Let the joyous news be spread: Seattle is officially the second U.S. City (after Iowa City) to be declared a UNESCO City of Literature– one of 28 internationally recognized cities. Edinburgh, Scotland was the first city to get the designation in 2004.
The UNESCO designation of literary cities is part of a wider network of UNESCO Cultural Network cities.
The designations are monitored and reviewed every four years by UNESCO. To meet the criteria, each city makes a commitment to developing a shared network strategy, fostering the exchange of information, encouraging global partnerships and promoting creativity and culture.
In June 2013, author Ryan Budinot made an impassioned speech at Elliott Bay Book Company as part of the store’s 40th anniversary celebrations. In it, he compellingly made the case for Seattle’s case as a City of Literature. By September of 2013, literature lovers had mobilized to celebrate the city and put in a bid; nwbooklovers’ Kristianne Huntsberger covered the meeting. In October of 2013, our columnist James Crossley listed the city’s qualifications point by point in fittingly mock-model-UN style. In January 2014, the Seattle City Council unanimously supported Seattle’s bid. After some internal struggle on the City of Lit Board in 2015, the organization regrouped, and the book, Seattle City of Literature, was published by Seattle’s own Sasquatch Books.