[NYC/BK] part of my world.


the brooklyn book festival is the event of the year for me. it’s the event that marks the end of summer in my head, the beginning of fall, and it’s the event i look forward to because it’s books, authors, readers — how much better can something get?

this year, i had the opportunity to take over the official bkbookfest instagram account (twice!), and it was so much fun, walking around and sharing random things from the day. i also took over the account earlier in the week to share some photos from previous years because this was my sixth year at the festival — six years, can you believe it? six years since i literally stumbled upon the festival that first year i moved to new york because it was a sunday and i’d somehow talked myself into going to church and borough hall was my subway stop that year. six years because i’ve been back every year since.

and i can’t wait to keep this tradition going next year.


highlights: meeting people from bookstagram “in real life,” getting coffee, going to panels together, standing around and sweating and chatting. exchanging hugs, hearing voices, revelling in the familiar. as it turns out, i’m not as much of a total introvert or a misanthrope as i thought. i love meeting people and being around people.

hearing authors talk! it’s always a pleasure hearing authors talk, especially when they’re on a panel with great moderators, like that 10 am session with jenny zhang (!!!) and julie buntin moderated by jia tolentino. jia tolentino has been knocking it out of the park for the new yorker these last few months. jenny zhang is always a delight. julie buntin made me want to read her book, which i’ve heard amazing things about but haven’t read yet.

the cookbook panel! there is always a cookbook panel (or there was this year and last; i admit i didn’t go to the cookbook panel in 2015), and it is always awesome (maybe i should stop saying “always” when i’ve only been to this year’s and last’s). this year, the theme was cookbooks and cooking at home, and chef sohui kim of the good fork was there along with cookbook authors raquel pelzel and stacy adimando, and i loved this panel because i think about that question a lot — exactly who are cookbooks written for? what are they written for? because you have cookbooks that are more like coffee table books (pretty much anything by phaidon) because the recipes are much too complicated for any home cook to attempt (like, seriously, who’s cooking from the noma books? the benu book?). and what about cookbooks that are more to record a restaurant’s history/moment in time? and how should food in cookbooks be photographed? do we want them to be exquisite and perfectly plated like the chef would plate in her restaurant? isn’t that too daunting? but what about this trend right now with artfully just-consumed food? what is kristen kish’s book going to be like? because when you have a chef who’s all about technique and has a more elevated, formal style of cooking, can that translate into recipes that an average home cook might want to attempt? and who is an average home cook, anyway? how do you measure that?!?

does someone have to cook from a cookbook for that cookbook to be considered successful?

because i rarely cook from cookbooks — my measure of a good cookbook is if it tells a story of that chef, that restaurant, the food, well.

coming back from that list of questions i spend kind of a stupid amount of time thinking about … (i think a lot about food. in all forms.) (i’m also really excited for the kish cookbook. and the cherry bombe cookbook.) (i also spend a lot of time thinking about how i can get publishers to send me cookbooks …)

more highlights: catching up with friends and getting dos toros and taking over outlets because my phone was dying. discovering another cool lit mag (the point) (it’s based in chicago), buying more back issues of the common, chatting with chef sohui kim and getting my book signed and gushing about the just-opened jeju noodle bar in the west village. chatting with authors and them not being weird about me being all OMG I LOVE YOUR WORK I THINK YOU’RE GREAT HI! sweating non-stop, taking an ice cream break at one of my favorite ice cream shops (van leeuwen), finally dropping in at books are magic and buying a mug and checking out the space and, oh, buying a cute enamel pin, too. (i’m starting to get into enamel pins.)

stepping into regular visitors and discovering that they make a great unsweetened matcha latte. roaming around my old stomping grounds (because downtown brooklyn/cobble hill/boerum hill — this whole area, all the way to park slope, gowanus, prospect heights, and clinton hill, is my brooklyn) (i know; it’s bougie as hell; and i don’t know how that works because i’ve always been broke as hell). just being in those masses of people, of readers and writers and publishers, this community of people who love stories and story-telling and came out en masse on sunday to be a part of something that i believe, that i believe they believe is a vital, thriving part of life.


i’ve walked this stretch of dean street from cobble hill to park slope so many times. i’ve walked it to go to blue bottle, to one girl cookies, to trader joe’s, and i’ve walked it in peace, in joy, in tears. i’ve walked it while starving, while full, while panicked, while depressed, while content, inspired, angry, worried, despondent, happy, lonely. i’ve walked it and been told by a nice lady that i shouldn’t look so sad, life would be all right. i’ve walked it as my arm went numb from the groceries hanging on my shoulder.

i’ve walked this stretch of dean street on nights i was too anxious, too depressed, to do anything else. i’ve walked it because i was forcing myself to get out of my apartment, to do something, even if it were walking and walking and walking. i’ve walked it to nurse my broken, fractured brain and heart. i’ve walked it to exhaust my insomnia into letting me sleep. i’ve walked it to mull over story problems, writing problems, life problems.

i walked this stretch of dean street after the brooklyn book festival, after dinner with a friend and her boyfriend. it was humid, and it was night, and it was everything familiar — the trees, the buildings, the house with the zebra in its front yard, a zebra that now has giraffe friends. i walked it with my heart throbbing inside me because, yes, i do concede now that coming back to california earlier this year was what i needed, that this move literally saved my life, but it hurt still, it hurts, but it hurts now in the way that tells me, you are alive, and it is on you to find your way home again.

i walked this stretch of dean street again knowing exactly where i want and need to be, that 2017 has been a weird, incredible year, despite all the struggles and pain and disappointment, that i am lucky to be here, to have the people in my life whom i do, people who have and continue to do so much for me, to love me, to care for me, to support me.

i walked this stretch of dean street, knowing that this won’t be the last — i know i will walk this street countless times again.


brooklyn book festival, 2016!

today was the brooklyn book festival, aka one of my favorite days of the year! unfortunately, i didn't make it to all the panels i'd hoped; a weekend of little/bad sleep and the humidity drained me by mid-afternoon, especially because i started when the festival started, bright and early at ten am! here are some photos and panel recaps.


no attempts at introductions today; i'm pooped.

10 am:  unsung heroines
alexander chee (the queen of the night, hmh, 2016), desiree cooper (know the mother, wayne university press, 2016), irina reyn (the imperial wife, thomas dunne, 2016), moderated by clay smith (kirkus)

  • alexander chee:  this novel (the queen of the night) was my attempt to write about these women i would see at the edges of things or mentioned in a sentence in other works, where the line would be something like "she was a favorite of the emperor's" [or ...] "she could walk on her hands," and the narrative would move on from there — and i was like, wait a minute, can we go back to the woman who could walk on her hands?
    • AC:  i was a boy soprano — but, when you're a boy soprano, you know your voice will leave eventually. i think female sopranos know this, too, but they have longer than 3-5 years.
    • AC:  women had to become these supernatural women [...] to be seen as more than normal women.
  • desiree cooper:  women [hold] a lot of dimensions of their lives in secret, and it's sort of like a giant well-kept secret. [know the mother]'s not an autobiographical book, but it's definitely mined from the experiences of my friends.
    • DC:  detroit is not the kind of town where you can go very far without meeting people who are not like you. it was the gift that i got, to be able to step into different lives.
    • DC:  the stories hang together around the issue of what happens when gender asserts itself when you least expect it, when those roles come down on a woman.
    • DC:  i used to be a lawyer and worked in a corporate setting, and there really was a bathroom with two stalls [for women] in this office of 150 people. [she was pregnant at one point while working here.] when you can't even talk about a happy event, how do you talk about a loss? you hide every aspect of your womanness just to survive.
      • (the story she read from is written from the POV of a woman who miscarries while at work.)
  • irina reyn:  the 18th century is no joke; there's not a lot of information about that. it's a lot of things to negotiate with the historical narrative.
  • IR:  i think what's interesting [about writing historical fiction parallel to contemporary fiction] is that we get to ask "have we come a long way?" putting those side by side really asks those questions — "where are we now?"
  • DC:  women's rights are human rights. when you humanize women, everyone can relate to them.

11 am:  culinary comfort
julia turshen (small victories, chronicle, 2016), andie mitchell (eating in the middle, clarkson potter, 2016), pierre thiam (senegal, lake isle press, 2015), moderated by helen rosner (eater)

  • andie mitchell:  in my cookbook (eating in the middle), i talk about how losing 135 pounds doesn't mean you stop loving food. i had to shift my thinking of what is comfort food and how do i remake not only my mindset of comfort food and what i think those are.
  • pierre thiam:  senegal, our culture, is comfort food. we eat around the bowl, so anyone can come and mix in. there's always room for someone, a new perso, around the bowl. and for me that's comfort food, because of the love that's in it.
    • PT:  food is healing; it's love. in senegal, that's my inspiration and that's how i wanted the hook to be translated for american readers. i didn't want it to be just about recipes but about comfort and sharing.
  • julia turshen:  for most of my career, i feel i've been very tuned into other people's comfort.
  • JT:  i studied poetry in college, and i think of recipes as these poems, and they're [things] to translate what i did at home and condense them into instruction. i try to be as encouraging as possible. i think the biggest thing i try to do with recipes is try to answer questions before you ask them. it's sort of giving all these clues, and, within that, i find there to be opportunities for descriptive language.
    • JT:  i think food is the best thing to write about because there's so much to describe.
  • JT:  telling the stories that are true to you — that's what makes a cookbook successful.
    • JT:  the thing i love about cookbooks is that they're a means to tell stories [but then people take them and cook from them and these new stories come from them].
  • PT:  i don't think the cookbook should be approached as the bible because i don't cook that way. it's always an evolution, and i think that's how food works. it evolves, but you recognize the same dish even if it's not the same dish. cooking should be a personal, intimate affair, so you come with your own contribution to the recipe.

after my first two back-to-back panels, i moseyed around a little, browsed a little, snuck into a store to use the loo, then i managed to catch half of a poetry panel and hear ocean vuong (night sky with exit wounds, copper canyon press, 2016) and monica youn (blackacre, graywolf press, 2016) read — they're both so good.

1 pm:  witches
robert eggers (the witch), robyn wasserman (girls on fire, harper, 2016), alex mar (witches of america, FSG, 2015), moderated by jaya saxena (the daily dot)

  • alex mar:  paganism as an actual movement is now a phenomenon in this country.
    • AM:  there's a lot we see in film that's real; it's high drama. there's a specific reason for all of it. the reality is that a lot of things we associate with horror films is now actually — we should start to be more open-minded about how we view what these things are, which are part of a religious movement.
  • AM:  part of this [fear] is that paganism is related to radically independent women. we were joking about this earlier — about girls and how dangerous they are — but it's true.
  • robyn wasserman:  [...] these girls are children, and they're nice innocent little kids, but, somewhere, there's a turn, and it's like something has colonized this child, and this thing is a sexual impulse. and we as a society are so afraid of acknowledging sexuality and sexual feelings in adolescent girls [...] that we talk about it as a sort of colonizing. like the devil has taken over.
    • RW:  witchcraft [is] a tool you deploy against powerful women — but also, this idea that women can't be magical in their own right? if they have some kind of strong power, they must have been taken over by some greater power.
    • RW:  we're so terrified by female sexuality that we [make it this other thing].
  • robert eggers:  i think the misogyny of the early modern period was so great that they actually thought these girls were witches. witches were real.
  • RW:  there's something so threatening about girls doing something beyond the male gaze.
  • AM:  there's no evidence that anything we recognize as witchcraft was being practiced in salem.

why is there a photo of an apple cider doughnut? because i traded my email address for a doughnut, aka i signed up for a newsletter because it meant i could have a doughnut. which goes to say that enticing people with food? it works, folks. (heh, joking; i would've signed up, anyway.)

and that was the brooklyn book festival for me this year! thanks for reading!

brooklyn book festival!


the brooklyn book festival is one of the highlights of autumn.  it's this wonderful gathering and celebration of books with tons of tents and publishers and magazines and authors and events, and i've been going every year since i moved to nyc after stumbling upon it by complete accident the first year i was here, a few weeks after i'd moved and started law school.

it was a beautiful day this year (last year was so muggy) with clear skies and a lovely breeze, and i ended up spending the whole day there, starting with a panel at 10 am and closing off with panels at 3 pm and 5 pm.  all in all, it was a great day.  (:

10 am:  guillotine and the politics of narrative
with sarah mccarry (moderator), jenny zhang, lola pellegrino, and sarah gerard

an event at 10 am means an 8 am wake-up call, which, after a sleepless night, is horribly early.  most of this event was reading -- each author read from her chapbook (published by guillotine), and there was a short discussion after.  the discussion was great -- all three women are very smart, very articulate women -- but, again, 10 am, plus everything was so dense that i wasn't sure how to take notes.

two things said by jenny zhang, though, whom i shamelessly fangirl bc she is fab:

  • i write about my emotions as a way of controlling them and [controlling] people's appetite for them.
  • the less privilege you have, the more you're seen as being influenced by your petty little life.

3 pm:  intimacy
with darin strauss (moderator), lauren groff, chinelo okparanta, and rebecca makkai

this was a little late starting, so okparanta read a bit from her short story collection before the discussion got rolling.

  • intimacy as things that might be hard to talk about
    • LG:  i think marriage is hard to talk about.
      • wanted to write a book that wasn't about a marriage that wasn't crumbling apart, which is harder
      • there's also a lot of sex [in the book], which is harder to write.
    • CO:  i write about the issues of women in nigeria, which is hard because a lot of people will say to me, "oh, it's so much better to be here in the US because these issues are only in africa."
      • once she starts asking questions, though, it comes out that women here face the same issues and pressures (like, say, to get married and have babies).
      • also difficult because she writes about LGBTQ issues, where she also gets similar sentiments
    • RM:  i think write about sex is always funny in some way.
      • brought her family into her collection, which angered her father
  • Q:  during the writing process, do you think about how your work will be received?
    • RM:  thought a lot about it when it came to family things
    • CO:  didn't think about how her collection would be received because she didn't think it would be published, so she just wrote about the issues that bothered her
      • is aware of audience now and finds it bothersome but doesn't let that stop her
      • in a social media culture, if you listen to everything, you'll end up in a bubble
      • got a website because her publisher made her (designed it herself)
    • LG:  in her collection, included elements from her mother's life that made her so angry, she wouldn't talk to her.  the mother-daughter stand-off ended when she had a baby.
  • LG:  in the beginning, husband would write BLEH on any pages with him in it, but now she's trained him to be dispassionate.
    • "he's like a great dane."
  • CO:  there are a lot of mothers in her stories, some terrible, abusive mothers.  her mom could recognize elements of herself in them and was like, "what?"
    • but reading my stories helped her learn things she liked and things she could improve
  • RM:  once named a character tuna and had a friend ask if she'd named the character after her daughter's imaginary friend
  • RM:  someone said you can put any man you know in your fiction as long as you give him a really small penis because no one will claim it's him.
  • LG:  tries to avoid writing goofy sex scenes
  • RM:  it's hard to avoid the cliches (when it comes to sex scenes)
  • CO:  i struggled with the word "nipple" [in her recent novel, under the udala trees]
    • it sounded funny; it sounded wrong.
  • CO:  i think it's good to write about sex.
    • it's part of life; it's a wonderful thing; and people shouldn't be shy about it.
  • CO:  what i set out to do is write a good, moving, emotional story.  and then the politics slip in.
  • LG:  deep down, at our core, all of us are very, very weird.

5 pm:  a celebration of elena ferrante
with michael reynolds (publisher, europa), ann goldstein (translator), lisa lucas (publisher, guernica), lauren groff (author, fates and furies)

this was a weird panel for me to go to because i haven't read elena ferrante, nor do i plan to.  i am fascinated by the cult of ferrante, though -- she's got some very, very fervent fans -- so i decided, hey, why not, let's go listen to people talk about her!

i started to take notes but stopped partway through because i haven't read the books, so much of what was said had no context to me.  ^^

  • MG:  the terrifying question to anyone in publishing is "what are you reading for pleasure?" because the answers is always "nothing."  (that said, he's currently reading groff's fates and furies.)
  • both LG and LL discovered ferrante via another writer friend at moments in their lives when they were looking for something immersive.
  • MG:  what is it about ferrante that appeals to other writers?
    • LL:  there's a boldness to her writing, a sort of "fuck it."
    • LG:  a lot of things she does that we respond to is that she risks everything.
  • when asked what drew her to ferrante, AG said that she wanted to spend time with that language.
    • she read the first paragraph of days of abandonment and knew she wanted to translate it.
  • MG:  essentially, [the neapolitan tetralogy] is a flashback, a 1600-page flashback.
  • LL didn't love the first book but liked it an appreciated it.  it wasn't until she was halfway through the second book and had to stop to tell her family to read it that she thought that, oh, this could be it, that it could appeal to everyone.
  • AG:  "the length is not a small thing."
  • AG:  the neapolitan books were more difficult to translate because they were more italian (lots of references to italian things and history, etcetera).
  • AG translated very literally, going word-for-word

2014 brooklyn book festival!

brooklyn book festival was today!  it’s definitely one of the events i look forward to all year because it’s stuffed full with awesome publishers and authors and panels, and i always have a great time, and this year was no exception.

one.  chip kidd (knopf) and helen yentus (riverhead)!  both art directors, both incredible designers — originally, when the program first came out for bkbf, peter mendelsund was also on the list of panelists, but he was edited out later *sadface* — i could listen to book designers sit and talk about book design for hours.  days even.  i did not know that helen yentus designed those fab covers for camus’ list; the one for the fall is particularly ingenious.

two.  i found waldo!

three.  jeff vandermeer!!!  and lev grossman and deji olukotun!  (though i confess i was mainly there for vandermeer …)  when asked about the trilogy format, vandermeer said that he tried to keep in mind all the things he doesn’t like about trilogies.  like, for instance, when characters have those aha! moments in the third books to wrap things up.  and, when a woman asked a question (very frustratedly, i might add) about what she’s supposed to do with the usual advice of “write what you know,” as part of his response, he said, “you can know a lot about something but not know how to write it.”  (these are very loose “quotes.”  i can only whip out my iphone, put in my passcode, and pull up evernote so fast.)  (i used to be analogue with my note-taking at events, but that never really worked because my handwriting is such shit …)

and, when asked what was next for them, grossman said he needed to get out of the magicians because he’s been immersed in that world for ten years, olukotun said he was working on a next book, and vandermeer said, “cryogenic sleep.”

four.  ROXANE GAY.  can i just sit here and type up quotes (or “quotes”) of awesome things she said?  ok.

  • one of the things about modern discourse is that it’s like people are shouting at each other more often (or instead of) hearing or listening.
  • in response to anna holmes admitting she doesn’t really feel much towards beyonce, “have you seen her body???”
  • if your child’s only role model is beyonce, then you’re a bad parent.  you shouldn’t have a single role model but many.
  • we have to stop being so desperate to attach the label “role model” on any popular person.  we should be looking more at the people on the ground.
  • it takes some audacity as a woman and as a person of color to believe that your voice matters and that you aren’t just taking up unnecessary space.
  • (she also talked about ina garten and how she plans her teaching schedule so she’s free to watch ina garten’s show from 4-5 p.m. everyday.)
  • (she loves teaching.  it inspires her to keep taking risks because, if her students are putting their vulnerabilities on the page, then she should be, too.  teaching also keeps her on top of current fiction and non-fiction.)
  • (her recommendations to a ten-year-old who wants to be a writer:  believe in yourself, that your voice matters.  write everyday [if you can].  read.  read above your age [if your parents are okay with it].  read outside your comfort zone.  read everything.  keep writing.)
  • (the thing that depresses [distresses?] her most about the current world is the continued prevalence of sexual violence against women.  it’s unthinkable that we live in a world where boys are going to college still not knowing what rape is.)
  • even though i have low self-esteem, i still believe in myself.  and even if i don’t, i have a support system of people who do.

roxane gay is awesome.  bad feminist is awesome, too.  idk what you’re doing if you haven’t picked it up and started reading it yet.

five.  why, yes, it is always croissant weather.  even when it’s disgustingly humid.  like today was.

six. i always come back from the brooklyn book festival lighter in monetary funds but richer in tote bags, publications, and books.  though this is a lighter haul pubs/books-wise than previous years’ … i didn’t pay for any of the tote bags, though!  harperperennial and penguin were both giving away tote bags (with a minimum purchase), and the london review gave away tote bags if you signed up for their email newsletter, and the writer’s foundry just gave ‘em away for free!  :D

(i also bought mangoes.  because i love mangoes.)

and, with that, good night!