Marcia Dunn attended the very first Fair in 1984 and has been a Friend for many years. The Albany, New York, native – who relocated to Miami as a newlywed in 1962 – is committed to encouraging a love of literature and reading, especially in children.
You’ve been going to Book Fair since its start – how did you hear about it?
I had a very close friend and neighbor, a bookstore owner, who was involved in establishing the Fair with Mitchell Kaplan. It was such an exciting time! My friend’s store had recently opened, we all had young children, and we went at night with the kids and found it just fantastic. So I got involved right away.
Nearly 40 years of attending and supporting Book Fair.
Yes! We were a family of readers – books have always been a part of my life – and my friends were also all readers. Books were very, very important to us; they were in fact a bond of friendship. So Book Fair was just the perfect opportunity to be supportive of that, and I’ve continued that support.
Do you usually Book Fair solo, or do you have a coterie of family and friends that join you?
When my husband was alive we would go together. I would also take friends because I would have extra seats; I take my one daughter who lives here. You know, you’re sort of a little group who all get to know each other, who sit in the rows at Chapman as supporters and book lovers, and it’s a nice camaraderie.
You said books have always been important to you. Can you tell me about the ones you read as a child?
I’m standing here now as I’m talking to you, and I’m looking at a little shelf of books from my childhood that I still have.
I have a shelf like that in my house, too!
I’ve kept them with me forever; I’ll never part with them. I have my original Wizard of Oz, which is taped on the binder. I have Misty of Chincoteague, they’re a series of books about the shore off of North Carolina and these ponies that live there. One of my favorites of all time – it’s out of print and it is the most fantastic book – is Smiling Hill Farm, about the pioneers moving west. The illustrations are just unbelievable! And I have The Secret Garden, too. That’s a really special book.
Which author at Book Fair has really resonated with you?
I have to say that on multiple levels it’s Patti Smith – she is mesmerizing. She first presented a number of years ago, I think it was when she had written Just Kids, which is a really outstanding memoir about her and her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. She’s incredibly smart and amusing. And someone asked her about her favorite book from childhood, too.
Yes! And I almost fell over when she answered because she said A Dog of Flanders, and that’s a book I’ve carried with me my entire life, from one move to another. It was such an incredible coincidence and I said to myself, “Oh, my God – this is why I love her.”
Is there someone you saw at Book Fair who you weren’t familiar with until that moment?
Isabel Wilkerson. Her book Caste is out now, but I think she was there for The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, which I’m looking at on my bookshelf. I was very taken with her.
As a lifelong reader and decadeslong Friend, why is supporting Book Fair so important?
Our community is very diverse and many pockets of it are underserved; there’s a lot of poverty. Book Fair reaches out and grants access to everything it offers. Thousands of children go every year and they’re always so excited! And hopefully that carries over to being excited about books, reading books, and writing themselves. The Fair has all these writing workshops; I have one grandchild who’s attended a number of them. That’s where I see my donations going – spreading the love and joy of reading to those who haven’t yet had the magical experience of that first page or sentence in a book and just feeling yourself sink into it, like, Oh my gosh, this is going to be great! It’s pretty magical, and anything I can do to promote that I will.
Interview by Elisa Chemayne Agostinho.