In Case You Missed It: Portland Book Fest 2023

Three people sit speaking with microphones at the Portland Book Festival.
Photo by Will Boechler.

Literary Arts’ Portland (PDX) Book Festival took place once again this November in the full literary glory of its 29th year. The event was rife with publishing and bookselling names both big and small, local and out-of-state, including the country’s largest bookseller, Powell’s Books, the Hobsford-Abernathy’s comic book store Books with Pictures, and representatives of Portland State’s very own Creative Writing program, and others such as Propellor Books, Luminare Press, and Ooligan Press.  

Portland Book Fest is a true book-lover’s paradise. Spread across several buildings along the Park Blocks, including the Portland Art Museum and beyond. Against the backdrop of a rainy fall Saturday, it was a slough of artist talks, rooms brimming with tables of books ‘a la Scholastic Book Fairs of the 2000s’, and there was truly something for everyone. The Portland book-lover could pick up a discounted anarchist manifesto from PM press, flutter over to Kitchen Table Magazine for some culinary arts ephemera, and then secure a slim copy of a feminist-bicycle themed-fantasy from Microcosm Publishing, then wait in line to get one of the event’s featured author’s books published. A defining feature of this event however, is the vast array of over 100 authors and speakers presenting talks or signing books— including current Poet Laurette of Oregon, Anis Mojgan, Artemis Fowl series author Eoin Colfer, Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate and novelist Ayana Mathis, and PSU MFA alumni Charity Yoro. 

Three people sit on stage at the Portland Book Festival.
Photo by Will Boechler.

My wallet only granted allowance to get four out of the many many books I wanted: 

    1. The Northport Stories by Sheila Evans, published musings about a mother and daughter fraught with conflict in a fictional small town on the Oregon coast.
    2. Patriarchy of the Wage by Silvia Frederici, which takes a feminist lens to the work of Karl Marx in understanding subjugation in relation to both sex, class, and labor. 
    3. Late in the Day a collection of poems by Ursula K. Leguin, of feminist and speculative science fiction fame. 
    4. Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology featuring writers new and familiar to me: Octavia Butler, Pamela Sargent, Pat Murphy, Rachel Swirsky, Rose Lemberg, Susan Palwick, Tanith Lee, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Vandana Singh. 

Getting new-to-me books is both one of life’s greatest pleasures, and as a very busy adult who once spent hours reading as a child, a reminder of all that I do not yet know and may not have time to learn.  

If, like me, time slips through your hands and you didn’t catch the Book Fest this year, don’t fret! The next PDX Book Fest is already slated for next fall, returning Saturday November 2, 2024. If the $15-25 admission cost is too hefty, SNAP/EBT recipients qualify for the discounted Arts for All ticket price at just $5 each – just don’t forget to bring a bag for all the books you’ll buy! 

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