EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 16, 2013

Book fair brings renowned authors, singers to Lawrence

By Yadira Betances
ybetances@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE — One of the most important literary figures from the Cuban exile will be in the city for the eighth annual International Book Fair Friday through Sunday.

Zoe Valdes, who lives in Paris, has written several books, including “Miracle in Miami,” “The Weeping Woman,” “I Gave You All I Had” and “Daily Nothingness.”

“Every year, we dedicate the fair to an author who has had a deep influence on the literary world, and Zoe is such a person,” Almono said. “She is very well known in Europe and we wanted to bring the best to Lawrence so people here can also get acquainted with her work.”

Valdes first moved to Paris in the mid-1980s to work for the Cuban Delegation at UNESCO and the Cultural Office for Cuba’s Mission. She came to the United States in 1990, but returned to Paris in 1995 and has lived there since.

Valdes is one of several writers from Cuba, Latin America and Europe to be featured at the book fair. Others are Victor Andres Triay, whose historical book “Fleeing Castro: Operation Pedro Pan and the Cuban Children’s Program” explores the early 1960s program that brought more than 14,000 Cuban children to the United States as unaccompanied refugees; Reuben Vaisman-Tzachor, author of “The Book of Terrorism;” and Jose Rafael Sosa, writer of self-motivation books in Dominican Republic.

The event will also include cultural dances, discussions on terrorism and how a personal experience becomes literature, children’s book reading, and an interactive presentation of children’s books by Yanitzia Canetti.

On Saturday, Broadway star Xiomara Laugart will perform during a gala dinner at the Masonic Temple, 43 Jackson St. Her musical genre includes rumba, merengue, cumbia, rap, reggae and hip hop.

To highlight the city’s literary history, each table will feature poems written about Lawrence.

At the dinner, businessmen Chet Sidell and Rafael Guzman will be recognized for their contributions to the city.

Sidell is president of KGR, Inc., a mill owner and developer. He came to Lawrence in 1975 to start KGR clothing, a ladies apparel manufacturing business. At one time, he owned a half-dozen properties with more than 500,000 square feet of mill space and hundreds of parking spaces. Over the years, Sidell has invested more than $5 million in the KGR Mill building, which is now home to the Essex Art Center, Groundwork Lawrence, Lawrence CommunityWorks and Cambridge College.

“Chet is a visionary who believed in Lawrence when no one else did, preserving historic buildings,” Almono said. As for Guzman, Almono said, “He was investing in the city when no one else was.”

Guzman came to Lawrence from the Dominican Republic at age 15. He graduated from Lawrence High School and went on to earn a degree in electrical and computer engineering with high honors from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Today, he owns two commercial buildings and has renovated 225 Essex St., the former WCCM radio station building on Franklin St., and the former Arlington Mill. Guzman purchased Malden Mills at 530 Broadway last December for $950,000 in partnership with the Lawrence Training School, which provides education for people seeking employment opportunities. Guzman and the training school spent $600,000 to renovate the first two floors of the building.

Now known as the Arlington Mills Plaza, it features two acres and 50,000 square feet. The building houses 11 small businesses.

Almono said the fair committee will also posthumously honor four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence poet Robert Frost. A painting of him will be unveiled.

“We want to work with the literary richness that we have found in the city,’’ Almono said. “As the new Lawrencians, we want to recognize what we have and the legacy that people like Frost left for us.’’