Lead Story Local News West Edition

Leimert Park Book Fair delights readers, foodies and political junkies

“When I woke up this morning and opened my eyes, there was mud in my bed, to my surprise.”

Kids bubbled with enthusiasm as the 6- 9 tower of a man exemplified the pleasure of reading. A lucky few scored free, autographed copies from retired Los Angeles Lakers A.C. Green, who read from “Metta’s Bedtime Stories,” penned by the Lakers’ Metta World Peace with Heddrick McBride.

When story time was over, Green made his way through a large group of admirers seeking photos, to singer Bobby Brown’s table. Brown was selling his signature barbecue sauce, spices and seasonings. Later, the former husband of the late Whitney Houston signed “Every Little Step, My Story” inside Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, where the 10th annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair was taking place.

Former Los Angeles Laker A.C. Green read to youngsters part of Metta World Peace’s new book, ‘Metta’s Bedtime Stories,’ during the Leimert Park Village Book Fair Aug. 20 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. (Photo courtesy of Fifth Avenue Times)
Former Los Angeles Laker A.C. Green read to youngsters part of Metta World Peace’s new book, ‘Metta’s Bedtime Stories,’ during the Leimert Park Village Book Fair Aug. 20 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
(Photo courtesy of Fifth Avenue Times)

Founder Cynthia Exum blazed a new trail Aug. 20, transforming the promenade of the shopping center into one of the largest and most panoramic literary marketplaces in the area.

Thousands of people flocked to the outdoor venue for contemporary and historical books and artifacts showcasing people of the African Diaspora, and to be entertained and stimulated by accomplished artists, political commentators and sports giants.

Readers became diners near the culinary stage, sampling delicacies prepared by celebrity chefs Donna Barrow, Konya Lindsey, Jaime and Ramiro, Miss Robbie and Rome Brown, who reportedly ‘put their foot in it good.’

The Leimert Park Village Book Fair was held outside on the promenade of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Aug. 20, transforming the outdoor venue into the largest and most panoramic literary marketplaces in the area. (Photo courtesy of Fifth Avenue Times)
The Leimert Park Village Book Fair was held outside on the promenade of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Aug. 20, transforming the outdoor venue into the largest and most panoramic literary marketplaces in the area. (Photo courtesy of Fifth Avenue Times)

Upstairs on the bridge, Hannibal Tabu enlightened listeners on the ‘ins-and-outs’ of the comic book market.

On the main stage, festival-headliner Zane, a New York Times best-selling fiction writer, spun tales of 14-hour workdays executive-producing her own films and “living a double life … my parents didn’t know Zane.”

The Dr. Jekyll and ‘Mrs.’ Hyde-like mother of three — dubbed the ‘Queen of Erotica’ by the Times — said, “I had never read and never set out to write erotica.”

“Out of boredom, I wrote a couple of short stories and posted them online. They became a really big deal and people started emailing me for advice.”

“I have no secrets; I’m boring — very boring,” Zane told The Wave. “I do have a great imagination and a unique outlook on life. Now all the publishers are looking for the next me.”

The next Zane might not have the author’s rare success in avoiding rejection letters from publishers.

“My work has never been rejected,” she added. I’ve been asked to change what I write — that’s not quite the same thing. I never change my words.  Never … and I’ve ended up being more successful than all the people they said I need to … emulate.”

Zane’s publishing company, Strebor Books, an imprint of ATRIA Books/Simon and Schuster,has published the work of 110 authors. Her first novel, “Addicted,” was made into a major motion picture.

Cinemax TV programming includes Zane’s “Sex Chronicles” and “The Jump Off,” based on her novels.  She is writing her 39th and 40th books.

“I work on several things at once,” she said. “Book number 39 is due tomorrow. Because it is not quite ready, I’m going to pull a ‘Hail Mary.’”

Singer Bobby Brown was selling his signature barbecue sauce, spices and seasonings and cooking for those attending the Leimert Park Village Book Fair Aug. 20. (Photo by Tyrone Cole)
Singer Bobby Brown was selling his signature barbecue sauce, spices and seasonings and cooking for those attending the Leimert Park Village Book Fair Aug. 20. (Photo by Tyrone Cole)

Horror, fantasy and science fiction power couple Steve Barnes and Tananarive Due, and mystery writers Gary Phillips and Pamela Young Samuels, an attorney, shared news of their works-in-progress and shed light on conquering writers’ block and achieving writing goals.

Calling it the “new form of slavery,” singer-songwriter Charles Wright — famed for his 1970s hit “Express Yourself” — expounded upon his father’s life as a sharecropper in “Up From Where We’ve Come.”

Sparks flew as KJLH-FM radio personality Dominique DiPrima moderated a sometimes-contentious discussion between economist and political analyst Julianne Malveaux; American Urban Radio Network commentator and White House correspondent April Ryan; and news analyst and former L.A. Times columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan. Malveaux, Ryan and Kaplan have authored books addressing Barack Obama’s presidency.

The ladies hammered away on issues ranging from marriage equality; “don’t ask, don’t tell;” student loans; the automotive bailout; and LGBT issues, letting loose with facts and figures, terse one-liners, free-flowing off-the cuff banter and unflinching opinion. The audience at times groaned, affirmed and recoiled in shock at arguably the single biggest attraction of the day on the festival’s main stage.

On the subject of “Are We Better Off Today? Race, Obama and the African American Community,” Malveaux set the tone for vigorous debate with: “Black folks settle too much for symbolism as opposed to substance.”

Kaplan said, “We’re not in the abyss, but we are in the basement. Overall, we are better off, but that is not saying a whole lot.”

“We are better off [with] still more to go. There is the accountability component [in the 21st Century Policing Task Force,] and we are working it out,” Ryan said.

“I would argue symbolism is not nothing — we are always marching. … I don’t know if it is just symbolism if you are finding funds for body cameras,” DiPrima said.

Malveaux said, “I don’t find symbolism unimportant. At the end of the day, you cannot eat symbolism. … We should not be sheep or lemmings. The take-away from Obama’s election is: “Women, don’t be jumping up and down if Hilary is elected. Take her feet and put them to the fire.”

Along the canopied aisles, Marcus Garvey’s second cousin, W.B. Garvey promoted, “White Gold” and “Panama Fever,” historical fiction depicting Jamaican worker contributions to building the Panama Canal. Anastascia Duchesse recounted “an urban girl’s adventure outside of her comfort zone” in “Dabresha Goes to France.”

The L.A. and County Public Libraries, Our Authors Study Club, and Greater L.A. Writers Society were also on hand, promoting literacy, local authors, and excellence.