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September 26, 2016

Brooklyn Book Festival 2016: BBF 4 Ever

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I marked the day on my calendar. I looked over the program. I circled the names that intrigued me the most. I asked my mom for money to buy all the things I wanted. I was denied the excessive budget I felt I deserved. I reassessed and narrowed down my list. I was ready.

My first book fair in elementary school was a whole lot like my first Brooklyn Book Festival. Outside of the asking my mom for money (I cut out the middleman and put myself on a strict budget to begin with #broke), the Brooklyn Book Festival sent me into déjà vu, flashing back the old Scholastic fairs that I obsessed over as a fifth grader. There were tables full of books, just like I’d remembered. There were fellow readers angling for the best position to buy the best books. There were book people all around. The festival --- a well-organized and well-attended event --- excited that young reader in me.

When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the number of booths to visit, as well as the number of attendees. I made the mistake of waiting until the final hours of the event to explore the offerings, but I managed to register to vote (!!!!) and peruse all the best publishing houses and the boroughs have to offer. Indie publishers rubbed elbows with the big houses, and all seemed to see equal success in such an environment. With the goods on display, it’s hard to resist wandering into every single booth.

But the highlight was the lineup of events. With tons of panels and more than a dozen “bookend” events, the fair had something for everyone. For me, they had Rebecca Traister and Brett Fletcher Lauer speaking on a panel titled “Single wo/man seeking…” (unfortunately, Jessica Valenti could not attend).

I’ve been following Traister for a while now (her book and articles on Hillary Clinton are must reads), and I knew about her latest book, ALL THE SINGLE LADIES, which chronicles the narrative of female singledom in recent American history. But I was delighted to be introduced to Brett Fletcher Lauer’s work. His unique project-turned-book, FAKE MISSED CONNECTIONS, thinks about modern love, technology, and the earnest and hopeless terrain of Craigslist missed connections. I liked the way he spoke about his topic. Though his project seemed to be touched with a note of criticism and satire, it was apparent that he didn’t feel sorryfor or superior to those who used the Missed Connections tab, but that he respected their hopefulness and investment in the binary code of love.

The pair gave a great discussion on the nature of romantic relationships. The most memorable point came from Traister. After briefly summarizing the highlights of singledom in America, she expertly dovetailed into the personal politics that is her expertise. She argued that single women have incredible power in our current political system. Though there were similar trends in choosing single womanhood in the history of our country, never before have women had such control over their lives and impact in their vote. While listening to Traister, I always felt like she was saying exactly what she meant. This transparency translates in her writing, and her ability to articulate her views on stage was the best promotion for her work.

Like my days in the Scholastic book fair, the line for the hot items was long. But instead of scratch-and-sniff stickers and eyeball-shaped erasers, we crowded around the tent selling ALL THE SINGLE LADIES and FAKED MISSED CONNECTIONS. They were sold out within the hour.

I may be more than couple decades out of the Scholastic Book Fair, but I know a book-lover’s dream when I see one. The Brooklyn Book Festival had titles, talks and treats for all types, and I look forward to the next one.