Making a Difference Halfway Around the World
The fourth largest book fair in the world, The Sharjah International Book fair (SIBF), was held in October. This 10-day literary event in Sharjah, UAE, celebrates the power of literacy and features written works of the Arab world. With an estimated 2.28 million visitors, 1,874 exhibitors, and representatives from 77 countries around the world, SIBF encompasses book lovers across the globe and offers readers and industry professionals an opportunity to gather, learn, and support the importance of literacy.
Attendees can enjoy panel discussions, workshops, and book signings before and throughout the conference. During the professional conference before the SIBF, I gave a workshop called ‘Taking Your Publishing Company to the Next Level’ to approximately 250 professional book publishers from all over the world. The workshop was organized by Andrea Chambers with NYU’s School of Publishing
There were two translators, who were incredible as they were trying to keep up with the room. The space was packed to capacity with an engaged group of professionals, many who are trying to build their businesses and breaking out of comfort zones. Through interactive exercises, the room was able to connect to the material, which eventually led to attendees sharing their experiences. The group spoke about incredible, profoundly touching, and tough-edged stories. Honestly, some of these impactful stories brought tears to my eyes. It’s incredible to hear how these people were making a difference in the world – BOOKS.CHANGE.LIVES.
The following day was the opening of the Professional Conference which the head of the Sharjah Book Authority, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri opened. The first panel of the day, we discussed Global Publishing: What’s Next for this Growing Industry. I believe the global publishing industry today is better and healthier than ever before.
One of my favorite moments of the fair had to be during Jacks Thomas’ (the head of the London Book Fair) panel about the Freedom to Publish.
This session dealt with the Arabic world’s relationship with the written word and it was, not surprisingly, intense and important, asking questions such as, “How do we get the International Publishers Association to take a global view on freedom to publish?” The conversation included PEN UK, the Emirates Literature Foundation, and the IPA. The other member of the panel was Mahmoud Lutfi, the brother of Khaled Lutfi, recipient of the IPA 2019 Prix Voltaire, which supports defenders of freedom to publish.
Khaled Lutfi was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of divulging military secrets and spreading rumors for having distributed an Arabic translation of the book, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, by Uri Bar-Joseph. This is certainly an important conversation for us to be both aware of and involved in. And I admit to being very much heartened to see this conversation taking place on the Sharjah main stage. If we want to create a different conversation with the Arab World, this is a chance to have a little part in that. Sharjah’s Sheik is a scholar and deeply committed to literacy and education. We talked deeply and personally about why reading and literacy is important. You can see that mission and commitment from all of the people involved.
Publishers Weekly’s coverage:
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More information on Khaled Lutffi here:
More information on the Prix Voltaire here:
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