The Center for Black Literature is hosting its 12th annual National Black Writers Conference next weekend at Medgar Evers College, featuring talks from black literary icons like Angela Davis and Walter Mosley as well as film screenings, workshops and panel discussions. Highlights include a screening of Gordon Parks’ 1984 film “Solomon Northup’s Odyssey,” based on the same memoir as “12 Years a Slave,” a free tour of the African Burial Ground National Monument, and a talk with Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott on “The Search for Self in Caribbean Literature: Past, Present, and Future.”

The organizers are also hosting a concert next Friday featuring jazz pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs and poets Dasan Ahanu, Tai Allen and Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets. The event, which is a tribute to the Native Tongues, costs $10 and will take place at 1037 Atlantic Avenue. The rest of the conference will happen on the Medgar Evers campus in Crown Heights, beginning Thursday, March 27 through Sunday, March 30. Tickets are cheaper if you register before March 21 and free for Medgar Evers students.


The Brooklyn Book Festival takes place Sunday, September 22, but there’s a whole week of Bookend events for literary nerds to enjoy every night until the festival. Starting Monday night, there will be book readings, literary discussions and other fun events at book stores, bars, and all other kinds of venues across Brooklyn. Compete in Nerd Jeopardy at BookCourt, attend the launch party for Art Spiegelman’s new comic book at Greenlight, or enjoy an evening of readings from Haitian authors at Crown Heights’ Five Myles Gallery. And all of the Book Festival events are free!

Image by Kathryn Kirk via the Brooklyn Book Festival’s Flickr


Image source: Newtown Literary 

The first issue of Newtown Literary opens with a poem by Bob McNeil written from the perspective of the borough of Queens. From the first-person point of view, it chronicles the long history of Queens – from the time of the Matinecock to the current-day cultural hodgepodge – and sets the stage for a collection of pieces that are mostly by Queens writers or about Queens in some way.

Newtown Literary (which is named after Newtown, one of the original towns that became part of Queens) is a new publication inspired by the diversity of Queens and dedicated to sharing “fiction, creative nonfiction, essays, and poetry that go beyond entertainment and storytelling.”


Walk into any NYC bookstore, and they’ll have plenty of titles on display related to Brooklyn and Manhattan. But ask for books that take place in Queens, and you might get a blank stare. The literature covering our borough may not be marketed as aggressively, but it does exist – so we took it upon ourselves to uncover some of the novels, short story collections, and memoirs set in Queens neighborhoods. Here’s our guide; maybe you’ll find a few titles to add to your wishlist.


Forgotten Borough: Writers Come to Terms with Queens, edited by Nicole Steinberg (2011)

Nicole Steinberg grew up between Corona and Jackson Heights, and her lifelong love of Queens led her to put together this collection of contemporary stories, essays, and poems. To give you a sampling of the voices and neighborhoods found within the anthology: Julia Alvarez writes about racial integration in Jamaica Estates, Marcy Dermansky writes about going into labor while eating at Cafe Bar in Astoria, Margarita Shalina writes about watching gas tanks get blown up in Maspeth, and John Weir writes about a gay Queens College professor spending time at a pornographic movie theater in East Elmhurst.