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Your author-approved Brooklyn Book Festival events

By Tiffany Gibert

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Yeah, the holidays are still months away, but book festival season is right now. We know how overwhelming the Brooklyn Book Festival's schedule of events can be—there are so many considerations! Do you want to see big names or up-and-comers? Fill your tote bags with graphic novels or memoirs? (Yes, yes and yes.) Lucky for you, we've wrangled in some professionals to help you navigate the festival, which takes place Sunday, Sept 21, from 10am–6pm at Borough Hall in Brooklyn; for a venue guide, check

Thirteen participating artists (novelists, essayists, cartoonists and one fabulous book designer) have chosen the fest programs they don't want to miss; so, basically, they did all the scheduling work for you. Just show up on Sunday and look smart.

Chloe Krug Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams (don't miss our interview with the debut novelist!)

Participating in: "The Double Life" with James Magnuson and Amy Sohn (St. Francis McArdle, 5pm)

Recommends: "This Woman's Work" with Roxane Gay, Kiese Laymon and Leslie Jamison (St. Francis College Auditorium, 2pm)

"I've long admired Roxane, Kiese and Leslie's brave, nuanced and radically honest explorations of gender and race. The human body is fraught terrain, but reading their work reminds me that none of us are traversing it alone. Kiese was also my first creative writing professor in college, and he forever transformed the way I saw and wrote of the world."

Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist

Participating in: "This Woman's Work" with Kiese Laymon and Leslie Jamison (St. Francis College Auditorium, 2pm)

Recommends: "Who? New!" (Mainstage, 11am)

"I always love discovering 'new' writers who are rarely new but are, instead, finally getting some of the attention they deserve. The 'Who? New!' event featuring Catherine Lacey, Mike Meginnis, Sharona Muir, Kimberly Elkins and Raj Karamchedu will be an exciting opportunity to hear from some really talented writers with debut books out this fall."

Lev Grossman, author of The Magician's Land

Participating in: "Fantastical Thrillers: Face Your Fears, or Else..." with Jeff VanderMeer and Deji Olukotun (North Stage, 4pm)

Recommends: Jonathan Lethem and Jules Feiffer in Conversation (St. Francis College Auditorium, 4pm)

"Jules Feiffer is having a conversation with Jonathan Lethem, and there's no way I'm going to miss that. I used to be obsessed with Feiffer's drawings for The Phantom Tollbooth—when I was little I wanted to grow up to be a Feiffer cartoon. He's hilarious in person, and his new book is fantastic too."

Matthea Harvey, author of If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? (one of our top selections for the #readwomen2014 movement)

Participating in: "Poetic Visions" with Mark Doty and Danny Simmons (Brooklyn Historical Society, 5pm)

Recommends: "The History of New York In 101 Objects" workshop (St. Francis College Workshop Room, 3pm)

"This might provide me with the answer to whether I should treasure or cull my collections of robots, miniatures and porcelain hands."

Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

Participating in: "Catch a Fire: Social Collapse in Multiple Voices" with Nuruddin Farah and Nadifa Mohamed (Borough Hall Media Room, 12pm)

Recommends: "I Am What I Am What I Am" with Phil Klay, Jess Row and Kathleen Winter (St. Francis College Auditorium, 10am)

"I recommend the 'I Am What I Am' panel, because though identity is such a tricky, unfixed thing, it is what ever you want to make it. Even if that means making it up. Over and over."

Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

Participating in: "This Woman's Work" with Roxane Gay and Kiese Laymon (St. Francis College Auditorium, 2pm)

Recommends: "America, Disillusioned" (Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom, 11am)

"A panel devoted to American frustration but full of inspiring voices: Jen Percy, Scott Korb, Anna Holmes, Sandeep Jauhar. Anyone who missed Jen Percy's Demon Camp on the National Book Award longlist can see her here—no doubt insightfully sharing some of her experience reporting on the human impact and residue of America's wars."

Catherine Lacey, author of Nobody Is Ever Missing (we gave it 5 stars!)

Participating in: "Who? New!" with Sharona Muir, Kimberly Elkins, Raj Karamchedu and Mike Meginnis (Mainstage, 11am) and "The Writer's Life" with Salman Rushdie and Siri Hustvedt (St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church, 5pm)

Recommends: "This Woman's Work" with Roxane Gay, Kiese Laymon and Leslie Jamison (St. Francis College Auditorium, 2pm)

"If I had to make a dream team of young essayists, Jamison, Gay and Laymon would be my first picks."

MariNaomi, author of Dragon's Breath

Participating in: "Single Facing City: Coming of Age Comics" with Mike Dawson and Michael Cho (Brooklyn Historical Society, 10am)

Recommends: "Ties That Bind, or Tear Us Apart" (St. Francis McArdle, 4pm)

"The moment my book signing ends at 4pm, I plan to make a mad dash to the 'Ties That Bind, or Tear Us Apart' panel, which features Kyle Minor, Bich Minh Nguyen, and one of my favorite storytellers of all time, Darcey Steinke. I'm always interested in seeing how other writers tackle the awkward complexity of writing about family."

Jess Row, author of Your Face in Mine (he's also one of our 10 New York authors to read now)

Participating in: "I Am What I Am What I Am" with Phil Klay and Kathleen Winter (St. Francis College Auditorium, 10am) and "Eye of the Beholder" with James McBride and Jeffery Renard Allen (Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom, 1pm)

Recommends: "Segregation, Class and Race and the New York City Public Schools" with Dana Goldstein, Pedro Noguera and David Banks (Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom, 3pm)

"There really is no more important (and widely ignored) issue facing New York City today than the divided and entirely unequal state of our public schools."

Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers

Participating in: "Join the Conversation" with Leonard Lopate and Mary Gordon (Borough Hall Courtroom, 12pm)

Recommends: "So, Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover?" with Chip Kidd and Helen Yentus (St. Francis College Auditorium, 12pm)

"The event that I'd most like to attend is (alas) in the same time slot as my own. Chip Kidd and Helen Yentus talking about cover design? Yes, please! That is sure to be a fun one. Maybe I'll hijack my own panel and force Leonard Lopate to only talk to me and Mary Gordon about our book jackets."

Julia Wertz, author of Museum of Mistakes

Participating in: "Sex, Drugs, Dysfunctional Families—Plus Witches!" with Simon Hanselmann and Jennifer Cruté (Brooklyn Historical Society, 1pm)

Recommends: "Losing and Finding Yourself: Comics of Heartbreak and Healing" with Gabrielle Bell, Mana Neyestani, John Porcellino and Anya Ulinich (Brooklyn Historical Society, 2pm)

"Because John Porcellino and Gabrielle Bell have been doing autobio comics for decades, and their work covers many years of an artists' struggle to fit into the world while also making what's mostly be considered outsider art. They've both become well renowned, successful cartoonists, but still operate outside the regular rules of comics and art and what most people consider a normal American lifestyle, which makes them all the more fascinating."

Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning (don't miss our review of this stellar debut)

Participating in: "A Force Unleashed presented by the Brooklyn Public Library" with Ann Hood, Matthew Thomas and Tommy Wieringa (Borough Hall Courtroom, 2pm) and "Family and Home" with Yelena Akhtiorskaya and Hamid Ismailov (Borough Hall Media Room, 4pm)

Recommends: "Catch a Fire: Social Collapse in Multiple Voices" with Marlon James, Nuruddin Farah and Nadifa Mohamed (Borough Hall Media Room, 12pm)

"'Catch a Fire: Social Collapse in Multiple Voices' is a panel I don't want to miss. It's going to feature some of my favorite writers, but also it will be about work that is told in multiple voices and work that does this crafted thing with a social and political impulse supporting it. I dig that as a reader and as a writer."

Helen Yentus, Riverhead Books Art Director

Participating in: "So, Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover?" with Chip Kidd (St. Francis College Auditorium, 12pm)

Recommends: "Family and Home" with Tiphanie Yanique, Yelena Akhtiorskaya and Hamid Ismailov (Borough Hall Media Room, 4pm)

"I’ve been lucky enough to work on covers for some amazing authors, but Yelena Akhtiorskaya’s book stands apart for me. Not only is it a beautifully crafted, hilarious read, but it’s the one book that comes closer than anything I’ve ever read to pinpointing my specific experience growing up as a Russian immigrant in Brooklyn. I’m really looking forward to hearing her talk about her experiences in writing the book and dealing with her family in the process. Or maybe dealing with her family and writing the book in the process."


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