Thursday, September 11, 2014

Black Writers at Festival AMERICA

Festival AMERICA is an event that features the literature and culture of North America. It is held in Vincennes, an eastern suburb of Paris, once every two years.

This year, several black writers from the United States, Haïti, and Canada will sit on numerous panels to discuss their publications.


The French translation of long-time Paris resident Jake Lamar's book, Postérité (English-language title: Posthumous), was released by Rivages on September 10, 2014. Jake received the prestigious Centre National du Livre award for this book. The English-language version has not yet been released.

Photo of Jake Lamar © Giles Plazy - Opale - Éditions Payot Rivages
Collage © Discover Paris!

Because Jake has participated in the festival multiple times, I asked him to comment on the event. He said the following:

This is my fourth invitation to Festival AMERICA since 2004. I’ve participated in lots of book festivals, all over France, and Festival America, in my experience, is maybe the best of them all. The list of writers is always very diverse. The organizers clearly put a lot of thought into the grouping of writers in different panel discussions. And the public is always very engaged and enthusiastic.

Philadelphian Ayana Mathis' first novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, was released in French under the title (Les Douze Tribus d'Hattie) by Gallmeister in January 2014. It is a New York Times Bestseller and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year 2013.

Photo of Ayana Mathis © Elena Seibert
Collage © Discover Paris!

Jesmyn Ward is a former Stegner fellow at Stanford and Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her novels, Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, are both set on the Mississippi coast where she grew up. The French translation of Where the Line Bleeds was released in French under the title Ligne de Fracture in May 2014.

Photo of Jesmyn Ward © Tony Cook
Collage © Discover Paris!


Port-au-Prince native Dominique Batraville studied in Belgium and France before returning to Haïti in the aftermath of the fall of the Duvalier regime. His first novel, L’Ange de charbon, will be featured at the festival.

Photo of Dominique Batraville from Festival AMERICA Web site
Collage © Discover Paris!

Louis-Philippe Dalembert received the RFO book prize for his novel, L’autre face de la mer, in 1999. He will discuss his most recent novel, Ballade d’un amour inachevé, at the festival this year.

Photo of Louis-Philippe Dalembert © Stephane Haskell
Collage © Discover Paris!

Henry Kénol is a prolific writer of novels, poems, and essays. His novel, Le désespoir des anges, is "inspired" by the armed gangs that ruled the streets of Haïti's cities during the 2000s.

Photo of Henry Kénol from Festival AMERICA Web site
Collage © Discover Paris!

Journalist, screen writer, and essayist, Dany Laferrière now spends most of his time in Montreal, Canada. He describes his book, L'Art presque perdu de rien faire, as "an autobiography of my ideas." Laferrière is the first black since Léopold Sédar Senghor to be elected to the Académie Française.

Photo of Dany Laferrière © Jf Paga Grasset
Collage © Discover Paris!

Yanick Lahens is a professor of literature as well as a novelist, essayist, and documentary filmmaker. She was awarded the title of Officer of Arts and Letters by the Ambassador of France in Haiti this year. Her latest book, Bain de lune, tells a story of passion, voodoo, and politics.

Photo of Yanick Lahens from Festival AMERICA Web site
Collage © Discover Paris!

Anthony Phelps' Nomade, je fus de très vieille mémoire is a personal anthology of poems written between 1961 and 2011. Phelps was a political prisoner of the Duvalier regime. Forced to leave the country after his release, he emigrated to Montreal, Canada. He has written over twenty books (short stories, novels, essays, and poems) that have been translated into seven languages.

Photo of Anthony Phelps © Setkafilms
Collage © Discover Paris!


Ryad Assani-Razaki was born in Cotonou, Benin in 1981. After studying computer science in the United States, he settled in Montreal. He now works as a computer scientist in Toronto. His first collection of short stories was awarded the Trillium in 2007. La Main d'Imam, the novel that is featured at the festival, received the Robert-Cliche prize in 2011.

Photo of Ryad Assani-Razaki © Fatou Binetou Kone
Collage © Discover Paris!

The 7th edition of Festival AMERICA will take place from September 11 through September 14. A youth festival, several photographic expositions, and films and concerts will complement the literary events at the festival.

The primary venue is the Centre Culturel Georges Pompidou, 142 rue de Fontenay, 94300 Vincennes. Several events will take place in additional sites nearby.

For more information, visit the official Festival AMERICA Web site (text in French).


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