The NYCTAF: A Review

The best thing about the New York City Teen Authors Festival (NYCTAF) is how easy it makes it to learn about authors working now. All you have to do is show up to one of the many, many events.

I made it to the two afternoons at New York Public Library—–I worked there in high school and college and then was part of their online public catalog project, so it is always special to me to be in the building, even though much of it looks nothing like what it did back in the day.

Over the course of eight sessions I heard more than 32 authors, only one of whom I already knew (the wonderful and gracious Cindy L. Rodriguez, author of When Reason Breaks, published in Feb.). So for someone like me, who hasn’t been away writing for most of the last four years, it was a very efficient reintroduction to literary society. My top reads:

Nora Raleigh BASKIN – Subway Love
Romance is not normally my thing, but this one takes place on the subway and the couple live in different times. It’s the story of my life (at least the subway part).

Coe BOOTH – Kinda Like Brothers / Bronxwood
There aren’t enough novels about the Bronx. Seriously, I liked her, so I gotta read something.

Libba BRAY – Beauty Queens
I would not have thought I’d be interested in a book called “Beauty Queens,” but Libba’s keynote has taught me not to make assumptions about what we will no longer call “girl books.” Can I call them books that seem that they might be concerned with make-up and dating? She was funny, irreverant and profane and if you missed her speech, your penance should be to go buy her book, too.

Sona CHARAIPOTRA and Dhonelle CLAYON – Tiny Pretty Things
A “guilty pleasure” about kids in a cut-throat dance academy. I have some experience with the nasty atmosphere that ballet can bring; I’m thinking that the dancing kids around me might enjoy this, too. It’s nice to share the research.

Amy EWING – The Jewel
Her piece in the “YA Explains it All” was lovely; I want to hear more.

I.V. GREGORIO – None of the Above
Her book is based on an intersex case that she treated as a resident. This is a topic not much covered in novels for teens.

Claire LEGRANDE – The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
We had such a nice conversation before the Friday sessions that I’m dying to read anything that she’s written. I picked this for the atmospheric title.

David LEVITHAN – Every Day
“Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.” I am intrigued.

Kass MORGAN – The 100
Her “YA Explains it All” was hilarious. I need to hear more.

Adam SILVERA – More Happy than Not
There are not enough Puerto Ricans in science fiction.

Jenn Marie THORNE- The Wrong Side of Right
A political mystery/romance. Aaron Sorkin’s name was invoked so I am there.

Lots of authors, lots of fun. There was just one thing.

The only session that included black authors was the one on diversity.

There wasn’t a single black man on any panel. There might have been a Latino author in Friday; I couldn’t be sure and I haven’t investigated. Otherwise we scored, comparatively, with two authors, one on a non-diversity panel. Asian-American authors were also not well represented.

I don’t want to become a diversity bean-counter, but on Friday, after four panels and 29 authors it was somewhat obvious who was and wasn’t there. And that was a shame.

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