Boston Book Festival 2020 Boston Book Festival 2020

YA: Speak Your Truths

- EDT
Crowdcast 41
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Arvin Ahmadi
How It All Blew Up

Arvin Ahmadi is a New York City–based writer of young adult novels such as Down and Across and Girl Gone Viral. He grew up outside Washington, DC, graduated from Columbia University, and has worked in the tech industry. His latest novel, How It All Blew Up, dubbed as “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy”, is an incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away.

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Jennifer De Leon
Don't Ask Me Where I'm From

Jennifer De Leon is an author, editor, speaker, and creative writing professor. Her fiction and essays have appeared in over a dozen literary journals, including Ploughshares, the Iowa Review, and Guernica. She is the recipient of several awards and residencies from organizations across the country, including the 2016 Walter Dean Myers Grant awarded by We Need Diverse books, the City of Boston, and the Boston Public Library. De Leon's short story "Home Movie" was selected as the Boston Book Festival's One City One Story in 2015. De Leon edited Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education, is an assistant professor of creative writing at Framingham State University, and is a GrubStreet instructor and board member. Her debut novel, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, is “a thought-provoking tale about navigating race and immigration issues” (Kirkus Reviews).

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Daven McQueen
The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones

Daven McQueen is a debut YA novelist. Her novel, The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, tells the story of a young biracial boy in 1955 who must suddenly confront the reality of racial injustice in America when he moves to Alabama. It has been called “a gorgeous, memorable story” by School Library Journal in a starred review.

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Rupa Shenoy is a reporter for PRI's The World. Shenoy also created and hosted the podcast Otherhood, based in The World newsroom. She was previously a daily and investigative reporter for Boston Public Radio, and, before that, Minnesota Public Radio, where her reporting on the indefinite detention of civilly committed sex offenders contributed to the state Supreme Court ruling the program unconstitutional. Before making the move to broadcast, Shenoy worked at the Associated Press, covering major national events like the arrest of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the murders of Jennifer Hudson's family members, and the election of Barack Obama. Shenoy also reported for the Daily Herald, the third-largest Illinois newspaper, where she broke the story of a Superfund site that had been insufficiently remediated, causing high cancer rates in a surrounding neighborhood. She started out as an investigative reporter for the race-and-poverty-focused magazine the Chicago Reporter. Shenoy has a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School.


Navigating identity can be a thorny journey, especially when you’re a teenager surrounded by folks who you suspect won’t understand or maybe even welcome you. The authors whose novels we’ll learn about in this session offer road maps in the form of characters bravely speaking the truth about identity—even when it’s scary or dangerous to do so. In How It All Blew Up, Arvin Ahmadi introduces readers to Amir Azadi, a queer Muslim Iranian American teen who hesitates to come out to his family—until a joyous journey of discovering gay culture and community abruptly collides with his old life back home. In her debut novel, The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, Daven McQueen follows a biracial teen, Ethan Harper, as he spends the summer of 1955 with relatives in Alabama—and is compelled to address racism, and define his own Black identity, for the first time. And in debut novelist (and past 1C1S author) Jennifer De Leon’s Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, Liliana Cruz, the daughter of Central American immigrants, feels pressure to mask her Latina identity when she accepts a spot at a predominantly white suburban Boston high school, compounded when her family faces an immigration crisis. Our host for this session is Rupa Shenoy, a reporter for The World from PRX and host of the PRI podcast Otherhood. GBH is the media sponsor for this session.

Ages 12+