LitFest2018 Debuts in New York!

LitFest is coming to New York!

Our national LitFest will take place Saturday, June 2, 2018 starting at 7 p.m. at Cassava House, 2270 1st Avenue in East Harlem. The event will feature poetry readings, a book fair and live music.

Since 2012, LitFest has appeared in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. 2018 marks our first New York appearance. A pioneer in the live streaming of literary events, LitFest is a signature program of Willow Books.

The goal of LitFest is access to quality arts programs for all. Our reach is worldwide now, but our first priority remains providing the underserved areas of America the opportunity to see and hear a world-class caliber of diverse artists.

LitFest 2018 NYC performers include National Endowment for the Arts fellows Randall Horton and Reginald Flood, Sokunthary Svay, co-founder of the Cambodian Literary Arts Association and American Opera Projects Fellow, Roberto Carlos Garcia, founder of Get Fresh Books, Qiana Towns, winner of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize and Keisha-Gaye Anderson, Brooklyn Public Library Artist-in-Residence.

LitFest will take place on the patio of Cassava House, a popular eatery in East Harlem.

Live entertainment will be provided by Os Clavelitos, a New York-based band that has topped the world music charts.

For a full roster of performers and more information about LitFest, visit

Dreaming the Future of YA Literature, Part 3

IreadYA! Week, sponsored by Scholastic

IreadYA! Week, sponsored by Scholastic

As we close this out “I read YA” week, guest blogger Curtis L. Crisler explains why there’s still a great disparity when it comes to YA books for young black male readers. Crisler’s bestselling Dreamist: a mixed genre novel, is geared towards today’s youth, a unique genre-bending narrative of the life of one remarkable young man, Charles Malik Jacobs.

While the popularity of YA lit is at an all-time high, the number of books featuring protagonists of color remains extremely low. YALSA’s “Best Fiction for Young Adults 2014” shows that only 3% of characters in the books on their list were categorized as “Black.” Walter Dean Myers’ recent New York Times op-ed cites stats revealing that less than 3% of children’s books were about black people. The industry perception is that young black males are not reading, so fewer resources are put into publishing books for them. One could wonder as they browse any YA section and never see a young black male face on the cover if that has anything to do with it. Add to that the lack of subject matter that speaks to their experiences as young men of color in America. Through my work, I hope to continue to converse with young black male readers to reverse this trend. Dreamist is a universal coming-of-age narrative, but I believe it provides a rare glimpse into the mind of a young person of color, something I feel is lacking in today’s mainstream YA lit. In the words of my protagonist, Malik as he learns to overcome his fears about leaving his old life behind and creating a new life for himself:

“There is nothing fading away in my life. Everything is becoming better, newer. I see beyond the fear. I accept my responsibilities. For change is change.”

I believe that readers of color should see themselves living and breathing in the books that they read, and not just as wise or wily character sketches, but as fully developed protagonists and main characters. The future of YA lit is promising, indeed, but there’s a greater promise yet to be fulfilled.

Curtis L. Crisler is the author of Tough Boy Sonatas (winner of the Eric Hoffer Award) and two other books, Pulling Scabs and WONDERKINDa poetry collection on the musical genius of Stevie Wonder. A Cave Canem Fellow and Pushcart Prize nominee, Crisler is an assistant professor of English at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne. He will be featured this fall as the “Future of African American Poetry” during Furious Flower’s decennial celebration at James Madison University.

When the Worlds of Art Collide

A poet’s spontaneous stroll through a gallery in the Philippines has led to a history-making collaboration. Angela Narciso Torres, Poetry Grand Prize Winner of the 2013 Willow Books Literature Awards, will be releasing her prize-winning collection on September 30, Blood Orange. The richly detailed cover of the book is the result of a collaboration between Narciso Torres and acclaimed Filipino artist Hermes Alegre, who was unveiling a brand new painting, “Catalina,” at an exhibition of The Saturday Group of Artists at EDSA Shangri-la Plaza, Manila, Philippines. The next installment of his Aura series, Alegre’s painting immediately caught the eye of Narciso Torres, who happened to be visiting her ancestral home this past summer and heard about Alegre’s exhibition.  photo with Hermes

“The minute I saw the painting, I knew,” Angela said. “I had been searching quite a while for the right image to capture the spirit of this collection. Now, I feel the pieces have fallen into place.”

Part memoir, part love letter to the Philippines of her youth, Blood Orange has received critical acclaim for its ability to be “at once vividly present in the moment and fully attuned to the under-dwelling currents of history.”

The Willow Books Literature Awards recognize literary excellence in prose and poetry by writers from culturally diverse backgrounds. The Grand Prize winners were selected from a field of ten finalists. The prose winner is Angie Chuang and the Editor’s Choice winner is Rich Villar.