Recently, I spent an evening at the Baltimore Book Festival. Do they have book festivals where you live? I hope so, because they are wonderful. They are also an excuse to spend money guiltlessly.
I’ve been to the Book Fest before, but I was super-excited this year because there was a vegan authors’ panel! Books and vegans: two of my favorite things. Since I got there early, I headed for the Radical Bookfair Pavilion to indulge my book habit. I purposely didn’t get any extra cash beforehand, because Red and I are trying to avoid bringing home too many stray books before we get additional bookshelves. I’m telling you, it’s a problem.
I picked up a lot of random free literature and A. Breeze Harper’s Sistah Vegan. I haven’t had time to read much of it, but it offers such a valuable and under-represented perspective. I’m happy to have it. At the next table were the friendly local anarchists from Red Emma’s, where they will sell you books and make you vegan lattés for a ridiculously low price. (The coffee, not the books. Books ain’t getting any cheaper, you may have noticed.) I was happy to find Kathy Acker’s Pussycat Fever—I did part of my master’s thesis on her novel Empire of the Senseless, and highly recommend her if you’re into tasty things like nonlinear narratives and the aesthetics of plagiarism. Also, sex.
I also found a copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I’ve wanted it for a while, but avoided buying it because what am I gonna do with a houseful of cookies? I said as much to the dude behind the table. “Have a vegan cookie party!” he suggested with glee. That convinced me, and I forked over the rest of my cash as I congratulated him on the score he’d made for capitalism. “Hey, when all you got’s a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” he reasoned.
Laden with books and relieved of all my money, I wandered over to the tent where the panel was scheduled to take place. I ran into Linnea, who joined me on my transatlantic lunch date, and we settled in for the panel. Here’s an awful photo of the panelists:
It was such fun. Ben Shaberman read a sweet story about his girlfriend’s cat from The Vegan Monologues. Corinne Bowen told us how she went from commenting on crazysexylife.com to being its editor. Tracye McQuirter told wonderful stories and had a beautiful smile. She’s doing something right, because her book had sold out before the panel! Davida Gypsy Breier talked about photographing animals for Ninety-Five at different sanctuaries, including Poplar Spring. Jonathan Balcombe told us how rats like to be tickled and display metacognition—that is, not only do they know things, but they know that they don’t know other things! They think about their own thinking! I wanted to buy his books, but I was out of cash and the shop didn’t take plastic.
After the session was over, I asked Ben if he’d sign my copy of The Vegan Monologues. (I felt very shy, because I hate pestering people for their autographs.) I won it last year in a giveaway on It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life, and Ben seemed amazed that his Maryland/DC-centric book had made it all the way to Wisconsin and back! I told him about IAVDL and Lucy the Vegan Beast, and he was very funny.
And that was that. I’m amazed by how, just a decade or so ago, it would have been laughable for a table of vegans to give a lecture at a public festival. But so many people showed up and were completely engaged! The vibe was overwhelmingly positive. The next time I feel grumpy because the hippie grocery is out of my preferred tofu or cruelty-free lotion, or someone asks me where I get my protein, I’ll remember that even though plenty of things still suck, we’re making progress.
Next time, I’ll tell you about my first experiments with Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar! (Spoiler: They were delicious.)