Wednesday, October 7, 2020
For the past several years, the BBF’s “Reading Like a Writer” series of craft-focused author discussions have become fan favorites, giving attendees an opportunity to dig deep and gain insights into the choices that shape a writer’s craft. In this session, host Michelle Hoover will guide us through close readings of excerpts from the work of three authors whose new novels contain elements of protest. In The Book of V., novelist (and past One City One Story author) Anna Solomon disrupts patriarchal norms with a tripartite reckoning with the Biblical story of Esther that the Washington Post calls a “multifaceted masterwork.” Debut novelist Asha Lemmie, in Fifty Words for Rain, offers an epic tale of family reckoning and coming of age, about a girl born to a Japanese noblewoman and a Black American GI during World War II. And in his debut novel, Winter Counts, David Heska Wanbli Weiden pens a thriller about a modern-day vigilante whose quest for justice provokes a reckoning with his own Native identity. These authors will provide context for their own excerpts and will interact with one another’s work as well—it’s like a master class for writers and readers alike! Register for this session in advance on Crowdcast to access the authors’ excerpts and to add your own questions and observations to the conversation. Sponsored by Greenough Brand Storytellers.
Friday, October 16, 2020
Do you believe a picture is worth a thousand words? Marybelle does. She keeps a photo album titled Marybelle's Book of Life and Death, detailing her loved one's first and last breaths, as a way to keep a record of her family while she works abroad for the Chows, moving from the Philippines to Hong Kong to Boston. In this year's One City One Story selection, "The Book of Life and Death," author Grace Talusan explores themes of belonging, education, family, and migration. Pick up your story at one of our distribution locations (or download a copy from our website). Then join us for a discussion of the story with its author and other readers, facilitated by Alicia Anstead, associate director for programming at Harvard’s Office for the Arts.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
This session is dedicated to the memory of author Randall Kenan. For the past several years, the BBF’s “Reading LIke a Writer” series of craft-focused author discussions have become fan favorites, giving attendees an opportunity to dig deep and gain insights into the choices that shape a writer’s craft. In this session, host Dawn Tripp will guide us through close readings of excerpts from the work of three authors whose new fiction presents a variety of narrative perspectives. In Passage West, novelist (and past One City One Story author) Rishi Reddi uses a variety of storytelling techniques, including letters, to trace the epic yet intimate story of a family of Indian sharecroppers in California’s agricultural valleys in the early twentieth century. In The Boy in the Field, Margot Livesey alternates among the perspectives of three teenaged siblings as they variously navigate the months following their discovery of a battered and bloody boy near their home. These authors will provide context for their own excerpts and will interact with one another’s work as well. Livesey was also a friend and colleague of Randall Kenan, who had been scheduled to participate in this session prior to his untimely death in late August. Livesey will offer her own appreciation of Kenan and will participate in a discussion and analysis of an excerpt from Kenan’s final collection of stories, If I Had Two Wings. Register for this session in advance on Crowdcast to access the authors’ excerpts and to add your own questions and observations to the conversation.
Friday, October 23, 2020
As the climate crisis intensifies, none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines, novelists included. Fortunately, two of our most gifted and insightful novelists have turned their considerable talents toward addressing the terrors of a climate-devastated future that’s all too near. In Weather, Jenny Offill employs her signature fractured narrative style to tell the story of a woman juggling her various identities—as a writer, a mother, a former academic, a librarian—and handling the mundane tasks of daily life while becoming increasingly preoccupied with its apocalyptic end. And in A Children’s Bible, which Ron Charles has called “a blistering little classic,” Lydia Millet starkly dramatizes the generational divide around climate change in a novel that finds a group of children and teenagers taking action, Noah’s Ark–style, while their clueless parents descend into torpor and debauchery. Leading their timely and thoughtful conversation is novelist Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, author of Holding on to Nothing. Sponsored by Lesley University.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
Whether they are the bedtime stories we grew up with or retellings we discover as adults, folk and fairy tales from various traditions offer enduring motifs, genuine wisdom—and plenty of juicy material for talented novelists to riff on. In this session, we’ll talk with three novelists whose latest work draws directly or indirectly from these timeless tales. In Master of Poisons, Andrea Hairston combines the lyrical patterns and rhythms of African folkloric traditions with the sensibilities of postcolonial literatures to build a complex epic fantasy that Kirkus Reviews calls “a mind-expanding must-read” in a starred review. Wicked author Gregory Maguire sets Wild Winter Swan, his latest fairy tale adaptation (based on Anderson’s “The Wild Swans”) in 1960s New York City, in an elegant reimagining that takes on issues of class and culture. And SL Huang remixes European and Asian fairy tale traditions in her new novella, Burning Roses, which finds Rosa (aka Little Red Riding Hood) reluctantly joining forces with the mythological Chinese archer Hou Yi for an epic quest. Lauren Rizzuto will host this delightful conversation about tales old and new. Sponsored by Greenough Brand Storytellers.
For some of us—trapped in our homes while an unseen threat lurks outside—2020 has felt a bit like a horror story already. But as Halloween and the long nights of late fall and winter approach, perhaps the fiction writers in this session can provide some appropriately spooky fare to distract us from our real-world terrors. Readers may recognize Stephen Chbosky’s name from his cult classic The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Now, in Imaginary Friend, Chbosky brings readers an haunting story of literary horror, as a mother flees an abusive relationship and resettles with her young son in a small town—where malevolent forces lurk everywhere. Jen Waite’s new thriller, Survival Instincts, also centers on a survivor of domestic abuse, whose weekend White Mountains getaway with her mother and preteen daughter goes horrifically wrong when they encounter an armed stranger. Joe Hill takes on short-form supernatural horror in Full Throttle, whose thirteen stories (including two co-written with his father, Stephen King) have been called “miniature masterworks of modern horror” by Kirkus in a starred review. And in Survivor Song, a novel that might seem all-too-relevant in 2020, Paul Tremblay imagines a terrifying epidemic of a rabies-like virus—and a woman determined to obtain a vaccine for her best friend before it’s too late. Marcella Haddad, who teaches GrubStreet courses on writing horror fiction, will bravely lead our foray into the literary darkness.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
In this can’t-miss fiction session, we’ll meet indelible characters, young women whose ambition, desires, or thirst for revenge lead them outside society’s norms—which is just fine with them. In Alix E. Harrow’s historical fantasy The Once and Future Witches, the four Eastwood sisters rediscover the lost art of witchcraft in 1893 and aim to turn the nascent suffragist movement in New Salem into a witches’ movement. Witches also populate the pages of Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks—in this case, the “sticks” of the title aren't brooms but field hockey sticks, as the Danvers girls’ field hockey team makes a dark bargain to ensure a winning season. Emily M. Danforth (author of YA favorite The Miseducation of Cameron Post) makes her adult fiction debut with Plain Bad Heroines, an expansive ghost story of sorts, about a shuttered girls’ school and the century-old lesbian memoir that supposedly cursed it. Layne Fargo’s thriller They Never Learn also has an academic setting, profiling both a female professor/serial killer and a pair of first-year college students on a quest for revenge. Bridget Marshall of UMass–Lowell will host this lively hour devoted to fearlessly feminist fiction.
Ayad Akhtar’s play Disgraced won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013—and also attracted a great deal of controversy, when its main character, a Pakistani American, admits to feeling a “blush of pride” in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. In Homeland Elegies, his new work of autofiction, Akhtar returns to this theme, among many others, in the context of a powerful and poignant consideration of what it means to be Muslim in America today. Akhtar frames much of the novel through the relationship between himself and his Pakistani immigrant father, a doctor who once treated Trump in the 1990s and has embraced Trump's version of America ever since, following a trajectory from farce to pathos. The son, born on Staten Island, traces his often complicated personal, philosophical, and political stance toward an America that he regards as home but that insists on viewing him—and often compelling him to see himself—as Other. Akhtar’s novel opens with an “overture” and ends with a “coda” that circles back to ideals of free speech, campus culture, and that controversial moment in Disgraced, so it’s fitting that at this closing session for BBF 2020, he’ll be interviewed by PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel, whose own new book Dare to Speak champions free expression and vigorous, democratic debate. Sponsored by the Landry Family Foundation.