From Subways to Swingin’ Moonlight: A Look at How Readers Make Connections

TIFA’s Delegate Programme is an opportunity for local authors and journalists to enrich the level of discussion among book lovers throughout the Festival. Returning Delegate Danielle Bourgon shares her experience at #FestofAuthors19 below.

By Danielle Bourgon 

The launch of the 40th Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) happened to coincide with my two-year anniversary of living in Toronto. I’ve lived in lots of places across Canada and there’s something that I noticed about this city pretty quickly that has always stuck with me: the amount of people I see in a day reading. On subways, in cafes, at the art gallery. I frequently find myself lifting my head from my own book to find that I’m not alone because there’s almost always someone else reading nearby. 

There’s something interesting to me about the fact that despite its solidarity the act of reading stories can be a hugely social experience. As I’ve delved further and further into BookTube, gone to more and more book launches and festivals, and joined various book clubs I’ve been struck by how reading is often a performative act. It’s something that others can observe you doing and that you observe in others, which as an avid reader provides me with a great sense of community and comfort. 

A few weeks ago I sat down on my regular subway, pulled out my book, glanced to my left and realized that the person next to me was reading the same author. I stopped and smiled and thought to myself, “This is too coincidental. Time to connect.” I struck up a quick conversation and had possibly my most enjoyable commute in Toronto as we went over the author’s gorgeous use of language, swapped book recommendations, and even spoke about the independent bookstores we bought them at. This miraculous moment was largely possible because of the inherent communal nature of reading in public. 

As I’ve gone more and more to book events this year I’ve been struck with how authors, publishers, and readers are playing with the structures of these performances. This year at TIFA I got to see a poetry sharing and panel discussion focused on family stories and connections, I watched a theatrical response to a book, and I listened as incredible musicians underscored authors reading excerpts from their work. Each of these events took me, as an audience member and reader, and helped me to connect to the author, their work and the other readers in the space. 

At the end of the Swingin’ Moonlight Hour the host for the evening, Sean Michaels, reminded everyone that just by being there we’d all shared in this one miraculous thing. That we’d all brought our own bit of stardust into the event and by sharing the space with others we all got to take an even bigger piece of moonlight home with us. 

To me, this is the magic of book events like TIFA. Reading and readers are given a place to be with each other and to shift this passion for an activity that is often quiet and internal and give it a chance to live out loud. A solitary act suddenly becomes a moment of connection because of where we’ve chosen to engage in it. 

You don’t need a stage or an author reading at podium to share in it. Sometimes all you need to do is pull out a book on the subway. 

Stay tuned for more Delegate-penned pieces about #FestofAuthors19!