Brooklyn Book Festival 2018
Brooklyn Borough Hall
There are certain things that are guaranteed every year when Fall rolls around. Pumpkin Spice everything will line grocery store shelves, pictures of leaves will be instagrammed, and you will find me at the Brooklyn Book Festival geeking out. New York offers such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to literary events that it can be overwhelming but one of my absolute favorites is the Brooklyn Book Festival.
The Brooklyn Book Festival is a free annual literary festival that brings together, authors, publishers, and readers for a week full of awesome literary events capped with the signature Festival Day and Marketplace chock full of incredible panels (featuring authors like Jennifer Egan, Tayari Jones, Carmen Maria Machado and Alexander Chee) and a vendor tents featuring everyone from the big five publishers to local indie presses. In a nutshell it’s a bit of book nerd heaven for me.
This year I planned to spent most of the day browsing the marketplace which offers great discounts and sometimes free books, attend a book panel featuring the author of one of my favorite books of this year so far and spent time catching up with my bookish friends. This year I also arrived with the goal to visit some of my favorite publisher’s booths and purchase some Latinx books. This event recap includes an outline of what I did on Festival Day, notes from a panel I attended, my Latinx book haul and pictures. Please note that quotes from the panel come from my notes, I have done my best to recreate them faithfully and all mistakes are my own.
9:00 am Brooklyn Borough Hall
I arrived to the festival site around 9:00 am after grabbing a breakfast and coffee in the city. I grabbed a program and met up with a friend near the center stage. At this point the festival and the city were just starting to wake up and vendors were setting up so it was a good time to wander around and chat with the representatives at each booth and to do some browsing. There are always new publishers to discover but I made sure to visit some of my favorite smaller presses like The Feminist Press and Grove Atlantic and pick up some books from them.
11:00 am 2017 National Book Awards Showcase presented by the NBF
Brooklyn Historical Auditorium,128 Pierrepont St
There were so many authors that I wanted to see and a lot of overlapping events that I wanted to attend. It was so hard to choose but I knew I definitely wanted to attend this one. The panelists were Nonfiction Winner Masha Gessen (The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia), Fiction Finalist Min Jin Lee (Pachinko), Poetry Finalist Shane McCrae (In The Language of My Captor), and Young People’s Literature Finalist Erika L. Sánchez (I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter). The panel was moderated by Ken Chen, e.d., Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Each of the panelists was incredibly insightful about their work and while I primarily went to see Ericka Sánchez who wrote one of my absolute favorite YA books I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, I came away with true curiosity to delve into the works of all the authors present.
The following questions and answers are from the notes I took at the panel.
KC: What is the role of the writer?
MG: Creating a vision of a political future we can believe in.
MJL: History is not imagines as comradeship it is imagined through the lens of power and oppression. Writers can correct this experience by documenting these experiences of comradeship.
KC: How did you set about writing your book?
ES: What I wanted was to create a story of a second generation Mexican-American girl. When I was younger ‘The House on Mango Street’ blew my mind because I had never seen myself represented in a book so I wanted to write a book for all ‘the weird brown girls’ so they could see themselves because I never saw myself. It was also a process about unearthing trauma, some parts of the book are autobiographical. We inherit our parents’ trauma, grappling with violence and poverty. I hope the book opens conversations about immigration, inter-generational trauma and mental health.
KC: Who is your imagined audience?
ES: I wanted to let young girls of color know that I see them because growing up I didn’t feel seen so in a way my audience is me.
SM: My dream is that my book will be useful to someone who is not like me.
KC: How did you shape your material?
ES: I was writing with severe depression and this book kind of saved me. It was the most emotionally taxing I’ve ever done.
MJL: I’ve been writing since I was 19 and I have 2 criteria for a novel: a book must be edifying and it must give pleasure because if it doesn’t do both of those things then I consider it a failure because I am asking you to spent 10-12 years of your life reading this so it better be worth it.
Question from a member of the audience: How to you balance loving your culture and being angry about it?
ES: It’s messy. I love my parents and the sacrifices they made but there was a lot that was frustrating to me growing up. They are conservative old-school Mexicans and I was this young feminist so there was a lot of conflict.
At this point, the day had warmed up significantly and the festival was buzzing. After a couple of hours of walking around, dropping in on some of the outdoor events and panels, and author spotting (notably Tayari Jones, Emma Straub and Sigrid Nunez!) we regrouped for lunch around the food truck section for some empanadas. We also ran into some fellow bookstagramers! It’s great to meet fellow bookish people in real life!
4:00pm Book Shopping
After some more bookshopping and catching up it was time to take the train back home. I want super exhausted but very happy and full of bookish love! Below is my Latinx book haul I picked up and I was super excited about the range and topics that were available, fiction and non-fiction alike, and I can’t wait to add these to my TBR.
Brooklyn Book Festival Book Haul
Vida by Patricia Engle
Grove Press, Black Cat
Fresh, accomplished, and fearless, Vida marks the debut of Patricia Engel, a young author of immense talent and promise. Vida follows a single narrator, Sabina, as she navigates her shifting identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora and struggles to find her place within and beyond the net of her strong, protective, but embattled family.
Heavens on Earth by Carmen Boullosa translated from the Spanish by Shelby Vincent
Deep Vellum Publishing
Three narrators from different historical eras engage in preserving history in Heavens on Earth. As her narrators sense each other and interact through time and space, Boullosa challenges the primacy of recorded history and asserts literature and language's power to transcend the barriers of time and space in vivid, urgent prose.
De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century by Elizabeth Martínez
Elizabeth Martínez’s unique Chicana voice has been formed through over thirty years of experience in the movements for civil rights, women’s liberation, and Latina/o empowerment. In De Colores Means All of Us, Martínez presents a radical Latina perspective on race, liberation and identity. She describes the provocative ideas and new movements created by the rapidly expanding US Latina/o community as it confronts intensified exploitation and racism.
Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture by Ed Morales
In this groundbreaking discussion, Ed Morales explains how Latin political identities are tied to a long Latin American history of mestizaje, translatable as “mixedness” or “hybridity”, and that this border thinking is both a key to understanding bilingual, bicultural Latin cultures and politics and a challenge to America’s infamously black/white racial regime. This searching and long-overdue exploration of a crucial development in American life updates Cornel West’s bestselling Race Matters with a Latin inflection.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Knopf Books for Young Readers
A tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed. But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester
The first time Isabel meets her father-in-law, Omar, he’s already dead—an apparition appearing uninvited on her wedding day. Her husband, Martin, still unforgiving for having been abandoned by his father years ago, confesses that he never knew the old man had died. So Omar asks Isabel for the impossible: persuade Omar’s family—especially his wife, Elda—to let him redeem himself.
The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker
On a dark and stormy night, two mysterious women invade an unnamed narrator's house, where they proceed to ruthlessly question their host's gender and identity. The increasingly frantic protagonist fails to defend his supposed masculinity and eventually finds himself in a sanatorium. A Gothic tale of destabilized male-female binaries and subverted literary tropes, this is the book's first English publication.
August by Romina Paula translated from the Spanish by Jennifer Croft
Both a reverse coming-of-age story and a tangled homecoming tale, this frank confession to a deceased confidante. A keen portrait of a young generation stagnating in an increasingly globalized Argentina, August considers the banality of life against the sudden changes that accompany death. Romina Paula is one of the most interesting figures under forty currently active on the Argentine literary scene: a playwright, novelist, director, and actor. This is her first book to be translated into English.