Kick off the conference with a blessing ceremony and welcome from ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo followed by the opening keynote address with author Benjamin Alire Sáenz and refreshments.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in his grandmother's house in Old Picacho, a small farming village in the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1954. He was the fourth of seven children and was raised on a small farm. Ben Sáenz considers himself a fronterizo, a person of the border with a deep passion for political and cultural activism. Benjamin Sáenz is a recognized novelist, poet, and essayist. He is a prolific writer who has received numerous recognitions for his adult and youth novels. The book Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2013, making Sáenz the first Latino writer ever to win the award. This book also won a Lambda Literary Award in the Gay Fiction category at the 2013 Lambda Literary Awards and was named at a 2014 Stonewall Honor Book by the American Library Association. His novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a Printz Honor Book, the Stonewall Award winner, the Pura Belpré Award winner, the Lambda Literary Award winner, and a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. Mr.Sáenz lives in El Paso, Texas and is retired from teaching creative writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.