Saturday, March 30, 2019

Not everyone waiting for the train was on their phone yesterday.

From Teen Vogue:

The Lit Bar Is the Bronx's New Bookstore Putting the Community First

The new community space will not only sell books but also create possibilities for an underserved area.

Not every book launch begins with a “Yerrrrrr! But then again, not every book launch is held in the Bronx. For young-adult novelist Lilliam Rivera, though, no other place made sense.

On a rainy Friday night in March, dozens of people — most of them young, black, and Latinx— pack into the Lit Bar, the Bronx’s only general-interest bookstore, to hear Rivera and fellow YA novelist Jason Reynolds talk about her new book, Dealing in Dreams. They sit in two plush, red velvet chairs in the back of the room; Rivera, a former fashion and entertainment journalist, wears a shimmering gold dress with bell sleeves, her long, wavy dark hair parted down the middle, orange-red lips lighting up her face.

For Rivera, a Bronx native, returning to the place that continues to inspire her work was closing a circle. But for many in the room, this event was the first of its kind: For the last four years, Bronx residents didn’t have a single community bookstore they could go to in their borough. And no one could recall a bookstore like this — one built and curated with them in mind.

Crystal McIntyre, a teacher at the Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx, brought some of her students to the launch. Before the event, McIntyre, rocking a full Afro and a “Black Teachers Matter” shirt, giggled with her students and fellow teachers over the books they’d found to purchase. During the Q&A, she watched as her students asked the two authors in front of them questions about their writing process: Did they always know they wanted to be writers? Were they nervous about sharing their work?

For a long time, taking her students to a book launch in the Bronx seemed like its own speculative fiction. For McIntyre, it was important for the girls — all of them black and Latinx — to know that this space was made for them.
“When I was in school, I did not feel like having something like this was even possible,” says McIntyre, who’s from Queens. “And even if it did exist, I didn't think it was for me. I didn't view myself as a reader. I didn't view myself as many things because I wasn't taught that by my teachers.”

People from the Bronx know their borough — the birthplace of hip-hop — has already remade the world in its image. And in the last two years, the Bronx’s native sons and daughters have been some of America’s most prominent paradigm shifters: There’s rapper Cardi B and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest congresswoman ever to serve. If you’ve never set foot in the city but recognize a “Yerrr!” when you hear it, chances are podcasters and newly anointed Showtime stars Desus and Mero are responsible for that.

The Lit Bar and Dealing in Dreams are a continuation of that lineage. With her novel, Rivera is positioning young Latinx characters in a role that has typically not been theirs in popular culture: the heroes and heroines of sci-fi fantasies. As for the bookstore, its founder and designer, Noelle Santos, has created a space that not very long ago would have been considered its own kind of fantasy: a place where proud Bronx residents can look at the shelves and see affirmations of themselves and the lives they lead. A place where women of color don’t have to leave to thrive or discover new parts of themselves.

When people think of “making it” in New York, they’ve traditionally thought of Manhattan — the city’s skyscraper-packed centerpiece. That was the case for both Santos and Rivera.

“I used to measure my success by how far I could get away from the Bronx,” Santos told me two years ago, when she was still in the process of raising funds for her bookstore. “The moment I was ready to get out of dodge, some higher power said, ‘No, it's you, and you need to stay here and do something about it.’”
That “do something” was no small task: building the borough’s first and only community bookstore.

After the Bronx’s lone general-interest bookstore, a Barnes & Noble in Co-op City, closed down in 2016, Santos, a former Wall Street human resources director, successfully crowdfunded $170,000 to bring a bookstore back to the borough.
The Bronx is the only predominantly Latinx borough in the city; more than a third of its population of 1.5 million hails from outside the U.S. But in New York’s other boroughs, like Manhattan and Brooklyn, and cities like Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago, gentrification has seeped in, with new residents sending real estate prices skyrocketing and opportunistic developers peppering the landscape with new buildings.

Santos met that struggle head on as she built her bookstore. After a challenging search for a location, she finally settled on a spot just a couple blocks from the Harlem River, signing the lease in October 2017. After the lengthy process of getting permits for the space, Santos then went through “construction hell” from April to November of last year. Now the space is nearly complete, with Santos working on filling the shelves and completing the finishing touches. While new books come in, the ones on display were lovingly chosen.

Though the store is technically not open yet, Santos is getting close. In the back is a wine bar: It was important to Santos that the space be multifunctional, a place where community members could hold events or host meetings.
She’s created an entire section called “this is where black women and feminism intersect” and “hip hop is poetry too.” On the “classics” shelf, Santos has placed Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels next to Shakespeare and Dostoevsky. Titles like “The Women Who Made New York” and “African American and Latinx History in the U.S.” are prominent throughout the store. In the kids section, every book on display has a black or brown child on its cover. And once you get to the register, a mural of a young black girl, her curls reaching skyward, her nose in a book, two gold hoops glinting in the light, watches over you.

“I’ve had to learn everything along the way,” Santos says, but throughout it all, her community had her back.
“They supported me. Just cheering me on social media. When they see me, they treat me like Beyoncé,” she says, smiling. “It's dope, and it's humbling.”
She’s often stopped on the train and on the street, where she’s referred to as “the book lady” if people don’t know her name. Even as we talk at the register, a line of people forms behind me, eager to buy books and meet the woman who brought a bookstore to the Bronx.
“I follow you on Instagram!” says one older white woman, introducing herself.
“I’m sorry for anything I said!” Santos responds, laughing.

Friday’s event was the second time Rivera and Santos have worked together on a book launch. The first was two years ago, when Rivera released her first book at DreamYard, an arts nonprofit. Rivera now lives in Los Angeles but still travels back to the Bronx a few times a year to visit her family. Her grandmother used to live in the projects right around the Lit Bar, she says.

She’s excited about the new bookstore because it’s homegrown, but she admits she’s nervous about all the other changes creeping in.
“It's been wild. I come back a lot — it's always something new,” Rivera tells me. She talks about all the money being funneled into St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx, money that should have gone toward the recreation area a long time ago, she notes. The timing makes her wonder who all this is for.
She’s equally skeptical of the renewed attention the Bronx has received in the last couple years, thanks in large part to highly visible ambassadors like Cardi B — of whom Rivera is a big fan.
“It's exciting for everyone to be hyped [about] the Bronx. I hope it pays for us, for the people who live here,” she says.

But she pushes back on the idea that the borough is undergoing a “renaissance.”
“We've been here,” Rivera says. “If you know hip-hop history, then you know that Bronx is where it's at. There's a long history of people creating and cultivating new ways of looking at things that maybe people have overlooked for a really long time.”
Rivera brings that social consciousness to her young-adult novels. The Education of Margot Sanchez was set in the Bronx, with protagonist Margot and her family, who own a local grocery store, talking to each other about the changes in the neighborhood. In Dealing in Dreams, a Latinx girl-gang confronts a dystopian future in which they fight for resources and power through violence.

That idea of a hypercapitalist society, with deep chasms between the haves and have-nots, doesn’t seem so far off for Rivera, who has vivid childhood memories of the Bronx burning. Between 1970 and 1980, the borough lost a substantial amount of housing and commercial building to fire and abandonment. Many blamed greedy landlords eager to cash in on insurance policies, but data shows that a dramatic drop in fire-safety resources — including the closure of multiple firehouses in the South Bronx — contributed to the decade-long disaster.
“It's like a cycle,” she says. With the Bronx being a hot commodity, she fears that luxury hotels and expensive condos will be the new norm, driving out the people who have endured so much and fought so hard to raise their families, keep their homes, and grow their businesses. Those anxieties helped inform the dystopian world of Rivera’s Dealing in Dreams.
“For me, the future is the projects being turned into coops. And are we going to allow that to happen?” Rivera asks, before providing the answer. “We can't.”
Her readers are eager to discuss these themes with a candor that many adults don’t have. The day before the launch, Rivera was in Harlem talking about her books with a class.

“We were just talking about sexuality and gentrification and addiction. Like hard topics. And they were just really open about it and excited,” she said. “Young kids are way ahead of [adults] when it comes to any of these conversations.”
At the book launch, Rivera discusses magical realism (“Ghost stories? That’s just family showing up!”), state violence, the power of chosen family, and always having to defend and explain the Bronx. Behind me, “yoooos” and snaps and head nods punctuate the discussion. Then Rivera is asked if she has any advice for the young writers in the room. As she speaks, you can feel the energy of the crowd shift toward her.

“I want you to take up as much space as you can because there’s a lot of people who don’t want you to be there,” she says. “You’re a writer when you say it. You’re an artist when you say it.”

As she imparts those words, Rivera is framed by a bookstore that reinforces that message. Thanks to Santos, women and people of color are front and center in this space, each of their stories, histories, and illustrations offering affirmation and discovery. After the talk is over, a line snakes through the store as people wait to pick up their copies of Reynolds’s and Rivera’s books, the authors engaging in quick conversations as they fold their book covers back and sign them.
More than an hour later, the line has dwindled, and I run into one of Crystal McIntyre’s students. Celivette Villanueva is a junior at the Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx. She doesn’t read much, she says, sticking to “whatever is handed to her in school,” but especially after attending tonight’s event, Celivette wants to change that.
As she approached the register to share a moment with Rivera, the 17-year-old cradles a novel — The Water Cure by Sophie MackIntosh — in her arms.
“It kind of motivates me, seeing other people looking at different books,” she says.

Friday, March 29, 2019

'It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.' 
                                                                     --James Baldwin

Thursday, March 28, 2019

In 1978, The Paris Review asked Joan Didion if she had any writing rituals. “The most important is that I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day,” she said.
I can’t do it late in the afternoon because I’m too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes. When I’m really working I don’t like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. If I don’t have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I’m in low spirits. Another thing I need to do, when I’m near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That’s one reason I go home to Sacramento to finish things. Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.
In 2005, Didion told an interviewer that she typically spends “most of the day working on a piece not actually putting anything on paper, just sitting there, trying to form a coherent idea and then maybe something will come to me about five in the afternoon and then I’ll work for a couple of hours and get three or four sentences, maybe a paragraph.” The slowness of the writing process stems, Didion has said, from the sheer difficulty of thinking clearly. “Writing,” she said in 2011, “forces you to think.” 

It forces you to work the thing through. Nothing comes to us out of the blue, very easily, you know. So if you want to understand what you’re thinking, you kind of have to work it through and write it. And the only way to work it through, for me, is to write it. 

When she’s in between writing projects, Didion isn’t necessarily able to relax. “It feels very different,” she said in 2011. “I don’t like it.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Baseball tomorrow. Philip Roth's novel really is comedy genius, cultural genius. I've read it maybe three times. It's a story about America, of course. Buy it or have your library get you a copy. It's so funny. Roth-smart.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

'I’m sure we would not have had men on the Moon if it had not been for Wells and Verne and the people who write about this and made people think about it. I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books.' 
                                                             -- Arthur C. Clarke

Monday, March 25, 2019

A list of upcoming readings at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Nathan Englander tomorrow night:

Dear Friends and Fans of Greenlight,

Does your brain need a little post-winter exercise?  Greenlight has you covered, with fiction and nonfiction writers in conversation that will make those listless neurons sit up and take notice.  

In the coming weeks, you can learn and engage with issues including gentrification (Randy Shaw), faith and the internet (Nathan Englander), cities and the future (Seth Fried), immigrant experiences (Melissa Ko), black style (LaTonya Yvette), black motherhood (Dani McClain), grief and journalism (Erin Lee Carr), climate change (Nathaniel Rich), historical narratives of oppression (John Keene), '90s talk shows and the '80s AIDS crisis (Jennifer duBois), and the poetry of Brooklyn (Jessica Greenbaum).  And our book groups are a great way to exercise your conversation muscles too.

Got some little ones who need some excitement too?  We've got Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney signing books at the store on April 11 (get your tickets now)! And we welcome kids of all ages to Story Time for even more engagement with great authors and good neighbors.  

We'll see you in the bookstore this spring!  (And get ready for Bookstore Day, just around the corner!)  

Greenlight Bookstore
All Greenlight Bookstore events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.  RSVPs via Facebook are appreciated, but seating is first come, first served (except for ticketed events).  Click here for directions to our bookstore locations. Directions to offsite event locations are provided with each event.
Prospect Lefferts Gardens store:
Monday, March 25, 7:30 PM 
Randy Shaw presents Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America

Generation Priced Out is a call to action on one of the most talked-about issues of our time: how skyrocketing rents and home values are pricing the working and middle classes out of urban America. Housing activist and author Randy Shaw tells the powerful stories of tenants, politicians, homeowner groups, developers, and activists in over a dozen cities impacted by the national housing crisis, and challenges progressive cities to reverse rising economic and racial inequality.  

Prospect Lefferts Gardens store:
Tuesday, March 26, 7:30 PM 
Book Launch: Katharine Duckett presents Miranda in Milan
In conversation with Kaila Hale-Stern

Katharine Duckett joins us at Greenlight to celebrate the launch of her debut novella, which reimagines the consequences of Shakespeare's The Tempest, casting Miranda into a Milanese pit of vipers and building a queer love story that lifts off the page in whirlwinds of feeling. Duckett presents her book in conversation with Kaila Hale-Stern, senior editor of the online publication The Mary Sue.

Fort Greene store:
Tuesday, March 26, 7:30 PM
Book Launch: Nathan Englander presents
In conversation with Colson Whitehead
Wine reception to follow

Greenlight welcomes our neighbor and friend, author and Pulitzer finalist Nathan Englander, to launch his brilliant new comic novel It's a story of atonement; of spiritual redemption; and of the soul-sickening temptations of the internet, which, like God, is everywhere. Englander discusses his book with his friend and fellow author Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad.

Fort Greene store:
Wednesday, March 27, 7:30 PM
William Bryant Logan presents Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees
In conversation with Marie Howe

In this journey from the English fens to Spain, Japan, and California, Brooklyn-based arborist William Bryant Logan rediscovers what was once an everyday ecology. He offers us both practical knowledge about how to live with trees to mutual benefit, and hope that humans may again learn what the persistence and generosity of trees can teach.  Logan, a Greenlight neighbor who also manages the trees at our neighbor St. Joseph's College, presents his book in conversation with former poet laureate of New York Marie Howe.

Fort Greene store:
Thursday, March 28, 7:30 PM
Seth Fried presents The Municipalists
In conversation with Benjamin Samuel

Seth Fried's new novel follows an unlikely pair of lonely outsiders -- one human, one AI -- on an adventure to save the great American city of Metropolis. The Municipalists is a thrilling, funny, and touching adventure story, a tour-de-force of imagination that trenchantly explores our relationships to the cities around us and the technologies guiding us into the future. Fried presents his book in conversation with Benjamin Samuel, co-founder of Electric Literature's Recommended Reading.
Fort Greene store:
Tuesday, April 2, 7:30 PM
Book Launch: Melissa Rivero presents The Affairs of the Falcóns
In conversation with Lisa Ko

Greenlight hosts the launch of Melissa Rivero's highly anticipated debut novel The Affairs of the Falcóns as part of Greenlight's ongoing Immigrant Writing Series. The Affairs of the Falcóns is a beautiful, deeply urgent novel about the lengths one woman is willing to go to build a new life, and a vivid rendering of the American immigrant experience. Melissa Rivero presents her book in conversation with fellow novelist Lisa Ko.

Fort Greene store:
Wednesday, April 3, 7:30 PM
Book Launch: LaTonya Yvette presents Woman of Color
In conversation with Julee Wilson

Greenlight is excited to host blogger and stylist LaTonya Yvette for the launch of her debut book Woman of Color: part memoir, part lifestyle guide -- packed with moving essays, gorgeous original and archival photographs, and practical style and beauty advice. At the very heart, the book is about LaTonya's experience growing up as a woman of color in Brooklyn. LaTonya discusses her book at Greenlight with Julee Wilson, Fashion & Beauty Director at Essence Magazine.

Prospect Lefferts Gardens store:
Tuesday, April 9, 7:30 PM
Dani McClain presents We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood
In conversation with Collier Meyerson

Reporter and strategist Dani McClain joins us at Greenlight to present her new book We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood. McClain, a first-time mother, sets out to understand how to raise her daughter in what she, as a black woman, knows to be an unjust, even hostile society. McClain presents her book with a reading and conversation with journalist Collier Meyerson.

Fort Greene store:
Tuesday, April 9, 7:30 PM
Book Launch: Erin Lee Carr presents All That You Leave Behind
In conversation with Brian Stelter

Greenlight welcomes acclaimed documentary filmmaker Erin Lee Carr to launch her new memoir, All That You Leave Behinda poignant coming-of-age story that offers a raw and honest glimpse into the multilayered relationship between a daughter and a father. Erin presents her book in conversation with Brian Stelter, chief media correspondent for CNN Worldwide and anchor of "Reliable Sources".

Offsite (Brooklyn Public Library):
Tuesday, April 9, 7:30 PM
Nathaniel Rich presents Losing Earth
In conversation with 
David Leonhardt
Part of BPL Presents
Free with RSVP

In his new book Losing EarthNathaniel Rich expands on his groundbreaking full-issue feature "When We Almost Stopped Climate Change" in the New York Times Magazine. It is not just an agonizing revelation of historical missed opportunities, but a clear-eyed and eloquent assessment of how we got to now, and what we can and must do before it's truly too late. Rich presents his book in conversation with New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, followed by a book signing.
RSVP through BPL (required to attend)
Fort Greene store:
Wednesday, April 10, 7:30 PM
Jennifer duBois presents The Spectators
In conversation with Karan Mahajan

National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Author and PEN/Hemingway finalist Jennifer DuBois joins us at Greenlight to discuss her highly anticipated new novel The SpectatorsWith wit, heart, and crackling intelligence, The Spectators examines the human capacity for reinvention and forces us to ask ourselves what we choose to look at and why. duBois presents her novel in conversation with novelist, essayist, and critic Karan Mahajan.

Offsite (LIU Kumble Theater):
Wednesday, April 10, 7:00 PM
John Keene presents the annual Paumanok Lecture

LIU Brooklyn's "Starting from Paumanok" lecture series in American culture and literature, hosted by the English Department annually since 1983, takes its name from a Walt Whitman poem that first appeared in the 1860 edition of Leaves of GrassJohn Keene is a fiction writer exploring the ways in which historical narratives shape contemporary lives while re-envisioning these narratives from the perspectives of those whose voices have been suppressed.  He is the recipient of many awards and fellowships including a MacArthur Genius Award, the Windham-Campbell Prize, and the Whiting Foundation Prize for fiction. Keene will sign books following the lecture, which is free and open to the public. 

Please RSVP at
Prospect Lefferts Gardens store:
Thursday, April 11, 4:30 PM
Book Signing: Jeff Kinney presents Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid
Tickets $16 (book included; admits 1 kid + 1 adult)

Jeff Kinney, the #1 bestselling author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, comes to Greenlight for a special signing for his brand-new book, Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal!  Get tickets now to meet the iconic (and very friendly) author at our store!

Each $16.00 ticket includes admits one child and one adult to the book signing, and includes a hardcover copy of Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid. Additional books by Jeff Kinney will be available for sale on site, and Jeff will sign all Diary of a Wimpy Kid books purchased at the event (not books brought from home).

Purchase book only (no ticket)
* Signed copies available, though books cannot be personalized.  Request "signed copy" in the order comments.
Fort Greene store:
Thursday, April 11, 7:30 PM
Jessica Greenbaum presents Spilled and Gone
With Jason Koo and D. Nurkse

Greenlight neighbor Jessica Greenbaum joins fellow Brooklyn poets Jason Koo and D. Nurkse for a celebration of her new book. Fellow poet Grace Schulman writes "In Spilled and Gone... Greenbaum envisions a Brooklyn that is real and a Brooklyn that is everywhere... Whatever she entertains-a storm-struck tree, an outdoor concert, her immigrant grandparents, a food truck in Grand Army Plaza-her subject is enlivened by keen observation, a fresh mind, and a vivid sense of place that makes me want to be there, with her, in her world." 

Looking Ahead:
Both store locations
Saturday, April 27, all day
Independent Bookstore Day!

Greenlight joins bookstores across the city and across the nation in celebrating the fourth annual Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 27! 

With special items for sale and activities throughout the day, the bookstore is where you'll want to be all day long! 

Find details at, and follow @bookstoreday on social media for updates!

Upcoming Book Groups at Greenlight 
Tuesdays in Fort Greene
Wednesdays in Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Greenlight hosts book groups at both of our store locations.  Admission is free and open to all, and there's always a great discussion! See below for featured book group selections and upcoming meeting dates in February, and feel free to contact the group leaders with questions or to RSVP. Current book group picks are always 15% off at Greenlight, in the store or online.

Tuesday, March 26, 5:30 PM
Fort Greene Young Readers Book Group 
discusses A Single Shard
by Linda Sue Park
Led by Sarah

Wednesday, March 27, 5:30 PM
Prospect Lefferts Gardens Young Readers Book Group
discusses The Thing About Jellyfish 
by Ali Benjamin
Led by Wynne

Tuesday, April 2, 7:30pm
Fort Greene Graphic Novel Book Group discusses Yellow Negro and Other Imaginary Creatures
Led by Nicholas N.
March Kids Events at Greenlight 
Bookseller Story Time
11:30 AM Every Sunday at Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Neighborhood families are invited to join the booksellers of Greenlight for story time every Sunday morning! Greenlight staff choose their favorite read-alouds to share with the youngest booklovers, with great books ranging from classics and award-winners to the best new releases and local favorites. Join us for a great morning in the bookstore!

Special musical story time in PLG!
Saturday, March 23, 11:30 AM
Mary Spencer Knapp presents The Nightingale: A Musical Show
Co-hosted by PLG Arts
RSVP on Facebook (optional)

Author Story Time
11:30 AM Every Saturday at Fort Greene
1:30 PM Every Saturday at Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Authors and illustrators of picture books visit both Greenlight locations on Saturdays to present their new books with readings and art. There are always great stories, activities and crafts! February's authors engage with both Black History Month and Valentine's Day.  Ages 3 to 8. 

Saturday, March 23:
Geoffrey Davis 
Love Yourself Love Each Other
FG event details
PLG event details

Saturday, March 30: 
Benjamin Scheuer and Jemima Williams 
Hibernate with Me

Saturday, April 6: 
Mike Perry
Astro Baby

Saturday, April 13: 
Scott Brundage
The First Men Who Went to the Moon
PLG event details
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