Wednesday of the Birthday Fund Drive: Inwood, Bronx, Jersey, Commitment, Visibility, Pride

At our 7th event of our Birthday Fund Drive tonight, Personal Days, Desperate Nights, Ed Park, Jon Michaud, S. J. Rozan, and S. A. Solomon will be reading, and Uptown Collective editor in chief Led Black will be introducing the readers and moderating any talking afterward.

How did this reading come about? In some ways this started with the Led BlackJon Michaud connection. Jon Michaud’s novel, When Tito Loved Clara, is set in Inwood, so of course avid reader Led pounced on it, loved it, then made it the inaugural title in the Led Black Book Club. At one of the first meetings about Word Up, the writer of this blog post obtained a copy from Led. Besides screaming PAYSON! every time that beautiful little Inwood street was mentioned in the book, she couldn’t put the damn thing down.

Check it, Inwoodites!:
“We’re used to seeing such picaresque depictions of culture clashes from the point of view of the charming outsider . . . or the beleaguered inhabitant, who watches time march past (or over) his old bodega. But where Michaud differs is in his far more precise (and correct, for the record) depiction of the straddling of cultures by both kinds of inhabitants: the residents who’ve brought the farmer’s market to Inwood and the Dominicans who’ve brought moro to Oradell.”—Lizzie Skurnick, Barnes & Noble Review

“The delights of the novel are not only the rich inner lives of the characters but the vibrant descriptions of an oft-overlooked bit of New York, an area where the American experience is still very much the immigrant experience, where it’s difficult to say which culture—that of the old world or of the new—is the culture. It makes you want to hop the M100 uptown and check it out for yourself—with Jon’s book in tow, of course.”—Macy Halford, The New Yorker

But then, what next? There are shadowed corners of Inwood Hill Park that show themselves in When Tito Loved Clara, so that made us think of other shadowed corners of areas close by. Enter Akashic Books, the indie publisher with a large community-minded heart—whose tagline for Pete’s sake is “the reverse-gentrification of the literary world”—with their popular place-based Noir series, and soon we had S. J. Rozan, editor of Bronx Noir, and S. A. Solomon, contributor to New Jersey Noir, on the bill too. For Manhattanites who think those places are far away: the Bronx and Jersey are hardly more than 10 (traffic-free) minutes from any point uptown.

To round out tonight’s reading bill, we are honored to have Ed Park, author of the office romper Personal Days and its cousinly (but no longer) weekly newsletter The New-York Ghost, not to mention editor of a million things we like a lot. Ed doesn’t live all the way uptown but he has a secretly special place at Word Up all the same. Years ago, Ed was looking for a book for his dad, shopping at his local independent bookstore, and took a chance on an independently published book he thought looked interesting and had never heard of before. Turns out he liked it, wrote about it, and soon an indie publishing project (born in the Bronx and the Heights) that was facing a heartbreak future became a thing. A low-key thing, an under-the-radar thing. A thing that enjoyed the independent spirit in authors, publishers, bookstores, and heartily appreciated every time someone spent a moment with a book, or some form of bound and printed words, and decided to take a chance. It’s that final act of committing that can push an idea to the next level. And as this happens incrementally, over and over . . . you eventually get to a place where you’re co-supporting a 1000-square-foot bookshop and art space on Broadway full of unusual locally crafted and drafted items that are waiting for chances to be taken. You get Word Up! And all the other things in our neighborhoods that have the spirit of Word Up, whether you are uptown, or in the Bronx, or in JerseyBut, of course, we would be remiss not to reiterate that act of commitment. And because it’s our Birthday Fund Drive, we shall link back to where you too can make a commitment!

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INTERMISSION: Another thing we would be remiss not to mention is that we are all here, reading or writing about this Birthday Fund Drive, because 1) we already know we like books and bookstores, and 2) we have the internet. This is not something that is a given. If you have grown up in a neighborhood without a bookstore, or with very few, and with few and crowded public library branches relative to the concentrated population of your neighborhood, how are you going to know if you like books? Word Up regularly sees teachers come by to buy books for their school libraries that are either understocked or in some kind of temporary holding and inaccessible to students. This happens. It doesn’t happen in all neighborhoods, but it does in some, and it’s in those neighborhoods that it’s important to have something as simple as books—and readers—visible on a regular basis. This is where Word Up comes in. This is why we are asking you to help us stay.

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And, the night continues! A special event we are having at Word Up following the Ed, Jon, S. J., and S. A. reading is another installment of inQbator, the monthly Queer literature and cultures program in Washington Heights. inQbator is celebrating Pride Month with tonight’s program Color Me Queer, which will include the works of local Latina poet Yoseli Castillo Fuertes presenting her recent book of poetry De eso sí se habla / Of That, I Speak, the multimedia readings and presentation of Brooklyn based artist Michael Newtown, and the performance art piece, “Besame, Besame Mucho” by Hector Canonge, director of the film series CINEMAROSA. inQbator will be at 9:30pm tonight.

Yoseli Castillo Fuertes will read from her book De eso sí se habla / Of That, I Speak, a bilingual poetry collection that samples 20 years of writing. The book is an invitation to a meaningful talk, one that promotes change, reflection; a conversation that challenges all political, social, sexual and economic norms women are subjected to for being women. The poems talk about topics the Hispanic/Latin culture prefers to hide; therefore this book forces the reader to confront reality. Yoseli was born in the Dominican Republic and at 16 migrated to the United States. She is a bilingual-dominican-latina-lesbian poet-activist-teacher-aunt. Since August 2005 she has been organizing the Gay & Lesbian Bohemian Night, an LGBTQ Open Mic in Washington Heights. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various anthologies in New York, Madrid, Argentina and Santo Domingo. yoselicastillofuertes.blogspot.com

Michael Newton was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He attended Bard College and currently lives in Brooklyn, NYC. He has worked as a barista, survey-taker, dishwasher, junk-yard assistant, farm hand, pipefitter, construction worker, receptionist, and journalist. He is now a tutor and a marketing-writer. As a performer Newton has tackled a variety of forms including: stand-up comedy, devised theater, experimental opera, shadow-puppetry, post-dramatic narrative, and film. As a performance poet Newton has appeared at Rehearsal, Putney Swope, and the Performers Forum. Newton’s poetry has appeared in Krispy Kreme magazine and he currently writes about transmedia technology and art for the website Jawbone.tv. butcheredswitch.blogspot.com

Hector Canonge is an interdisciplinary artist whose work incorporates the use of New-media technologies, physical environments, cinematic and performative narratives. In his work he explores and treats issues related to construction of identity, gender roles, and the politics of migration. His performances mediate movement, endurance, and ritualistic processes as well as the interaction with the public. Canonge’s performance art work has been presented at Topaz Arts, Queens Museum of Art, Bronx Museum of Art, Flux Factory, Panoply Performance Laboratory, Surreal Estate, IATI, Crossing Art Gallery, Y Gallery, Cadwell College, Grace Exhibition Space, Vaudeville Park, recently at Northwestern’s Queergasm at Defibrillator (Chicago) among others. He organizes the seasonal performance art festival ITINERANT, is the director of the monthly film series CINEMAROSA, and runs the monthly artists’ series A-Lab Forum for his nonprofit arts organization QMAD, Queens Media Arts Development. www.hectorcanonge.net

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