Where have I been all week? Sick sick sick. And when I’m sick I’m in no mood to blog, talk or communicate in any form – unless it’s to whine. So enjoy the post that should have been posted on Sunday!
Despite the grey and rainy weather, I had a wonderful time at the Brooklyn Book Festival! I must have been super-distracted in September over these past few years, because who knew there was such a fantastic annual event celebrating books and NYC culture – just down the Fulton St. Mall?
I didn’t drag out of bed early enough (surprise surprise) to make the Jon Scieszka, E. Lockhart and Matt Barnett presentation, but I did manage to get myself to the Youth Stoop by the end of the improv-style Illustrator Draw-off! (with Mike Cavallero, Shane Evans and Vanessa Brantley Newton). I spent some time wandering the maze of bookseller tents, and bumping into familiar faces such as my pals at Star Bright Books, professor Pat Cummings and Putnam author/illustrator Michael Rex.
Overwhelmed by the dozens of panels available at any given hour, I stuck pretty close to the Youth Stoop, and caught two really excellent presentations. The first, Where Concrete Dreams Are Made, featured authors Laura Toffler-Corrie, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, and Newbery Award winner Rebecca Stead, whose middle-grade characters all discover adventures growing up in NYC.
As a new resident of Park Slope (and halfway-through the novel Prospect Park West), it seems like the issue of raising children in the city is a hot topic. I’m always surprised that nearly all my Brooklyn-loving compadres would easily move in favor of a big yard in Westchester or Fairfield. Yes, it makes me nervous to raise children in a city where there is less control over their independence, very different from where I was raised. But I find the “Little Boxes“-style suburban life to be bleak and depressing, and the country, while beautiful, to be isolated. I don’t know where life is going to take me, but raising my future kids with the diversity and opportunity of NYC seems like the best of all scenarios.
So, it was encouraging that these three authors and longtime New York residents, had such a positive outlook on childhood in the city. When asked if there was a loss of innocence in urban kids, all adamantly agreed that’s an outdated stereotype. The protectiveness of parents in NYC, combined with the national media, mean that kids today are seeing the same images and can get into just as much trouble in a small town as in a big city (truth!). When raised with the right values, New York kids are asked to confront real issues and develop a better sense of personal identity – in a good way. I totally agree!
The second panel we saw, Happily Ever After?, brought the discussion to a YA level with authors Jenny Han, Sara Shepherd and Lauren Oliver. All of their books (Pretty Little Liars included, by the way) deal with the drama and growing pains of teenage girl-hood. So, with a panel full of adult authors who spend their days reflecting on adolescence, it begged to ask the classic question: are people always doomed to play the part they were in high school?
Again, the panel felt the same way I did: not… really. It is true that some people never grow up from the petty social behavior that plagues every high school (case in point: Bachelor Pad). But I think life allows too many opportunities to change your stripes if you want to. In high school, I was cast as a “good girl” and flew under the radar (looking back, I have no problem with this!). But even though I felt like I stayed the same person, I was perceived differently in college… and I played a much more public role. Maybe it was a change in confidence, or maybe just a change of scenery… but I certainly haven’t been my high school stereotype since the day I left Concord. Hopefully, that’s how it is for most people!
Anyway, by 3 PM, I’d had enough reliving my childhood and standing in the rain… it was time to go home and curl up with a good book! Until next year, when I will actually plan to go to these things…