The BKBF Interview debuts with Tayari Jones

We are excited to introduce The BKBF Interview, an ongoing series of Q&As with some of this year’s featured authors. Authors will share their favorite books, reflect on who turned them into readers, and plan the Brooklyn Book Festival event they’d most like to see. Join us each week as we prepare for September!

Where is your favorite place to read? I love to read on airplanes. I don’t even bother with the movies or games. As soon as we take off, I order a ginger ale and slip into a good novel—hardcover, preferably.

What is your favorite book to give an adult or a child? I have bought so many copies of Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears to give to little kids. I have even given copies to random children on the subway. When I was about five I read it so frequently that I memorized it. To this day, I can perform the last five pages without looking.

Tell us your best book-receiving experience. I would love to tell you about it, but it involves a lot of subterfuge and secretive handoffs. But here is the best I can do without compromising my sources. The book in question isn’t quite a book, it’s more like a limited edition broadside. The prose is by [REDACTED] with artwork by [REDACTED]. Apparently, the writer and the artist were great friends when the broadside was created and by the time it was produced, not so much. All the broadsides were destroyed, except one. (Probably more like five or six.) But anyway, [REDACTED] smuggled it out of a supply closet at a Midwestern university and presented it to me on my birthday. (I am so glad he didn’t propose at that moment because I would have said yes, and basically ruined my life) Anyway, the broadside is in my safety deposit box in Jersey City because I am scared to show it to anyone.

What books are currently piled in your “To Be Read” stack and where can the stack be found in your home? Halsey Street by Naima Coster, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, Where The Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward, and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

What book puts in you that “back to school” state of mind? When I was a kid, I would revisit Charlotte’s Web, which is essentially an elegiac love letter to summer. But now, I am a professor myself and I love novels set in the academy. Of these, Dear Committee Members is my absolute favorite.

Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, including Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, and Leaving Atlanta. Her most recent novel, An American Marriage, was a 2018 selection for Oprah’s Book Club. She serves on the MFA faculty at Rutgers and blogs on writing. She is spending the 2017-18 academic year as the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


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