at 6:30 p.m. in the Chapman Conference Center) — Carolina del Busto.