Mapping the Pungent History of ‘Brooklyn’s Curious Canal’

Licensed NYC tour guide Joseph Alexiou walked me along the symphonically stinky Gowanus Canal and discussed his new book, Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal.  Hear my WNYC story here.gowanus.jpg

The Making of ‘The Book of the Year’

city_on_fireIf you’ve clicked through any “best books of the year” lists– like The New York Times‘, the Wall Street Journal‘s, NPR ‘s, or the Atlantic‘s–  you may have noticed a title which made all of them: City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg.

The buzz around City on Fire began back in 2013, when Knopf acquired it for nearly $2 million. Once it’s invested big in a book, how does a publisher ensure that it succeeds?

My story on the push to make City on Fire a blockbuster success airs on WNYC today and tomorrow.

 

From Bangladesh to Brooklyn: Tanwi Nandini Islam’s ‘Bright Lines’

IMG_5360Novelist Tanwi Nandini Islam and I wandered through Brooklyn and talked block parties, miniskirts, the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, and “wish-fulfillment” in her novel Bright Lines.

Here’s her story, which aired on WNYC last week:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/bangladesh-brooklyn-tanwi-nadini-islams-bright-lines/

Brooklyn Book Festival: WNYC’s Book Swap Beer Spectacular

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Join me Thursday, September 17th at WNYC’s Greene Space for a night of beer, books, and conversation with special guest Naomi Jackson, author of The Star Side of Bird Hill. 

Details and tickets: http://www.thegreenespace.org/events/thegreenespace/2015/sep/17/book-swap-beer-spectacular/

Oreo: A Comeback Story

oreoMy story about Fran Ross’s all-but-forgotten 1974 novel Oreo aired on this week’s episode of On The Media.

I talked to Harryette Mullen, author of the afterword of the new edition of the book, and to Danzy Senna, author of the book’s new introduction, plus novelist Mat Johnson, and Duke African-American studies professor Mark Anthony Neal– all of whom are big fans of this strange and singular book.

Warning: Their excitement for Oreo is contagious.

Muslim/American: Storytelling

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Tomorrow night at The Greene Space, I’ll be hosting a conversation with three particularly brave and brilliant Muslim-American New Yorkers who have each made tremendous journeys– with their families, and alone; across the world, and deep into their own hearts.

Sadia Shepard is the author of The Girl from Foreign: A Memoir, in which she investigates her grandmother’s childhood among the Bene Israel, the small Jewish community she belonged to in Mumbai before converting to Islam when she married.

Comedian and performer Alaudin Ullah has been featured on HBO, Comedy Central, MTV, BET and PBS.  His one-man show “Dishwasher Dreams” is the story of how his father, a Bengali steamship worker, landed in New York in the 1920s.

Kenan Trebincevic was born in a town called Brcko in what today is Bosnia and Herzegovina to a Bosnian Muslim family in 1980.  He came to the United States in 1993 while his country was in the midst of war, went to college in Connecticut, and became an American citizen in 2001. He is the author of a memoir, The Bosnia List.  

UPDATE: Video of the event is now online! http://livestream.com/thegreenespace/events/4083076

Pulitzer Winner Gregory Pardlo on Life as a Poet in Bed-Stuy

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I recently spent a glorious spring afternoon with Gregory Pardlo, the winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize in poetry.  We chatted on his stoop, and then we walked to a few of the neighborhood spots that feature prominently in his poetry– including the Fulton Street Foodtown, which is the setting for his poem “Problema 3.”  There, we talked about Baltimore, Toya Graham and being a black parent. Hear my story for The Takeaway and listen to him read and discuss a few other poems on The Takeaway’s site.

UPDATE: A second version of the story I filed for the WNYC newsroom is now online too.  In it, we talk about the changing visual landscape of his neighborhood, and why his young daughters have mixed feelings about his Pulitzer.

Our Diaries, Ourselves

foldedclockI reviewed The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits and Ongoingness: The End of a Diary Sarah Manguso– and reflected on my own diary-keeping habits– over at The Los Angeles Review of Books.  The essay starts like this:

TODAY I DUG OUT an old diary from one of the large cardboard boxes that my husband and I never unpacked after our last move. It’s a spiral notebook with a multicolored cover. Thin lines of text, written in a black Pilot Precise pen, fill its pages, and my handwriting is narrow and mostly neat. The diary begins in the spring of 2005, a few months before I moved to New York. Flipping through it, I hoped to find some observation from my first hours, days, or weeks in New York — some early impression of the city that might foreshadow how the place would shape me.

Tales of Toxic Mushrooms and Dirty Bombs in New York

In jc-as-graphicmy latest piece for WNYC, novelists Jill Ciment and Adam Sternbergh reflect on New York real estate, iconic scary movies, and what it would take to bring the city to a standstill.

Sternbergh’s new book Near Enemy and Ciment’s novel Act of God each imagine strange disasters befalling a New York City of the future.

If you missed it on the radio, you can listen here.