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From the Boston Book Festival: Rick Riordan on Heroism

By Vikram M. Kolli, Contributing Writer

A line of more than one thousand demi-god enthusiasts lined the block of Boylston Street on Saturday, Oct. 14, wrapping around the entirety of Old South Church. Donning shirts adorned with mythological designs and eagerly gripping soon-to-be signed books, literary fans piled into the church’s sanctuary to see Rick Riordan, the American author best known for his authorship of the “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” series.

When delivering the Kid’s Keynote to kick-off the 2023 Boston Book Festival, Riordan addressed a crowd that spanned numerous generations: Both children and adults alike cheered as he entered onto center stage and spoke about the history of his famous works, his future plans, and why he writes in the first place.

Riordan ignites a connection between generations by using literature as a method of understanding. Indeed, with his captivating stories, even parents enjoy reading his works. One event attendee, Jacob A. Murray, commented on how he loves to read Riordan’s books alongside his two children: “It's a way to connect with my kids. I read to them every night, and it sparks their excitement and interest in reading like it's clear that they really are passionate about reading and passionate about the story.”

Riordan began with a note on his first series, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians,” and how the story's origins trace back to Camp Half-Blood before expanding into various spin-off tales involving diverse characters and mythologies. The fundamental truth remains that Riordan, along with his readers, retains a deep connection to the place where the magic commenced. This is apparent now more than ever as the narrative is set to experience a reinvigoration through a forthcoming live-action TV show. For readers, it signifies a return back to their childhood and Riordan's inception as an author, but it's also a return to "Percy's point of view at Camp Half-Blood," as Riordan himself put it.

To someone that has read the books, Riordan’s rhetoric and wit throughout the keynote was reminiscent of the narrative voice present in his books. He elicited laughter and enthusiastic applause by commenting on how the character Ganymede is “so much of a himbo” in Riordan’s newly released book, “Percy Jackson and the Chalice of the Gods,” and by joking about Percy Jackson, “What’s bigger than saving the world? What great challenge will he face? Getting into college.”

Yet Riordan made certain that his life and writing was not the center of the keynote lecture. Instead, Riordan leveraged his time to showcase authors supported by Rick Riordan Presents, a publishing company that dedicates itself to portraying diverse mythologies. Commending past and upcoming books such as “Aru Shah and the End of Time'' and “Dawn of the Jaguar,” Riordan revealed his loyalty to the literary landscape.

Riordan specifically commended “The Spirit Glass” by Roshani Chakship:

“This is where Roshani explores the other side of her own heritage, which is Filipino. I didn’t know much about Filipino folklore and mythology,” said Riordan, “but this book makes me want to learn more.”

It is Riordan’s commitment to diverse characters that has sparked an interest in readers from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

“I'm an immigrant,” said Izabela Cupi, a junior at Boston University, “and this was actually the first book I read in English. So this means actually a lot to me. And he's a great author, the representation that he has in his books is amazing.”

The last part of the keynote address showcased Riordan’s authentic character, as he devoted a large chunk of time to answering questions compiled by students from the greater Boston area.

The keynote lecture ultimately illustrated Riordan’s connection to the reader and the profound impact his work has had on the lives of those who have had the privilege of journeying through his pages. The real heroes of Riordan’s works seem to be the readers who find themselves inspired to learn about different cultures and use literature as a means of bonding with their loved ones.

“Anybody can be a hero,” said Riordan as he finished his lecture. Readers were left with this inspiring message and the idea that they too can find the hero within themselves.

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