Polish Authors, Librarians
Converge in Chicago at BookExpo America

Aquila Polonica publisher Terry Tegnazian with Julian Kulski at BookExpo America 2016.

“This is the best booth in the show,” said publisher and editor Glenn Young as he admired the graphic art panels in the “Books from Poland” booth during BookExpo America (BEA), May 11-12-13 in Chicago. As the 2016 “Guest of Honor,” Poland aimed the spotlight at Polish authors, publishers, and illustrators at the largest publishing trade show in the USA. Organized by the Polish Book Institute in Krakow, the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, and Aquila Polonica Publishing in Los Angeles, the Poland booth at BookExpo and at the May 14 BookCon show for the public, offered a unique opportunity for Polish American librarians in Chicagoland to learn what books are new and hot in Poland, and to enjoy programs and author events designed to raise awareness of what is current in the publishing industry.

The big hit in the Poland booth was the display of graphic arts from children’s books, highlighted by a book signing by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizieliski. Other books on display included elegant tomes from the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw, collectible editions of classic Polish works from Kurtiak & Ley, language-learning aids from Prolog Publishing, and dozens of popular titles. Another popular feature was The Witcher, an opportunity to sample Poland’s popular video game. A large selection of books by Polish-American authors was also on display, and a four-color catalog of those books was distributed (A Selection of Books in English about BEA’s Guest of Honor Poland).

Polish American Librarians Association President Leonard Kniffel helped staff the booth, and PALA members took full advantage of the focus on Poland to enrich their libraries’ collections and programs courtesy of the “Books from Poland” sponsors. A special librarian programming track resulted in small but focused audiences at associated events and at a variety of venues around Chicagoland.

Five panel discussions about publishing in Poland during the convention’s May 11 “Global Market Forum” focused on the evolution of the industry since the fall of communism in 1989: “Poland’s Book Market: Insights, Trends & Developments,” “Investing in Poland: Risks and Opportunities in an Emerging Market,” “Innovative Global Successes of Polish Multimedia & Transmedia Publishing,” “Why Poland? Why Now? Strategies for Promotion of Polish Literature in the U.S.,” and “The New Golden Age of Polish Books for Children: An Overview of Current Trends.”

Among the BEA programs sponsored by the American Library Association was “Polish Literature Is for Everyone: How to Curate Core Collections of Polish Literature at Public Libraries,” presented May 13 by Isabella Nowak-Osika of the Chicago Public Library. Illustrated with a dynamic PowerPoint presentation, her talk centered on the best-of-the-best Polish classic and contemporary books. She also touted the “All of Polonia Reads to Kids” campaign—which PALA has been actively promoting—and showed video ads that target fathers and encourage them to read to their children from birth.

Elsewhere around Chicago, the Polish Book Institute hosted a cocktail reception and a moderated discussion of “The Art of Narrative Nonfiction” with author/journalists Artur Domosławski from Poland and Sebastian Junger, bestselling U.S. author of The Perfect Storm, at the beautiful University Club of Chicago with Chad W. Post, publisher of Open Letter Books at the University of Rochester, moderating the discussion.

The Chopin Theatre hosted an opening event May 10 dubbed “Discovering Poland,” with readings by five authors from Poland: Krystyna Dąbrowska, Artur Domosławski, Dorota Maslowska, Zygmunt Miłoszewski, and Magdalena Tulli, with opening remarks by Chad W. Post. The focus was again on illustrating books for children May 11 during “Every Picture Tell a Story: Illustrated Art from Poland,” with Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińscy, author/illustrators who created the hugely successful “Maps” book series, and Malgorzata Gurowska and Joanna Rusczyk, the creative team behind The Locomotive, a controversial new book based on Julian Tuwim’s Polish children’s poem. That discussion was led by Richard Reeder, president of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame and author of the illustrated memoir Chicago Sketches.

Aquila Polonica Publishing held book signings at the Poland booth and at Chicago’s Copernicus Center featuring Julian Kulski whose World War II diary The Color of Courage the company published in 2014 in an expanded and annotated edition that includes “Digital Extras” (pictures with QR codes that connect to associated film footage that can be viewed on cell phones) as well as an “Educator’s Guide.” for classroom use. Kulski was 12 years old when he was recruited into the Polish resistance and 15 when he fought in the Warsaw Uprising. John Guzlowski, author of Aquila Polonica’s latest title, Echoes of Tattered Tongues, also signed books on the show floor and at the Copernicus Center where he read a selection of poems. Marek Żebrowski signed copies of his generously illustrated book Paderewski in California. An accomplished pianist, Żebrowski’s books are published by the University of Southern California’s Polish Music Center, but he has cooperated with Aquila Polonica on a number of projects and attended BEA under the publisher’s umbrella.

Aquila Polonica publisher Terry Tegnazian orchestrated six additional events at McCormick and the Eisenhower Public Library in Harwood Heights, Wood Dale Public Library, and Frugal Muse Books in Darien. Program titles were: “Fighting for Freedom: A Boy at War” with Julian Kulski, “Paderewski: Musician, Politician and Philanthropist” with Marek Żebrowski, and “War Refugee Immigrants in America,” a book talk and signing with John Guzlowski.

To keep the spotlight on Poland as the country of honor during BookExpo, Polish authors Agata Tuszyńska, Artur Domosławski, and Zygmunt Miłoszewski signed books at Chicago’s D&Z Polish bookstore, whose owners, Dorota and Zbyszek Kruczalak helped staff the Poland booth and offered information to attendees about how to buy books from Poland. Polish author Magdelena Tulli also appeared at Unabridged Books in Chicago, while Ron Balson, author of Once We Were Brothers and Saving Sophie, joined Agata Tuszyńska May 11 in conversation with Greg Archer, author of Grace Revealed, at 57th Street Books.

Poet Krystyna Dąbrowska gave a reading at the University of Chicago, which was followed by a conversation with Karen Kovacik, editor of a new all-female Polish poetry anthology titled Scattering the Dark, and award-winning translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones for a May 11 program at the University of Chicago, moderated by Bożena Shallcross, UC professor of modern Polish literature.

Also signing in the Poland booth was Piotr Witt, author of On the Threshold of Fame: Chopin’s First Steps in Paris (available only in Polish), who also appeared at a Polish-language presentation at the Polish Museum of America May 13. That event featured Krystyna Dąbrowska, Agata Tuszyńska, Magdalena Tulli, Artur Domosławski, Zygmunt Miłoszewski, Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińscy, Małgorzata Gurowska, and Joanna Ruszczyk on a panel moderated by Zbyszek Kruczalak.

“It’s hard to imagine when an opportunity like this will come along again,” said Kniffel. “It was an amazing four days with Poland at the center of attention, and what I liked best were the conversations with attendees who spotted the Poland exhibit and told stories about their family connections to Poland. It was also an honor to meet and talk with Julian Kulski. His book belongs in every library in America, and it is up to organizations like PALA to see that it gets there.”

BookExpo America and BookCon are spectacular book giveaways that also feature brand new titles at remainder prices, and librarians from all over the Midwest were on hand to add new titles to their collections. Publishers Weekly provided a conversation area exclusively for librarians complete with sandwiches and refreshments, which heightened the excitement that is BookExpo. Other Polish American Librarians Association members in attendance included Elizabeth Marszalik, Joanna Klos, Anna Demitraszek, Grazyna Krzycka, and Krystyna Grell and Iwona Bozek of the Polish Museum of America Library, and Donna Solecka Urbikas who gave away promotional copies of her new book from the University of Wisconsin Press, My Sister’s Mother, which was even more popular than the ribbon “Poland” bookmarks and the colorful postcards with illustrations from the children’s book art on display.