NU faculty discuss books, promote literary community at Chicago Book Expo

Elizabeth Cameron, Reporter

Northwestern faculty and staff discussed the Chicago literary scene and their own work at the Chicago Book Expo on Sunday, furthering various departments’ engagement in the city’s literary community, said Allison Manley, enrollment adviser of the School of Professional Studies.

The Chicago Book Expo, held at Columbia College Chicago, featured an exposition, workshops and speaker panels. The exposition portion of the event included more than 80 publishers and literary programs, including Northwestern University Press and the School of Professional Studies’ Liberal Studies and Literature — one of the event’s sponsors.

“There is such a strong community of people interested in literature and writers,” Manley said. “I haven’t seen a successful writer in this city who hasn’t been supportive of other writers, and we want to be a part of that.”

Maggie Grossman, acquisitions coordinator for NU Press, said the expo allowed the organization to “demystify” the university press. Though many people think university presses only publish academic works, she said the press publishes fiction, poetry and region-specific works.

During the expo, NU Press promoted one of its fall titles, “The Wall of Respect, Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago.” Grossman said the book is exciting for the press company due to its regional significance.

“It is important to tell these stories that are part of homes and part of our communities,” Grossman said. “Whenever we have authors who are local and that are presenting our books, we want to support them as much as we can.”

The expo, which has grown since its launch in 2011, is on the rise. Event co-organizer Lynn Haller said turnout has increased by word of mouth because the event is “really focused for people who really love books.”

Political science Prof. Wendy Pearlman and Middle East and North African Studies assistant director Danny Postel detailed their experiences writing about Syria in a panel called “Voices from Syria: Listening in a Time of Misrepresentation.”

Pearlman said her book, “We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria,” is her first title not strictly geared toward an academic audience but instead to a more general readership. The book was released in June.

Pearlman said she was grateful to NU for giving her the flexibility to pursue the book.

“It’s really beautiful to have the freedom to follow your inspiration wherever it takes you and not feel like you’re limited and that only one form is the right form,” she said.

Postel, Pearlman’s co-panelist, has been published in a number of academic journals and helped develop multiple books about Middle Eastern politics.

He said this event is “fabulous” because it brings several different types of people together in one place, united in their appreciation for literature.

“One of the things I love about this initiative is that it really draws together not only book publishers but journalists, and activists, and different organizations and people doing cool stuff,” Postel said. “It seems there’s a tremendous passion and energy that is palpable.”

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