This was my third year attending the Brooklyn Book Festival–and I feel like this was the year I got it right (except for the part where I wore new shoes that gave me blisters and kinda crushed my toes). This year I was able to attend as a representative of The Feminist Press–an ambassador of literary feminism, if you will. My press exhibited, had one of our authors (the lovely Bridgett Davis, author of Into the Go-Slow) on a panel, and our publisher and captain of the good ship feminism, Jennifer Baumgardner, moderated a panel (more on that later).
Our books sold like gangbusters, and we were able to promote and sell our featured fall titles: But Some of Us Are Brave, The Feminist Utopia Project, and The Raging Skillet. Not only that, but we connected with all the other fine indie publishers (shout out to Curbside Splendor, our pal from Book Expo America, and Featherproof Books, our new comrades whom we will exhibit with at the AWP conference next spring).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about standing in front of a sign that says “feminist” is the people who are drawn to our table, both good and bad. We met many wonderful and supportive people, one woman even approached us and said, “Hello sisters.” But even more interesting (or disturbing) are the less than kind responses to our press’s mission:
1.) One gentleman described the blog he edits that includes articles about “men’s rights.”
2.) One gentleman said, “You know, it’s not only women who get breast cancer.” (We had no signs, no proclamations saying anything about breast cancer, so this one really came out of left field).
3.) One gentleman looked at our anthology $pread, which details life in the sex industry and gives sex workers a voice, and said, “This reminds me of a joke: what did the sign say at the new whorehouse? ‘Grand opening.'” My co-workers and I stared blankly at him until he walked away.
Those minor instances of out of touch people aside, working at the booth was a lot of fun. So was attending the panel moderated by Jennifer called “Repression and Revolution,” which featured authors Thomas Page McBee, author of Man Alive, Mona Eltahway, author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, and Melissa Gira Grant, author of Playing the Whore. Each panelist represented some hot button item in the political/feminist sphere: transgender rights, Muslim feminists’ rights, and sex workers’ rights, respectively. The conversation was lively and thought-provoking and left the audience with the call to action to remember that feminism is for all people.
My personal favorite line of the panel came from Mona: “Fuck you. I don’t need you to liberate me.” I should probably put that on a t-shirt.
Until next year, Brooklyn Book Festival.