Bookmarked! Your guide to the Brooklyn Book Festival

Strange bedfellows: Celebrated writers Joyce Carroll Oates and Jonathan Safran Foer, shown at a previous Brooklyn Book Festival, will share their works at separate events on Sept. 17.
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The borough is getting lit!

The Brooklyn Book Festival returns next week to grace the borough with some of the world’s biggest thinkers and wordsmiths. The Festival Day on Sept. 17 will feature more than 300 writers on 14 stages scattered across Downtown, and the six days leading up to Fest boast “Bookend” events all over the borough. Faced with an enormous catalog of events, we have bookmarked 10 of the most promising talks, readings, and parties for you.

Tonight belongs to Patti

Singer, punk icon, artist, and author Patti Smith kicks off the festival with a reading of “Devotion,” her new book about the creative process, explored through a story about a young skater and two companion essays.

“Patti Smith: Devotion” at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church (157 Montague St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights). Sept. 11 at 7 pm. $25 (includes a copy of the book).

Good boy! Good book!

Three Brooklyn artists — and one Californian — who specialize in drawing adorable animals will hold a panel discussion about their work, followed by the opening reception of the group show “Furry Friends Welcome,” which includes work from all four panelists (including Gemma Correll, creator of “A Pug’s Guide to Etiquette,” pictured) among many others.

“Furry Friends Welcome” at Grumpy Bert [82 Bond St. between State Street and Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, (347) 855–4849,]. Sept. 13 at 7 pm. Free.

Start spreading the crayons

A full day of children’s events will happen at Downtown’s Metrotech Commons on Sept. 16. We advise that you bring the young ones to meet author, illustrator, and city guide Majel van der Meulen, for an afternoon of drawing activities inspired by her book “My New York.”

“My New York with Majel van der Meulen” at Art Spot, MetroTech Commons (MetroTech Center between Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue Downtown). Sept. 16 at noon. Free.

Books behind bars

A group of writers and activists take on America’s broken criminal justice system at this panel discussion, featuring wrongly accused member of the Central Park Five Yusef Salaam, ex-convict and social justice activist Marlon Peterson, author Heather Ann Thompson, and former public defender and author James Forman Jr.

“From the Inside Out” at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church (157 Montague St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights). Sept. 16 at 3 pm. $10 suggested donation.


On the Festival Day, Sept. 17, all of the following events will happen at various locations Downtown. 10 am–6 pm. Free.

Write the power!

When the world seems like it is going to hell, what is the role of books? Women’s March on Washington organizer, author, and Brooklyn native Linda Sarsour discusses literature during times of upheaval with three fellow writers and activists, in this panel moderated by Bkaskar Sunkaar, the founder of Jacobin magazine.

“Books as Tools of Resistance “at Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St. at Borough Hall). 10 am.

Best of the Fest

This weekend, Fort Greene author Colson Whitehead will receive the Festival’s coveted Best of Brooklyn award — inexplicably called the Bobi — an honor to set alongside the Pulitzer and a National Book Award he received for his 2016 historical fiction hit “The Underground Railroad,” about a slave girl who travels through time and space in her quest for freedom. Whitehead will read from his work at the “Literary Lions” event, alongside past BoBi honorees Jacqueline Woodsen, the author of “Another Brooklyn,” and novelist Jonathan Lethem, who wrote “Motherless Brooklyn.”

“Literary Lions” at St. Francis College Founder’s Hall (180 Remsen St. between Clinton and Court Streets). 11 am.

World worries

Boerum Hill novelist Jonathan Safran Foer joins fellow writers Lidia Yuknavitch and Achy Obejas to discuss creating characters and protagonists who can engage with stories of global crises, both real and imagined, historic and modern.

“Moral Culpability in Global Crisis” at Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St. at Court Street). 1 pm.

War of the words

The theater of war comes to Downtown, as author and public artist Bryan Doerries discusses the capacity of theater to act as a safe medium for difficult conversations, and Oscar-nominated actress Amy Ryan performs short scenes from plays by Sophocles and Euripides.

“Theater of War” at the Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St. at Borough Hall). 2 pm.

Rhyme time

Brooklyn’s Poet Laureate, Tina Chang, will present four poets known for their electric stage performances, including slam poetry champions Elizabeth Acevedo, Sam Sax, and Danez Smith, along with Aja Monet, the youngest person to win the Nuyorican Café’s legendary Poet’s Grand Slam title.

“Words on the Page, Words on the Stage” at the Main Stage on Borough Hall Plaza (209 Joralemon St. at Borough Hall). 4 pm.

Murder your darlings

Three literary writers who have dabbled in crime fiction — Joyce Carol Oates, Nelson George, and Ben H. Winters — will discuss how they bring real-world and historical elements into their work.

“Killer Crime-Fiction” at St. Francis College Founder’s Hall (180 Remsen St. between Clinton and Court Streets). 4 pm.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 5:55 pm, July 9, 2018
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