Brooklyn Heights/ DUMBO

Your guide to the best panels at the Brooklyn Book Festival

Trade out your eyebrows for high-brows this weekend with some lofty discussions at the BKBF. via website
Trade out your eyebrows for high-brows this weekend with some lofty discussions at the BKBF. via website

Calling all word nerds, bookworms, poets and dreamers, culture-seekers and diarists and people who are just looking for something to do this weekend: the Brooklyn Book Festival is this Sunday, September 20! It’s a day of free poetry readings, panel discussions, meaningful conversations and celebrations of writerly achievement. It’s a day, in short, not to be missed.

There are so many events happening every hour, on the hour, but if you’re the kind of person who gets overwhelmed by choices, we think we did a pretty good job of hand-picking the ones you ought to check out. 


On the Job: Fiction at Work
St. Francis McArdle
180 Remsen Street

James Hannaham, Helen Phillips and Ottessa Moshfegh discuss dead-end jobs in novels, and how the American Dream measures up against income inequality, abuse of workers’ rights and corporate disillusionment. Boy, does this ever resonate with us. Plus, it’s moderated by DW Gibson, author of The Edge Becomes the Center, which might be the best book about gentrification to hit the shelves this side of the Atlantic.


New York Review of Books Presents: Civil Rights & Policing
Brooklyn Law School Moot Courtroom
250 Joralemon Street

Borough president Eric Adams will be one of the panelists at this important discussion about issues of race, bias, and over-incarceration in the 21st Century as it relates to social, cultural and judicial landscapes. Also among the panelists is contemporary essayist and author Darryl Pinckney, whose recent essay on Ferguson is worth a read and a re-read.


Concrete Jungle—Where Dreams are Made
St Francis College Auditorium
180 Remsen Street

Bonafide, ‘fuhgeddaboudit’ New Yorkers John Leguizamo (comedian, actor) and Jonathan Lethem (author, essayist) gather to talk about stomping the City that Never Sleeps for stories to tell, and how those stories then get adapted for the stage and screen. Do you ever feel like you’re living in a Motherless Brooklyn? We sure do. Moderated by the literary director of the Texas Book Festival, Stephen Opitz.


If You Don’t Laugh, You’ll Cry
Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street

Every day is a struggle, but it might also be your next comedy set. 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander, cartoonist Leslie Stein and author/illustrator Ayun Halliday chat about making light of the dark in our day-to-day, and how life’s tedium can actually be a source of great inspiration. If that’s not a slogan for Brokesters, we don’t know what is.


Subverting Tropes: Household Appliances, Talking Dogs and Robinson Crusoe
Borough Hall Media Room
209 Joralemon Street

Subverting convention has long been part of the artist’s zeitgeist, but this panel finds three writers (Naja Marie Aidt, Andre Alexis and Christian Kacht) coming together to talk about what in particular is so titillating about the use of tongue-in-cheek tropes like talking dogs, omniscient household appliances, and archetypal heroes taken out of their original contexts. Moderated by writer Rivka Galchen.


The American Essay
Brooklyn Historical Society Library
128 Pierrepont Street

Ever since MFA vs. NYC, the topic of the great American Essay has been hot on everyone’s lips. Is that a thing? Hot on lips? Anyway, join Wendy S. Walters, Kent Russell and Leslie Jamison as they chat with Phillip Lopate (yes, it’s a blood relation) about the cult of the American essay, and how in this saturated age of creative-nonfiction writers, we might come write about the homeland once more, with feeling.


Community Bookstore Presents: A Celebration of Elena Ferrante
St. Francis McArdle
180 Remsen Street

Italian-born author Elena Ferrante is internationally acclaimed and entirely enigmatic. If you’ve read any of her novels, then you’ve probably read all of them. Even though she won’t be there in person (or will she?), join Community Bookstore along with European publisher Michael Reynolds, translator Ann Goldstein and author Lauren Groff as they celebrate the past decade of Ferrante’s enthralling work.


Brooklyn Places and Spaces
Main stage
Columbus Park

Borough insiders (who also live inside the borough) talk about Brooklyn’s cultural underground and what it is to go ‘where the locals go.’ This panel features Brokelyn’s own Oriana Leckert, and she’s really great, so trust us when we say it’ll be one of the highlights of the festival. Moderated by the CEO of Brooklyn’s Chamber of Commerce, Carlo Scissura.

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