The Wisconsin Book Festival will kick off 2023 this Sunday with “Love Released Again,” a special presentation and book launch of the new works of a trio of beloved Madison-area African American women authors — Fabu Carter, Sherry Lucille, and Catrina J. Sparkman.
“It’s a great honor to be first on the book festival lineup,” Lucille tells Madison365. “We are looking forward to seeing a nice turnout coming to support their friendly neighborhood authors.”
The Wisconsin Book Festival, presented by Madison Public Library in partnership with Madison Public Library Foundation, presents free, public-author events that celebrate books and spark conversations. The Festival will be presenting stand-alone events throughout the year culminating with a 2023 fall celebration that is scheduled for October 19-22.
This Sunday at 2 p.m. in the community rooms 301 & 302 of Central Library in downtown Madison, Lucille will talk about her new book “Falling,” Sparkman will talk about “Flight of the Blackbird,” and Carter will talk about “We Eat to Remember: Soul Food Poetry.”
“These are the books that we created during the COVID pandemic,” Carter tells Madison365. “We’re very proud of these books. And we’re happy to be the kickoff for the Wisconsin Book Festival in 2023. We’re calling this release, ‘Love Release 2’ because all of our books contain an element of love.”
Lucille’s first book was published in 2007. Her published works include the Love Trilogy: Love Changes, Love Dreams, and Love Promises. All three novels are set in Chicago circa 1969 and deal with interracial romance. Last summer, she released “Falling,” her first Black-on-Black love story.
Sparkman is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor of arts in English and creative writing and a master’s degree in African American Studies, according to her bio from the Wisconsin Book Festival, and has carved out a successful career niche as a grassroots theater artist and authorpreneur of several works of fiction and non-fiction. Her published works include “Doing Business With God,” “Passing Through Water,” “Opening the Floodgates,” and “The Fire This Time”.
Her latest is “Flight of the Blackbird Part 1,” a love story told in two parts.
Carter is well-known in Madison as a poet, columnist, storyteller, and teaching artist. She became the first African American to be a Madison Poet Laureate in 2008.
Her latest book, “We Eat to Remember: Soul Food Poetry,” is a book about the history, culture and joy connected to the foods Black people eat. This book of poetry goes back to food narratives that started in Africa, continued through the slave experience in America and are vibrant and present today.
“For me, it’s my largest book of poetry ever. And I’m doing it on food,” Carter says. “I grew a garden during the pandemic. But I also had kidney failure during the pandemic, and my garden was very instrumental in my healing. So it made me think about the connection of Black people to their food … a connection that begins in Africa and flows over into America.
“A lot of the poems in the book are serious about the fact that Black people were brought to the US and that was one of our gifts to the world — a system of agriculture,” she adds. “We knew how to grow things. And so that made us very good free labor. Other poems are light-hearted and humorous … and then there are all kinds of poems that are in between.”
Fabu says that she loves looking at the historical origins of food.
“I’m also looking at the fact that what we call traditional soul food – that is high fat, high sugar., high salt – is really the diet of enslavement. And it’s not good for us,” she says. “So I think we need to go further back and look at what we ate before we were forced to eat what we could.
“And I think that gardening gets us back to a more plant-based diet,” she adds. “It lets us know how wonderful vegetables are in our food. But then again, too. I remember my grandparents’ diet and it was one small piece of meat to flavor beans or flavor peas and so as we became more successful financially, that’s when people started overconsuming meat.”
The three women — Sparkman, Lucille and Carter — have been holding book-related events together for well over a decade and they have formed quite the bond of sisterhood with each other over the years while embarking on multiple writing projects.
“It’s just really good to have support and to have people pushing [and saying] ‘Now we need to do the next thing,'” Lucille says. “I’m the type of person that once I get a major project done, I just want to rest and so it’s nice to have people going ‘oh, no, you can rest a little, but we’re going to connect in the near future to talk about how we are going to keep this thing going. How are we gonna keep promoting what we think is a very unique perspective, and also a needed perspective for our community?’”
Beyond everything, the three women are just really good friends.
“We get to enjoy each other’s company while we’re working on things and we’re all strong personalities,” Lucille says. “There’s a saying in the Bible that ‘iron sharpens iron.’ So as it is nice to have people to sharpen you and challenge you on a professional, personal, spiritual level…. on all levels.”
To read more about the lineup of the Wisconsin Book Festival, you can click here.
“I think everything we do and every book we write is about helping people to live and live well in the world,” Carter says. “Every play and every memoir we write, it’s about wanting our community to live long to live wise, and to live well.
“We have wonderful supporters who have supported our work since the very beginning,” she adds. “And that beginning was a few decades ago in Madison. We’ve been doing this a long time and we have been consistently writing and producing and giving voice to Black people in the Midwest, and, specifically, in Wisconsin.”