Yesterday the Observer published San Antonio author Gregg Barrios’ op-ed regarding Latino and Latina representation at this year’s Texas Book Festival, upcoming Oct. 26-27. We let TBF Literary Director Steph Opitz know that we’d be happy to host a response, and today she provided the following:
I really appreciate that you’ve raised the issue of diversity at our Festival. I, too, am disappointed that there is not more diversity in this year’s line-up. It is important to the Festival staff and board, and it is personally important to me that the Festival grow in diversity. It’s important to me that small presses are represented. It’s important to me that Latino and Latina writers feel they have a strong presence at the Fest. It’s important that all Texans, of any ethnic background, feel that they have a place. It’s important for poets to have a stage here. Many of the authors you suggested were invited to participate, but declined for various reasons. I suspect that my late hire date, resulting in late invites, prevented many authors from attending because their fall schedules had already been solidified. In any event, there’s really no excuse.
I also want to point out that, as an organization, we’re really working on these goals across the state, not just at the Festival weekend. We sponsored LibroFEST in Houston earlier this month; most of the authors you name have been to the Texas Book Festival and many were recently celebrated at the San Antonio Book Festival, which was under our umbrella at the time; we’re constantly fundraising for Texas libraries ($2.5 million and counting!); and, our Reading Rock Stars program, where we bring authors into the schools, features bilingual authors and books from some of the publishing companies you suggested we include. I realize this deviates from the point of your piece, but it is a big part of our organization—because we are not just a festival.
It is good to know that you’re someone who pays close attention to these aspects of our Festival. I would love to sit down with you after this week and hear your suggestions for 2014. It’s extremely important that we all keep each other accountable for encouraging, fostering, and promoting diversity of all kinds.
Texas Book Festival