Diverse Reads: The 2013 Brooklyn Book Festival

The Brooklyn Book Festival runs from September 16th-22nd, but the main stage of events takes place on the festival’s final day, September 22nd. There are over 40 panels open to the public and featuring a diverse group of book authors, columnists, and other writers speaking on a wide variety of subjects. Check out beneath the cuts for a selection of recommended panels featuring Saphire, Anthea Butler, Sonia Sanchez, James McBride, Toure, and many, many others. If you’re in the area next weekend this is an event I highly suggest stopping by, and if nothing on our list stirs your fancy you can see the full schedule here.


10:00 A.M. The So-Called ‘Post-Feminist, Post-Racial’ Life in Publishing: Best-selling author Deborah Copaken Kogan sparked a firestorm with her explosive essay in The Nation, and her experience as a 21st-century female author was marked by slut-shaming, name-calling and an enduring lack of respect. Poet, activist and author of sixteen books, Sonia Sanchez (Homegirls and Handgrenades) has consistently addressed the lack of respect for the struggles and lives of Black America. Author and founder of Feministing, Jessica Valenti, has devoted considerable time to transforming the media landscape for women. Moderated by Rob SpillmanTin House.

2:00 P.M. Creating Dangerously in a Dangerous World: How do different forms—fiction, reportage, memoir and essay—capture different realities, especially when the principal subject is the trauma of war and violence? Join three authors whose work explores horrific visions from a variety of angles: Edwidge Danticat (Claire of the Sea Light), Courtney Angela Brkic (The First Rule of Swimming) and Dinaw Mengestu (How to Read the Air). Moderated by Bhakti Shringarpure, editor of Warscapes.

4:00 P.M. The Ugly Duckling: Join three authors who tell the age old story of transformation. James McBride (The Good Lord Bird) tells the story of a young male slave who joins the abolition movement by passing as a girl. Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings) traces the unexpected changes that occur between childhood and adulthood. And Audrey Niffenegger(Raven Girl) takes transformation to a whole other level, in the form of a coming-of-age raven trapped in human form. Moderated by David L. Ulin.



11:00 A.M. Personal Stories, National Memory: Fiction can be as narrow or contained as a single consciousness, or open up and embody something intrinsic to an era or nation. Alexander Maksik (A Marker to Measure Drift), probes the shattered inner world of a Liberian war refugee; Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez (The Sound of Things Falling) captures the dread and violence of his country’s drug war years, and Oonya Kempadoo (All Decent Animals) offers a polyrhythmic, panoramic view across contemporary Trinidadian society. Moderated byAnderson Tepper. Special thanks to the Colombian Film Festival New York.

2:00 P.M. André Aciman and Claire Messud in Conversation: The experience of otherness and dislocation are preoccupying themes forAndré Aciman (Harvard Square) and Claire Messud (The Woman Upstairs). The conversation will explore how these themes inform their sense of character, as well as their understanding of the very nature of the fictional enterprise. Moderated by Albert Mobilio (Bookforum).

5:00 P.M. What Fills the Void After War? Three acclaimed writers from countries that have known conflict and political unrest discuss war’s aftermath and how it informs their work. With Irish writer Colum McCann(TransAtlantic), Sri Lankan writer Ru Freeman (On Sal Mal Lane) and Iraqi writer Sinan Antoon (The Corpse Washer). Moderated by Rob Spillman (Tin House).


MAIN STAGE (Borough Hall Plaza)

4:00 P.M. Purple Reign: The Legacy and Significance of Prince.  One of the most iconic artists of our times, Prince seems to be having a cultural moment – his landmark Purple Rain was recently named the #2 album of all time (EW) and in 2013 he was the subject of various high-profile events, from a tribute at Carnegie Hall to a master class at NYU. Join Toure (I Would Die 4 U), Alex Wagner (MSNBC), and Alan Light (The Holy or the Broken) as they discuss the Purple One and his enduring influence. Moderated by Parul Sehgal (New York Times Book Review).



11:00 A.M. Mommy Dearest: Some women would sacrifice anything to have a child. Others consider having a child a sacrifice in itself. The complications of adoption, of lost chances, and of the relationship between past and present are all held together by a mother’s instinct, or lack thereof. Jennifer Gilmore (The Mothers), Claire Messud (The Woman Upstairs), and Jamaica Kincaid (See Now Then) debate the different roles that motherhood plays in their latest novels.  Moderated by Harold Augenbraum, National Book Foundation.


ST. FRANCIS MCARDLE (180 Remsen Street)

3:00 P.M. Rolling the Dice: These characters are doing some risky business. A woman leaves behind a life in New York City to return to Jamaica as an outsider. A man ditches an unfulfilling but innocent life of cab-driving to steal a Nigerian artifact. A woman terrorizes another woman’s wedding with a wedding dress, a gas mask, a shotgun and a bomb trigger. Okey Ndibe (Foreign Gods), Lisa Zeidner (Love Bomb), and Diana McCaulay (Huracan) discuss what drives us to risk everything—love, honor, or the greater good? Moderated by Jon Fine (Amazon).

4:00 P.M. The Poet & the Poem: Natalie Diaz (When My Brother Was an Aztec), Alex Dimitrov (Begging For It), Lynn Melnick (If I Should Say I Have Hope) and Tim Hernandez (Mañana Means Heaven) will examine politics and identity in poetry, and the complex ways in which a poet’s work can become intertwined with the poets’ personal narrative. Moderated by Hafizah Geter, Cave Canem Foundation.

5:00 P.M. Shame On You, Or Me: Lust, passion, and chaos narrate these masterfully told stories about reckless couples, families and cultures. Shamefulness and shamelessness both thrive in these vivid settings: Pamela Erens’s (The Virgins) 1970s elite boarding school, Justin Torres’s (We the Animals) poverty-stricken New York, and Elissa Schappell’s (Blueprints for Building Better Girls) shifting American landscape, and Tim Z. Hernandez’s (Mañana Means Heaven) fictionalized account of Jack Kerouac’s cross-cultural romance.  Moderated by Albert Mobilio (Bookforum).


ST. ANN & THE HOLY TRINITY CHURCH (157 Montague Street)

2:00 P.M. Writers Who Read: These stories come alive on paper, but nothing’s better than hearing Jonathan Ames (Wake Up, Sir!), Sapphire (The Kid) and Tao Lin (Taipei) read their vivid prose aloud. Colorful, memorable characters riddled with tragedy and emotional issues truly come to life when embodied by their brilliant, charismatic creators.

3:30 P.M. Idols, Gods, and Kings: Literary forces Teddy Wayne (The Love Song of Jonny Valentine), Tom Wolfe (Back to Blood) and Cristina García (King of Cuba) explore the concept of power with three very different casts: an eleven-year-old superstar’s road to fame; the varied, shady folks running an election in Miami; and a fictionalized Fidel Castro and his vengeful exile. Moderated by Greg Cowles (The New York Times).



5:00 P.M. Art on the Mind: Comics and EducationFrançoise Mouly(Toon Books) in conversation with National Book Award finalist Gene Yang (Boxers & Saints), R. Kikuo Johnson (The Shark King) and Professor Barbara Tversky of Teachers College. In this era of high-stakes testing, comics aren’t just a refreshing change of pace for students-they take on deep subjects and teach multimodal literacy, offering educators, librarians, and parents a new way to approach learning. Featuring screen projection.



1:00 P.M. Get a Job!: To Have and Not Have In America Today.  Mark Binelli (Detroit City is the Place to Be), D. W. Gibson (Not Working: People Talk About Losing a Job and Finding Their Way in Today’s Changing Economy) and Alissa Quart (Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers and Rebels) discuss the state of working and not working in America today, and the new landscape of working in America today. Moderated by Rich Benjamin.

4:00 P.M. Dirty Wars and Dangerous Reporting:Jeremy Scahill’s celebrated book and companion documentary film, Dirty Wars, uncovers the most important foreign policy story of our time – America’s new covert wars. Anabel Hernández (Narcoland) is one of Mexico’s leading investigative journalists whose best-selling book exposed the close ties between the Sinaloa cartel and the Calderon government, making her the target of both. This wide-ranging discussion will make the socio-political connections of global violence.  Moderated by Betsy ReedThe Nation.

5:00 P.M. Belief in the Age of Doubt: They say never to talk religion or politics at the dinner table, but in the information age, the internet is the dinner table. Rosie Schaap (Drinking With Men), Scott Korb (Light Without Fire: The Making of America’s First Muslim College) and Anthea Butler (Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making a Sanctified World) talk about the ways religion, faith and spirituality continue to inform our politics, lives, families, and schools and have changed in an era marked by war, hyperconnectivity, distrust, and a need to believe in something.  Moderated by Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, co-host, Religion on the Line, WABC (AM).



12:00 P.M. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage in Conversation with screenwriter and author, Rebecca Miller (Jacob’s Folly) and Lemon Andersen (County of Kings) about choices–writing for stage, screen or books –for performers and audience or readers.  Moderated by Bill Goldstein, NBC New York.

5:00 P.M.Poetry in Performance: LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs (TwERK),Tyehimba Jess (leadbelly), Taylor Mali (The Last Time As We Are), andQuincy Troupe (ErranCities) read their recent work and speak about the influence of music and performance in their poetry. Moderated by Mary Gannon, Academy of American Poets.


YOUTH STOUP (Borough Hall Plaza/Columbus Park) 

1:00 P.M. Growing Up Elsewhere: Children often find themselves having to be braver than they ever should have to and surviving unimaginable challenges and hardships with grace and hope. Two-time National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick (Never Fall Down), Lebanese authorZeina Abirached (A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return) and acclaimed newcomer Tara Sullivan (Golden Boy) talk about what it means to be brave beyond the U.S. borders amid war and discrimination. Moderated by Elizabeth Kiem (Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy).


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