Weekends in Depot Town are often a flurry of activity and this past weekend was no exception. New to the scene was Ypsilanti’s first Booksilanti. Housed in the sprawling historic freight house building, adjacent to the farmer’s market, Booksilanti drew a diverse group of book lovers from around the community.
Families and book-lovers lined the tables in the great hall of the freighthouse from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 6 for the introductory event.
Booksilanti hosted 25 vendors as well as complimentary entertainment including a DJ, arts and crafts for kids and children’s story hours scheduled throughout the day.
A variety of organizations supported the event including: Black Men Read, SCRAP Box, Ypsilanti DDA Community and Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center. Other supportive non-profit organizations included Friends of the Ypsilanti Library, Washtenaw Literacy and BookDay: Booker T. Washington Holiday. Retailer Trader Joe’s was there, as well, happily handing out reusable bags and bananas.
“This is an inaugural event for us,“ said Krista Jacob, events and non-profit business manager for the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse. "Something we [the staff] had talked about was how much fun those Scholastic book fairs were in school. We wanted to create an event that captured the spirit of it.”
An EMU Journalism alumna, Jacob, still enjoys writing for various community publications.
Booksilanti is the opportunity for everyone to celebrate reading, according to Jacob. In the spirit of the Scholastic book fairs, she is hoping to inspire people who aren’t pushed to read at home or aren’t inspired to read in the classroom because they are forced to read something they dislike rather than something they enjoy. The community response to this idea has been overwhelming.
“There are people here who love reading and love a low-key, accessible way to celebrate it,” Jacob said. “Ypsilanti has a DIY attitude and there’s a lot worth paying attention to that is created out of the grass roots mentality.”
Along with local vendors, there was an array of local authors on-hand to display their work and provide autographs. Crysta Coburn, Western Michigan graduate and author, heard about the event through word of mouth. She was there with husband, Greg, and a variety of published books that she was happy to discuss.
Coburn has published a number of genres, with steampunk being the most prominent in her portfolio.
“Steampunk is very broad,“ she said. "A lot of it is gilded Victorian, late 19th century.”
Although admittedly Coburn knows little about the Victorian era. Having studied Japanese in college, she is more familiar with the Meiji age in Japanese culture, another popular era she enjoys writing about.
Fellow author Jordan J Scavone also heard about the event through word of mouth. Scavone is an author of three children’s books, with two more tentatively launching at the end of the year.
“Multicultural children’s books are some of the best books,” Scavone said.
Jordan’s first three books celebrate a diverse group of children. His latest book, “A Girl Named Adam,” is inspired by the story of his best friend, who experienced a transgender transformation.
“I met her before her transition, so I got to experience it with her,“ Scavone said. "The difference in her personality between how happy she is...I wanted to take that [story] and do something with it. This book is as much about transgender identity as it is about friendship.”
Some of the other authors at the event included fellow children’s authors Lisa Rose, Debbie Taylor and Kristin & Brad Northrup. Adult authors Ken MacGregor, Thomas Gregory, Charles Taylor, Linda Jeffries, Fifth Avenue Press and young adult authors Shannon McGee and Lori Alden Holuta.
The local vendors all had “book-ish” merchandise, according to Events Manager Krista Jacob. Some of the merchandise on display was leatherbound pocket books, jewelry, art prints, wands -- and of course books.
Nicola’s Books and Bookbound Bookstore were there as well as sponsor Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center. Artisans included Bunny and Smooch, Typewriter Poems Bespoke by A. Probst, Woodland Caravan, Jesse Rubenfeld Illustrations, Ephemeral Books, Jen Talley Art & Design and Clever Creations by Amy.
Through the freighthouse’s great hall, past the arts and crafts, visitors come across a series of tables heaping with books: paperback, hardcover; books that conjure memories of years past. These tables housed the “give a book, take a book” concept. This popular concept allowed people to share their favorite books with the community while experiencing new literature themselves.
Children’s story hour was another popular feature of the event. Hosted by different community groups, children were welcomed into an air-conditioned room and enjoyed a variety of diverse books. Groups like Black Men Read and EMU’s Bright Futures 21st Century Community Learning Center were on hand to assist with the various story hours.
Jacob said she hopes to hold the event again in the future.
“Booksilanti is a celebration of reading,“ she said. "Just celebrating how much fun it is to read and to read what you like to read, regardless if it’s a little tiny magazine or a big novel.”
Jacob’s advice for aspiring authors?
“Just keep writing. Keep reading, too. Read weird stuff, read stuff you hate,” she said with a laugh.