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Coming Soon to the Bronx, a Long Overdue Book Festival – The …

For Ms. Fennell, who was placed in foster care when she was 8, books were an escape. Though her caretakers were “lovely,” she said, “I felt lonely and alienated, because I was around strangers.” She spent most weekends at the library and bought books with her allowance, from Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” to “Flower’s Bed” by Antoine Inch Thomas. By the time she was 13, she was again living with her mother, a Honduran immigrant Ms. Fennell calls an “oral storyteller,” whom she credits with instilling in her a love of stories.

But Ms. Fennell “didn’t even realize” publishing was an industry until a professor encouraged her to enroll in City College’s publishing certificate program.

“I remember attending school in the Bronx, there weren’t any authors, no illustrators,” she recalled. “There weren’t people coming to visit us and talk about their books.”

This observation was amplified when, as a publicist for Scholastic early in her career, she was charged with bringing authors to schools and realized the Bronx was largely neglected. To remedy this, she is launching The Bronx is Reading — a literacy program that will target those underserved schools — in tandem with the festival.

“I really want them to see that there are people of color writing books,” she said of the students. Young adult novelists Elizabeth Acevedo and Tracey Baptiste will be among the first visiting writers.

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