Union City Hosts New Jersey’s First ‘International Book Fair’

Berkis Contreras, a poet and teacher graduated from Caldwell University, will organize New Jersey's first International Book Fair. (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Berkis Contreras, a poet and teacher who graduated from Caldwell University, will organize New Jersey’s first “International Book Fair.” (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Berkis Contreras, a poet, teacher and Union City resident for 25 years, is organizing the International Book Fair of New Jersey (Feria Internacional del Libro en Nueva Jersey), which seeks to attract readers among Hispanic youth and adults, while betting on local authors.

“We should not wait for Latinos to go out and buy books; we should also bring them to them. For example, two years ago, after visiting a book fair in Puerto Rico or Spain, I wondered why we don’t have a book fair here,” said Contreras. “That’s when I resolved to bring as many books and authors as I could, if possible from Latin America’s 21 countries.”

She is also determined to bring literature for the people’s enjoyment, noting that there’s currently a boom in readership at book fairs in all of Latin America, Spain and even Miami, boasting thousands in visitors and sales, although not yet in New Jersey.

Books in Spanish are still very rare in local bookstores, not only in terms of quantity but also in the lack of purchase of new titles. However, the promoter believes this will change in the future.

“Why is it that even in this sector we are treated as minorities?” said Berkis. “But I think this is going to change. Look, when I started the poetry festival “El Grito de Mujer” (Woman Shout), which takes place every March as a shout against violence on women, it was very well attended and, sure enough, the poets sold their books. So I think that the Hispanic population needs to be more exposed to literature, they only need to be stimulated. Later on, they themselves will ask their librarian for more Hispanic books.”

She also complained about the poor level of the Spanish language used in private companies and even state entities.

“I think this happens because we allow it to happen,” she said. “We are not investigating; we are not checking that Spanish translators are really qualified to do their job. Or, maybe to save costs, they are just using Google translate.”

She also calls attention to the increasingly frequent use of Spanglish: “This is another problem that we must face. Spanglish is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is harming our Spanish.”

The first International Book Fair of New Jersey kicks off Friday, June 24 at 7 p.m., at William Musto Cultural Center, 420 15th St., Union City. The doors will remain open until Sunday, June 26. The fair will be dedicated to the president of the Royal Academy of Spanish Language in the Dominican Republic, Dr. Bruno Rosario Candelier, a National Literature Award winner and an author of the genre known as “interiorismo.”

Around 30 Latin American authors have confirmed their participation at the festival, including: Bruno Rosario Candelier, Osiris Mosquea, Karla Coreas, Ivelisse Fanit, Elsa Batista, Gladis Montolío, Massiel Alvarez, Adriana Hernández, Judit Fernández, Edgar Smith, Norma Feliz, Fernando Jorge Clariana, Alejandro Aguirrez, Sandra Pelaez, Guido Rafael Vaca, Jose Frank Rosario, Jorge Luis Seco, and Asdrovel Tejada.

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