It’s hard to oversell the Brooklyn Book Festival. Celebrating its 10th year, the city’s largest literary event is free, full of great programming, and is about as diverse as the borough it represents—a too-rare occurrence in the New York literary world. This year the Festival has expanded to two days: the first annual Children’s Day falls on Saturday, April 19th. The week leading up to the Festival is also chock-full of the Book Festival’s sponsored Bookend events: nearly 60 readings, conversations, and parties. (You can check out our Bookend recommendations here.) The biggest day remains Sunday, September 20, when tens of thousands of people converge on Brooklyn Borough Hall to browse booths and attend over 90 different panels. That’s a lot of panels! (Check out the whole schedule here.) You can’t go to all of them—though you can’t go wrong with any—so I picked my favorites for you here.
The Long Roots of Social Change: The South is reconsidering the Confederate flag and the Supreme court has legalized gay marriage, but today’s present political and social justice movements have their collective roots in varied historical injustices. Panelists Pamela Newkirk (Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga), Alexis Coe (Alice + Freda Forever), and Kiese Laymon (How to Kill Yourself and Others in America) discuss the history of marginalized communities in America, both past and present. Moderated by Saeed Jones.
10am at the Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom, 250 Joralemon Street
Twisted Fables: Fiction has come a long way from Aesop, but the influence of fables in literature remains. Three contemporary fabulists–Lincoln Michel (Upright Beasts), Amelia Gray (Gutshot), and Porochista Khakpour (The Last Illusion)–discuss the state of the modern fable, the place of the trickster and the anthropomorphized animal in contemporary writing, and whether modern fables and fairy tales have morals and lessons to convey today. Moderated by Rahawa Haile.
11am at St. Francis McArdle, 180 Remsen Street
The London Review of Books Presents: Fiction, Memoir, Criticism: Panelists Renata Adler, Elif Batuman, and Gary Indiana and moderator Christian Lorentzen will discuss the panelists’ writings in the modes of fiction, memoir, and criticism as well as current problems and possibilities in American journalism and literature.
12pm at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street
Where in the World: Geography, migration, dislocation, and dynamic landscapes shape the emotional and cultural identities of the characters in these three novels. Angela Flournoy (The Turner House), T. Geronimo Johnson (Welcome to Braggsville), and Cecily Wong (Diamond Head) discuss how both real and imagined locations are more than backdrops. Moderated by Tumblr’s Rachel Fershleiser.
1pm at St. Francis McArdle, 180 Remsen Street
New Works: A Poetry Reading: Poets Saeed Jones (Prelude to Bruise), Eileen Myles (I Must Be Living Twice), Rowan Ricardo Phillips (Heaven), and Wendy Xu (You Are Not Dead) will read from their recently published volumes of poetry. Introduced by Mary Gannon, Academy of American Poets.
2pm at the Mainstage, Columbus Park
3pm: You should have a half-hour break here. Eat a bagel! Find a bathroom! Buy some books at your favorite publisher’s booth!
Best of Brooklyn: The Brooklyn Book Festival pays homage to the Festival’s literary heritage each year by presenting the BoBi Award to an author who exemplifies the spirit and character of Brooklyn. Join 2015 BoBi Honoree Jonathan Lethem (Lucky Alan: And Other Stories), in conversation with past BoBi honorees Edwidge Danticat (Claire of the Sea Light) and Pete Hamill (Snow in August) as they talk about a writer’s life and being part of, and influenced by, Brooklyn’s literary lineage. Moderated by Johnny Temple, Brooklyn Literary Council Chair.
3:30pm at St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church, 157 Montague Street
Revolution and Repression: Sexuality, Gender, and Politics: The Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, the national conversation on Caitlyn Jenner, and America potentially electing its first female president all reflect the country’s historic times when it comes to issues of sex and gender. Internationally, there have been triumphs but also crackdowns on women’s-rights activists and ongoing violence against women and girl. Mona Eltahawy (Headscarves and Hymens), Melissa Gira Grant (Playing the Whore), and Thomas Page McBee (Man Alive) discuss the current state of affairs. Moderated by writer and activist Jennifer Baumgardner.
4pm at Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom, 250 Joralemon Street
Community Bookstore presents: A Celebration of Elena Ferrante: The finale to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet arrives this fall with the publication of The Story of the Lost Child, marking an end to one of this decade’s most significant literary events. Join us for a panel discussion of Ferrante’s saga, featuring Europa publisher Michael Reynolds, translator Ann Goldstein, author Lauren Groff, and Guernica publisher Lisa Lucas.
5pm at St. Francis McArdle, 180 Remsen Street