When Black History Month rolls around, the list gets even better. A top pick for bustling February is the annual Toronto Urban Book Expo (TUBE) festivity. The event aims to provide local writers with an opportunity to not only share their work with a broader audience but also to give audiences a truer sense of what the Canadian Urban landscape is all about.
TUBE came about as a response to the African-American model of “black book fairs” that exist in abundance south of the border – a model that was hard to find in Toronto. “I thought it would be a great idea to have a book event in Toronto that exclusively focused on urban fiction,” says the mastermind behind TUBE -- founder and urban author Stacey Marie Robinson. “TUBE is an easy way for readers to connect with writers and publishers of this specific genre while highlighting the books available as well as the culture.” Robinson’s passion for urban fiction is something that she nurtures through TUBE as well as her own creative writing endeavours.
Robinson, who graduated from the Book Publishing Program at Ryerson University and holds a Master’s Degree in Communications from Wayne State University, has a lengthy list of novels to her name in her Urban Tales Series – nine to be exact. Robinson began writing in high school and has been writing on a consistent basis ever since about the urban spectrum. Her latest book, Carnival Spotlight, was an ode to the Toronto Caribbean Carnival and a sequel to her previous title Video Light.
So where does the inspiration stem from? In a nutshell--life. “The inspiration comes directly from my daily activities, and my writing is my tribute to a city and culture that I love,” says Robinson. “It’s my way of capturing the energy and positive vibes that I get from it.”
By telling everyday stories of life from a Canadian perspective, Robinson hopes that urban fiction will be an important contribution to literature and to history. “It captures a moment in time, the language, the locations, the behaviours, and the cultural climate,” Robinson notes.
At last year’s TUBE event, experts included those from the urban literary and cultural industries such as writer Dalton Higgins; urban nightlife entertainment expert Ian Andre Espinet and Knowledge Bookstore owner Sean Liburd. Their inspiring video interviews solidified their commitment to seeing the Canadian Urban Fiction movement expand.
TUBE’s lineup this time around includes more local authors; book launches; readings; a live DJ; giveaways; a book market and of course that signature urban flavour. “I would love the audience to have a great urban cultural experience. From the participants to the food; the music and the atmosphere, I hope that the Toronto Urban Book Expo is a productive celebration of Toronto's urban culture and that attendees are able to purchase some great books from the authors spread the word about their work.”
TUBE is perfect opportunity for contemporary urban writers and publishers to; communicate their projects; promote and recognize urban literature; literacy and culture –ultimately to spread the word. Kya Publishing has poised itself as Canada’s only urban fiction publisher dedicated to the development of contemporary Canadian urban fiction and culture.
“I am inspired to continue on this path because I would like to see more people writing and reading urban fiction,” says Robinson. “And I will continue to write out of my love for it all.”
Angela Walcott is a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Share, Sway and Planet Africa Magazine. She is the author/illustrator of the children’s book I Want To Be.