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Troy Johnson Recommends Book Events for May 2017

In this conversation, Troy Johnson, President, AALBC, talks with Ruth J. Morrison, CEO and Executive Producer, What's The 411TV, about the upcoming book and literary events in New York City during the latter part of April and May 2017:

  • PEN World’s Festival a week-long celebration of authors from all over the world
  • Queens Book Festival
  • Bronx Book Festival
  • BookExpo America, North America’s largest book industry event, May 31 – June 2, 2017
  • BookCon immediately follows BEA in New York City on June 3-4, 2017. Kevin Hart is one of the headlining authors scheduled to attend BookCon 2017.


What’s The 411TV Partners with AALBC

Celebrating African-American 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners

Troy Johnson, President, African-American Literature Book Club (, one of the largest repositories of Black books, literature, book news, authors, partnered with What’s The 411TV to bring information about Black books, authors, events, and book news from the United States and globally, to the What’s The 411TV audience via its media properties of television, websites, podcasts, social media, and online video distribution platforms. The relationship will be an opportunity to be a platform for sharing stories, celebrating, and uplifting the Black community via Black Literature.

In this first segment, Johnson recognizes this year’s African-American Pulitzer Prize winners. The Pulitzer Prize dates back to 1917. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize, which she won in 1950 for her book of poems, Annie Allen. James Alan McPherson became the second African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first to win for fiction, when he won in 1978, for Elbow Room.

Fast-forward to this year (2017), four African-American writers won Pulitzer Prizes in their respective areas. Tyehimba Jess, who teaches at the College of Staten Island (CUNY), won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Olio, a collection of his sonnets, songs, and narratives that highlight the lives of "unrecorded African-American performers" before the Civil War up to World War I.

Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 2016 novel, The Underground Railroad. The novel tells the story of a teenage heroine, Cora, in 1850s Georgia who tries to escape a cotton plantation and start her journey toward freedom. Whitehead also won a 2016 National Book Award for fiction for The Underground Railroad.

Lynn Nottage joins the ranks of writers like August Wilson, who have won multiple Pulitzer Prizes. Nottage won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for her Broadway show Sweat. According to Playbill, Nottage is the first female playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize twice. On the day of this taping, Nottage also received a Tony nomination for Sweat, which is her Broadway debut.

Hilton Als, a theater critic for the New Yorker, won a Pulitzer Prize in criticism. Als’ work often focuses on the intersections of theater, race, identity, sexuality and class in the United States.

African-Americans in Book Industry Gather for 9th Annual Black Pack Party

Londel's in Harlem, the site for the Black Pack aka Blacks in the Book Industry Party

This year marks the 9th year of the Black Pack Party, which is held during Book Expo America, the largest book industry forum in North America. The gathering is an opportunity for publishing professionals to mix, mingle, and trade book industry news and insights. I have attended the Black Pack Party only once before, several years ago, when it was also held at Londel's. This year, just as then, the restaurant was jam-packed, vibrantly buzzing like a well-syncopated harmony. The event is presented annually by Linda Duggins, Michelle Gibson (Written Magazine), Troy Johnson (, and a different guest host every year.

I caught sight of Blood Sweat and Heels reality star and author Demetria Lucas D'Oyley, who is also well-known for her A Belle in Brooklyn blog, along with several authors whose works I plan to explore:

Black-Pack-Party Demetria-Lucas-DOyley-and-another-author-at-Londels 05272015 650x867Blood Sweat and Heels reality star and author Demetria Lucas D'Oyley (right), who is also well-known for her A Belle in Brooklyn blog


Black-Pack-Party Victoria-Christopher-Murray Luvon-Roberson-at-Londels 05272015 650x645Photo left to right: Victoria Christopher Murray, author of Stand Your Ground and 20 more books; and What's The 411 Book Editor, Luvon Roberson

Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of more than 20 books and her upcoming release, Stand Your Ground, has received a Library Journal starred review. The new novel centers on two women facing the same tragedy. A black teenage boy is dead. A white man shot him. Was he standing his ground or was it murder?  

K. Edwards makes her debut as an author with Five Nincompoops, the Princess and One Saviour,  a story of love, marriage, and looking for “the one,” told through the hilarious yet sometimes painful life experiences of Princess 

In her novel, Divergent Lives, Minnie Lahongrais tells us about RJ and Adina, who enter the world as fraternal twins, one raised by old-world, controlling immigrants in El Barrio, the other sold into a religious home filled with lies and scorn. 


Black-Pack-Party Minnie-Lahongrais Luvon-Roberson-at-Londels 05272015 650x867Photo left to right: Minnie Lahongrais, author of Divergent Lives, with What's The 411 Book Editor, Luvon Roberson

Scanning the crowded space, I see a PR maven who says he knows Black Pack Party's presenter Duggins from their college days and introduces me to her. Duggins, Senior Director of Publicity at Grand Central Publishing, not only graciously offers me an overview of the annual event, but also connects me with Adrienne Ingrum, Senior Manuscript Editor at Hachette, and other professionals in the publishing industry.

Black-Pack-Party Linda-Duggins luvon-Robers-at-Londels 05272015 650x867Photo left to right: What's The 411 Book Editor, Luvon Roberson; and Linda Duggins, Senior Director of Publicity at Grand Central Publishing

That kind of mixing and mingling is what keeps the Black Pack Party a must-attend event during Book Expo America. Indeed, not even the sudden rain shower could dampen the buzz of excitement and purpose of this gathering of book lovers and publishing industry pros. Perhaps many see the event as a rare opportunity to be in-community and key to helping make #WeNeedDiverseBooks a reality. 

For more about The Black Pack Party, visit:

For information about Book Expo America -- North America's largest gathering of book trade professionals attracting an international audience – visit BEA website:

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