Lafayette sponsors the Easton Book Festival, connecting the campus to the community

The Easton Book Festival made the climb up the Hill this year. Jn October, Lafayette College became the official sponsor of the festival, which has been part of the Easton community since 2019.

Professor Chris Phillips, head of the English department, is the chairman of the festival board. This year’s collaboration gave him the opportunity to combine two things close to his heart: Lafayette and books.

“It’s a community and an institution here in Lafayette that obviously cares deeply about books and reading…Having an event that brings it all together was really cool,” Phillips said.

Bonnie Winfield, former director of the Landis Center and professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Lafayette, sees this collaboration as an innovative opportunity for students to become more involved in the Easton community.

“For Lafayette students, no matter where they’re from, while they’re in Lafayette, Easton is their place. And so the more we can involve them in community activities, community issues, engagement, the more likely they are to get involved for them as they move forward,” Winfield said. “I think the book festival is a perfect example of how the two can come together.”

Phillips and Winfield both held their own events at the festival.

Winfield’s event centered on highlighting writings composed by incarcerated mothers. She saw her event as a way to educate both members of the Easton community, as well as those of the Lafayette community, about what it is like to be a mother living in the American prison system.

“I think more and more people need to know what it’s like for incarcerated women,” Winfield said.

Phillips’ event focused on readings from his 2018 book “The Hymnal: A Reading History” on the history and cultural use of hymns. In a tent outside the College Store, Phillips read excerpts from his book detailing the unconventional and unexpected ways hymns are used by people of all ages, places and faiths.

“It was an opportunity to talk a bit about the research, to talk about the way I wrote and the content of the book, which is a lot about how people lived with these devotional books,” said Phillips said of the event.

Phillips hopes the future of the festival will include more collaboration with Lafayette students. “There are so many different ways that students could be part of [the festival]. We started spreading the word this year, but I think now that we’ve had events on campus, we’ve had students participate. I think people are starting to understand that a bit more,” he said.

According to Phillips, the festival offers students the opportunity to volunteer in several areas, as well as hear from interesting speakers who might be relevant to their studies. “We try to think how [to] help ensure that this connection happens more often in the future,” he said.

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