Award-winning author NoViolet Bulawayo reads during the Out of Africa: Readings at a previous festival. (photo courtesy ZEE JLF)

The international celebration of literature will be held in Boulder from Sept. 20-22

By Kerry Parry

Jaipur, India, is home to the incredible phenomenon known as the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival (zee JLF). Famed literature and art historian Sir Simon Schama calls it the most fabulous literary lovefest on the planet. When Boulder’s Jessie Friedman experienced it, she was determined to bring the event to Colorado. Through her efforts, Boulder became the first city in North America to host an expansion of the international celebration of literature. From Sept. 20-22, the Boulder Public Library will be transformed into a Colorado version of the enormous Indian event for the fifth consecutive year.

The diversity this festival brings to Boulder in both our presenting authors and in our audience is invigorating, exciting and also deeply nourishing.
–Jessie Friedman
(photo by Lauren Chick)

“The diversity this festival brings to Boulder in both our presenting authors and in our audience is invigorating, exciting and also deeply nourishing,” Friedman says. “The ZEE JLF resoundingly illuminates that which we truly are hungry for: each other’s stories, to see and begin to know the world and humanity through the eyes of people from around the world. It is through each other’s stories that others become fully human and real to us. We then become linked to one another with caring and interest. I see thousands of people deeply moved, satiated and glowing with joy from this experience at ZEE JLF.”

While the Colorado event is more intimate compared to the hundreds of thousands that attend in India, the thoughts and ideas exchanged are equal in size and importance. Tari Bohnert, director of marketing and PR for the festival, explains that despite the title, the festival involves so much more than literature. It celebrates writers and the books they write. But, Bohnert adds, “It’s more of an invitation to participate in provocative conversations and to share potential solutions, big or small, to the issues we face.”

Brook Eddy, Boulder’s Bhakti Chai founder and ZEE JLF Colorado board member, describes the event as multifaceted. “What I like about the ZEE JLF Colorado is that it brings writers, journalists, poets, and a collection of ideas curated from around the world. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve heard of the authors who are presenting. They’re not attending to promote a book or to do a reading; they’re encouraging important discussions.” Some of the themes that come across—feminism, environmentalism and gender identity, to name just a few—are all excellent fodder for deep thought and discussions.

(photo by Lauren Chick)

“When I am applying for grants and gathering information from past years, I look at all the authors the team has brought to Boulder who otherwise would never land here, let alone be accessible for free admission,” Friedman says. “I am overcome with emotion.”
Friedman is especially proud of the free outreach programs ZEE JLF Colorado offers in underserved and at-risk communities year-round. “We’ve provided more than 40 free creative writing and literacy programs this year so far in low-income secondary schools and ‘I Have A Dream’ Foundation programs. We’ve worked with Pine Ridge Indian Reservation educators, and we are about to offer free tutoring to Native American high school students, encouraging and supporting them toward university education.”

For more about the speakers and event details and to register, visit the ZEE JLF Colorado website:

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