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Richard Blanco is as native to Miami as one can get. He moved here from Cuba, via Spain, when he was just 45 days old. Miami is home to his favorite foods (pastelitos and croquetas), his favorite ventanita (La Carreta on Southwest 8th Street), his favorite bakeries (Vicky’s and Plaza Bakery), his favorite place (the beach) and his favorite park (a pocket park in Westchester). He grew up in Westchester and in the late 90s he lived across the street from the beach in Surfside, back when people used to ask, “Where’s Surfside?” This native son was selected by President Barack Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history. He recited his poem, "One Today," at Obama’s second inauguration in January 2013.

Becoming a writer or a poet never seemed like an option for Richard. He grew up in a working-class family as a child of Cuban exiles, without access to the arts. He was taken care of by his grandmother, who was homophobic. “Having a career in the arts was beyond the realm of possibility. It was not even in the realm,” he chuckles. “It wasn’t something that was even thought about.”

Richard loved math and science and he graduated from Florida International University (FIU) with a degree in Engineering. To his surprise, his first engineering job consisted of writing. He wrote reports, studies and proposals, and became the go-to person in the office for any sort of writing task. He thought writing might be fun to do and decided to pursue it, without abandoning his day job as an engineer. He attended Miami Dade College and FIU at night, ultimately earning an MFA in creative writing from FIU.

In 1999 Richard moved to Hartford, Connecticut for his first job teaching creative writing. While there, he met his partner and husband-to-be, Mark. Together they moved to Maine, and they are now back in Miami. Richard returned for a job as an associate professor of English, teaching poetry at FIU.

Even when he lived in the Northeast, Miami was never far from Richard’s imagination. His journey as a poet and writer has him returning to his roots, where he grew up as an exile and a gay Latino living between many worlds. Through his writing, he explores the big issues of Home, Community, Family, Place, Identity and Belonging.

“I have this longing for home, for a sense of belonging,” he says. “I’ve had this feeling of dislocation, displacement, even in the womb. At 45 days old, I belonged to three countries. And yet I didn’t. And it dawned on me – as a gay child, teenager, man – that there is another sense of home that I crave,” he continues. “Not a physical place, but a community. Where we belong, someplace over the rainbow. I always believed there was another world I belonged to. I just didn’t know how to get there,” he muses.

“I wanted to understand how culture and sexuality – cultural sexuality – merge. I had to explore it,” he says. From the perspective of a gay Cuban-American man who grew up in Miami, which as he remarks, “is not the same as growing up in Topeka, Kansas,” Richard seeks to add dimension to his writing about what it means to be a gay man.

Richard volunteers with the FIU LGBTQA+ Diversity office, working with gay youths. He wants to be there for his community. “It’s important for elders to be present, to pass on our wisdom,” he says. “To provide a sense of history. To be a role model. It’s still hard, and it still depends on where you live, on your culture. It’s never easy, I have to be there.”

Richard will be in conversation with his co-editors and co-contributors Caridad Moro, Elisa Albo and Nikki Moustaki, discussing their anthology, “Grabbed: Poets & Writers on Sexual Assault, Empowerment & Healing” at Miami Book Fair 2020, which will be held virtually from November 15-22, 2020. “Grabbed” is a gender-inclusive anthology of poetry and prose that addresses the physical and psychological experience of being "grabbed," or assaulted in any way. “Being grabbed is pervasive across genders, across sexuality,” remarks Richard. “As a gay man, I have come to realize this is what women experience. This not a gender-specific thing. And in that way, this collection speaks even more powerfully.”

About Miami Book Fair 2020: Access to all programs will be free. This year’s growing list of more than 200 authors and moderators includes trans artists and LGBTQA+ poets and writers, such as contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, Roxane Gay; poets Danez Smith, Benjamin Garcia, Roy G. Guzmán, Raquel Salas Rivera and Julie Marie Wade; memoirists Mark Doty and George M. Johnson; and novelists including Kacen Callender, Genevieve Hudson, Shani Mootoo and Sterling Watson. As in years past, the Fair will feature programs in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole representing fiction, politics, history, memoir, comics, poetry and other genres.

A free and simple registration is all that is required. Registrants will receive email notifications about programs and activities as they become available, plus practical tips on how to navigate the website, create a watchlist and more. All programs will be available on a schedule to be published prior to the start of the Fair.

For more information about Richard’s conversation and hundreds of others at Miami Book Fair 2020, visit MiamiBookFairOnline.com.