Last year, I had the good fortune of securing a ticket to Brooklyn Academy of Music’s series “Eat, Drink & Be Literary” (“EDBL” from here on). I was lucky enough to sit in the presence of one of my favorite authors, Zadie Smith, which was one of the highlights of 2016. This year will be even better, as I was able to secure tickets to not one but two events in the series. First up was the absolutely amazing Jacqueline Woodson, author of the bestseller Another Brooklyn.
Because of a work constraint, I missed the dinner portion of the program last year. I made sure to avoid that issue this year and arrived at the venue, BAMcafé, early. Not as early as some of the other guests, but early enough to be seated at a great table.
Before I go on, I have to commend the staff at BAMcafé, who made sure the line moved quickly, was attentive to every guest and very, very friendly. Thanks to them for being so wonderful.
Once upstairs, I was seated at a table with three amazing women, all of them repeat attendees of EDBL and avid book readers. They were so friendly and fun to talk to and I had a blast with them all. We talked about their careers, the books they were reading and anything else that came to mind. I felt so lucky to sit at a table with such wonderful women and I hope I see them at EDBL again in the future.
The food was outstanding and I ate a bit too much (although I feel no guilt whatsoever). This year’s menu consisted of Chicken Cutlet Parmesan, Grandma’s Meatballs and Pan-Seared Polenta Cakes. The dessert offering was Mini Cannoli and each table had carafes of red and white wines for guests to enjoy. BAMcafé’s Executive Chef Tsering Nyima did an excellent job of filling guests’ bellies with delicious food and I can’t wait to see what he has in store next month.
During dinner, guests were treated to a live band called Red Sahara. The duo of vocalist Sabrina Clery and guitarist Vita Tanga played beautifully and I hope to see them play again in New York City. The duo was joined by Tetsuya Sato, an electric bass player from Japan, who only enhanced the already amazing sounds created by Red Sahara. The women at my table had nothing but good things to say about the band and I had to agree.
Once dinner was over, Ben Samuels of the National Book Award introduced the moderator of the program, Deborah Treisman, the Fiction Editor at one of my favorite magazines, The New Yorker. Ms. Treisman then introduced Ms. Woodson, and I have to say, I had to keep myself from fangirling. Ms. Woodson is an absolute force and was riveting and engaging. Before she read from two of her brilliant works, Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn, she revealed to the audience that she herself had attended several EDBL events in the past and always wanted to be a featured author in the series. Who says dreams don’t come true?
Ms. Woodson then read excerpts from her work to the audience, some of whom had never read any of it previously. When she read from Another Brooklyn, I heard audible gasps, laughter and the word “wow” used several times. I have read Another Brooklyn, but hearing some of the text read by Ms. Woodson herself brought the words to life. So much so that I plan to read it again, only this time with Ms. Woodson’s voice in my head. The women at my table all said that they planned to read the author’s work, as they were so impressed by what they heard.
After her readings, Ms. Treisman and Ms. Woodson sat down for a very lively discussion about the author’s process, how she became a writer of children’s books and why she writes. The answers Ms. Woodson gave were funny and sometimes thought-provoking. One particular answer she gave caused me to write it down in my notebook. When asked why she writes, Ms. Woodson said that she, “writes to learn,” which I thought was a brilliant answer. How many authors can say that?
Afterwards, there was Q&A which gave guests a chance to ask their burning questions. And like Ms. Woodson, the guests were very engaging and asked smart and thoughtful questions. The author answered them all and seemed to love every minute. And so did I.
There are still a few more events left in this year’s series, including Claudia Rankine (which I will be attending, as well) and Elif Batuman. For more information about “Eat, Drink & Be Literary” and to purchase tickets, click here.