For those of us in the Mid-Atlantic who hail from the tropics, the fall equinox – with its cooler temperatures, shorter days and waning light – often brings a particular kind of melancholy. But not to worry, again this year as it has done since 2006, Brooklyn offers an opportunity for a literary bacchanal. Book enthusiasts everywhere are invited to Borough Hall on Sunday, September 22 as outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz and the Brooklyn Literary Council present one of the biggest celebrations of the year, the annual Brooklyn Book Festival. There is also rich set of bookend events leading into the festival; these will run from September 16 – 21.
The Sunday festival schedule, with more than 80 discrete offerings distributed in 13 spaces, promises something for every type of reader and consumer of ideas as well as individuals committed to the craft of writing: content for children, youth and adults, graphic novels, cartoons, conversations on censorship, theater reviews, ubiquitous Brooklyn writers, romance literature, fantasy literature, sports writing, historical fiction, war and disaster writing, science fiction, food writing, poetry, crime stories, animal companion writing, coming of age novels, children’s classics, and memoirs.
To mark his final festival as Borough President, Markowitz said, “It’s that special time of year again when Brooklyn gets ‘bookish’ and shows the world why our borough is the literary capital of the world with more writers per square inch than anywhere in America. The eighth annual Brooklyn Book Festival is shaping up to be another best seller. With over 60 “Bookend” events, hundreds of authors and dozens of panels, this year’s festival is literally leaping off the page. Make your plans now and ‘book’ September 22nd on your calendars because the 2013 Brooklyn Book Festival is going to be a real page turner.”
Among the writers will be the acclaimed Haitian-American writer, Edwidge Danticat. She was awarded a 2009 MacArthur Genius Grant and has used the resources of that fellowship to mentor emerging writiers. Danticat will present work from her most recent book, Claire of the Sea Light, and will be a principal discussant on the panel “ Something to Hide: Writers Against the Surveillance State” which is being presented by the PEN American Center, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). She will also be the Saturday evening guest of Haiti Cultural Exchange in a complementary event.
Other Caribbean writers and presenters on the Sunday, September 22 schedule include Jamaican-American Colin Channer (Lover’s Rock), Cuban-American Christina Garcia (King of Cuba), Antiguan-American Jamaica Kincaid (See Now Then), and Jamaican Diana McCaulay (Huracan).
What started as a one-day book literary showcase and festival has morphed into a week-long extravaganza. If you are saddled with a conventional daily commitment during the week, you may want to put in for some personal days or perhaps pretend to contract something just this side of contagious in order to use some sick days because the bookend events scheduled for the afternoons and evenings of Monday, September 16 – Saturday, September 21 promise to be equally stimulating as the Sunday, September 22 fare.
The bookend events, with nearly 60 offerings, ramble across the borough’s landscape from Boerum Hill to Brooklyn Heights to Crown Heights to Flatbush to Fort Greene to Fort Hamilton to Williamsburg and are not to be missed.
Akashic Books, Bocas Lit Fest, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) and the Caribbean Cultural Theatre will offer a festival bookend event on Thursday, September 19. Featuring Robert Antoni (As Flies to Whatless Boys), Montague Kobbé (The Night of the Rambler), Oonya Kempadoo (All Decent Animals), Elsie Augustave (The Roving Tree), Barbara Jenkins (Sic Transit Wagon), Diana McCaulay (Huracan) and Ifeona Fulani (Ten Days in Jamaica), this event will run from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM at MoCADA (80 Hanson Place between S. Portland Avenue & S. Elliott Place).
On Friday, September 20, Caribbean Cultural Theatre will present Poets & Passion – A Caribbean Literary Lime at 7:30 PM at Delroy’s Café (14 Duryea Place between Flatbush & Tilden aves.). Described as a book party with a decidedly easy tropical flare, audiences will be able to engage Caribbean and Caribbean-American fiction writers and poets in a conversation about identity, aspirations, heritage and the immigrant experience. This gathering will feature Hermina Marcellin, David Mills and Ras Osagyefo. An open mic session will follow. There is a $10 entrance fee for this event.
And on Saturday, September 21, Haiti Cultural Exchange will team up with the Brooklyn Book Festival to offer readings by noted Haitian educator, choreographer, and author Elsie Augustave from her new novel The Roving Tree. As previously mentioned, special guest Edwidge Danticat will join the conversation to discuss aspects of her career and her newest novel. This free event is scheduled for 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM at the FiveMyles Gallery (558 St. Johns Place between Franklin & Classon aves.)
Jamaican writer and festival frosh Diana McCaulay is anticipating the many opportunities the festival presents. She said, “I’ve only visited New York a few times in my life and don’t know it well. Last year I visited Brooklyn while promoting my first book, Dog-Heart, and I loved it. I decided I would like to return to read from Huracan. I started looking for opportunities and found the Brooklyn Book Festival. I wrote to the organizers and asked if they would consider me – and they did!”
“I’m looking forward to engaging with audiences, particularly with Jamaicans living in the US. One of the main characters in Huracan is a Jamaican woman living in New York who decides to return home – I’m hoping this is something New York based audiences will be interested in – you know, that yearning for home, for place, the search for belonging,” she said about her most recent book.
Beyond connecting with her reading audience, McCaulay is looking forward to being in community with her peers. “I hope to connect with other writers and readers by being at the festival. I love being exposed to new work, especially about the Caribbean, and I know the Brooklyn Book Festival is rich with literature from or about places outside the US. I’m delighted to have this opportunity.”
Chaired by Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books, the Brooklyn Literary Council is comprised of Carolyn Greet, Executive Director of Best of Brooklyn, Inc and Director of Public Events, Special Projects and Tourism in the BP’s office, Liz Koch, Arts and Culture Specialist also in the BP’s office, Stacey Barnum of Penguin/GP Putnam’s Sons, Adriana Dominguez Ferrari of Full Circle Literary, Katie Freeman of Riverhead Books, Brenda Greene of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, Theodore Hamm of The Brooklyn Rail, Timothy Houlihan of St. Francis College, Andrea Jeyaveeran of the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, Brett Fletcher Lauer of the Poetry Society of America, Meg Lemke, Lisa Lucas of Guernica Magazine, Paul Morris of PEN American Center, Albert Mobilio of BookForum, Steph Opitz of Texas Book Festival, Denise Oswald of HarperCollins, Camille Rankine of Manhattanville College, Peter Rothberg of The Nation, Leslie Shipman of National Book Foundation, Rob Spillman of Tin House Press, Anderson Tepper of Vanity Fair, and Meredith Walters of Brooklyn Public Library.
Festival partners include Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Historical Society, Cave Canem, Center for Fiction, London Review of Books, The Nation, National Book Foundation, The New York Review of Books, PEN American Center, Poetry Society of America, and St. Francis College.
For more information, see www.brooklynbookfestival.org.