A Little to the Left: LeftWords Festival Celebrates Alternative Authors and Publishers

To be publicly scorned by the infamous Glenn Beck is perhaps not such a rarity in this era. Still, for famed scholar Frances Fox Piven, who was recently dubbed “an enemy of the constitution” by the radio and television personality for her vocal involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement, such ire can only be considered a badge of honour. In fact, her most recent release is titled Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven: The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate. She, and other so-called ‘enemies’, will take centre stage at the LeftWords Festival of Books and Ideas on May 6 at the Ryerson Student Centre.

LeftWords is not your typical book and magazine festival, nor does it aspire to be. “LeftWords is about celebrating the voices and opinions that fall outside the status quo—indeed, are critical of the status quo,” says Matt Adams, one of the festival’s organizers. In addition to showcasing 20 independent, alternative, and left-leaning publishers and authors, the day-long festival will host a series of panel discussions on such topics as activism, protest, dissent, labour, community, and art.

According to Adams, the underlying spirit of LeftWords is more pertinent now than ever before. With growing disenchantment over proposed federal and provincial labour cuts, festering wounds from G20, and class anxiety surrounding the recent Occupy movements, Adams hopes LeftWords can shine a spotlight on some of today’s most provocative and forward-thinking voices as they address some of the most salient issues of our time.

Highlights of this year’s festival include a keynote address by renowned activist and journalist Michele Landsberg discussing the past, present and future of feminism; a panel discussion called “Drawn to Change” examining graphic novels, comic books and politics; and a talk led by prominent environmental activist Keith Stewart that offers a critical look at the role of dissent within democracy.

LeftWords began in 1999 and was held annually at various venues in Toronto before going on hiatus in 2005. This year, LeftWords is being re-launched in partnership with the Mayworks Festival of Working People in the Arts. For more information, visit www.leftwordsfestival.ca.