Printer’s Row Lit Fest goes back to its roots

Book lovers browse the booths at Lit Fest in 2017. (File photo)

Contributing writer

The written word will take center stage when the 35TH annual Printers Row Lit Fest kicks off Saturday and Sunday (June 8 and 9).

The Midwest’s largest literary celebration will feature Tony-winning playwright Eve Ensler, civic leader Valerie Jarrett and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz.

Program highlights include special “Year of Chicago Theatre” presentations; cooking demos; a new arts and poetry tent; and a first-ever, kid-led, costumed storybook parade.

The festival with an expanded footprint this year will take place along Dearborn Street from Dearborn Station to the newly named Ida B. Wells Drive (formerly Congress Parkway), rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

“What’s really exciting is we’ve got more planned outside,” said Teresa Basso Gold, the festival’s programming director. The festival is back in the hands of its founders, the Near South Planning Board, and is once again spearheaded by Bette Cerf Hill, after being managed by the Chicago Tribune for the last 16 years. The Tribune remains a sponsor of the event.

Tickets are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Among the participants singled out by Gold include performances by both Steppenwolf and the Goodman theaters; cooking demonstrations; and the children’s storybook parade starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at which children will be able to make a mask.

Kotlowitz, a nationally recognized journalist, bestselling author, and award-winning filmmaker, introduces his most recent work, “An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago.” Kotlowitz will be awarded the 2019 Harold Washington Literary Award at a dinner in his honor, which officially launches the festival, on Thursday. Kotlowitz will also headline both days of the festival

On Saturday, Ensler returns to Chicago with her new book “The Apology” which offers a revolutionary look at how, from the wounds of sexual abuse, one can begin to re-emerge and heal.

On Sunday, Jarrett, the longest serving senior advisor in the Obama White House, will discuss her new memoir, “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward,” a story that starts in Iran but has its heart in the South Side of Chicago.

Special cooking demonstrations from award-winning culinary star Rick Bayless, soul food chef Todd Richards, and cookbook author and journalist Anupy Singla, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Indian food and cooking, also are featured as is the addition of an arts and poetry tent for the first time.

More than 100,000 visitors are expected for the festival, which will also host over 100 booksellers offering everything from the tattered to the rare to hot off the press newly published works.

In addition to a bonanza of book browsing, the festival will spotlight Chicago’s breadth of talent, plus offer writing workshops and special programs for children and young adults. Programming features presentations by myriad authors, spoken word artists, adventurers, chefs and poets.