Tuesday night at Miami Book Fair International was a night of extremes. Extreme weather (62 degrees!). Extreme humor (Dave Barry and Sandra Tsing Loh on Viagra, vaginal dryness and other burning issues of the 21st century). Extreme empathy (journalist Nicholas D. Kristof on what makes the world a better place — and how and why we should do our part to help make that happen).
Like I said: extremes.
Jackets, boots and even a parka or two were dug from the far reaches of South Florida closets as fairgoers braved the elements to witness both ends of the topical spectrum. The smart ones — like former Florida governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham — stayed for both programs.
“It’s the kind of evening I love best,” said fair chair Mitchell Kaplan. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen.”
Barry, there to talk about his latest book You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty, was in conversation with Sandra Tsing Loh, author of the memoir The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones.
As one might imagine, the conversation was more manic than measured. Tsing Loh described the horrors of menopause, from crazed mood swings to inexplicable weight gain. (She’s also not fond of those tiny Trader Joe’s parking lots.)
“I was never considering menopause before, and I’m definitely not considering it now,” Barry said.
Tsing Loh, who’s also a performance artist, chilled the audience further by reminding them that one in two American women will be menopausal in 2015. A “Menopalooza,” if you will.
They were a hard act to follow, but Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas D. Kristof deftly turned the subject to philanthropy. His new book A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity — co-written with his wife Sheryl WuDunn — offers profiles of people who make a difference and suggestions on to how to improve life for millions.
“One of the greatest issues in the country is inequality,” he told the audience. “By far the greatest inequality gap isn’t money; it’s opportunity.”
Kristof also reminded the crowd that sometimes small solutions reap greater rewards. For example, deworming children in developing countries, he said, pays bigger dividends than building schools. Even better? Volunteering and giving reduces mortality by 40 percent, he said.
With sponsor The Miami Foundation’s Give Miami Day — an online giving event designed to aid charities and nonprofits in the city — Kristof’s message came at a perfect time. Visit givemiamiday.org for more information.