A visit from Brit Bennett



Maria McGreary

The Literary Festival continued Thursday, Feb 14 with a reading by Brit Bennett, whose debut novel “Mothers” earned her a spot in National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” 2016 list of promising young novelists. 

“I was trying to find something in this book to read about love, but there is a lot of heartbreak in here,” the author said on Valentine’s Day. “So that might not work out.”

In her introduction of the author, undergraduate student Katie Rose Scoboria called the novel, “an extraordinary book about ordinary lives, and more importantly ordinary black lives.”

Bennett’s novel enters on Nadia Turner, a teenage girl mourning the death of her mother who ends up pregnant by Luke, the pastor’s son and football star. The novel follows Nadia, Luke, and Nadia’s best friend Aubrey into adulthood, where the decisions of their youth continue to impact them.

Her 2014 essay, “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People” published in Jezebel put Bennett on the map, and since she has written for “The New Yorker,” “The New York Times Magazine” and “The Paris Review.” A graduate of Stanford University, Bennett earned her MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan and has written for. She began writing Mothers as a teenager, and finished while in graduate school.

“It took me a while to figure out what the book was essentially about,” Bennett said.

For Bennett, entering the modern literary world has been an adjustment. “Authors are now perhaps expected to be more accessible than ever before,” she said. Previously, fan mail would be received and filtered by the publisher, but through social media, fans can contact authors more directly. “I will have people slide into my DMs to say something about the book,” the author joked.

Bennett has already finished the first draft of her second novel, which is set in the mid-20th century and will be more generationally expansive. The first draft, she says, is her favorite part of the process, like “moving the doll around the dollhouse.”

The Literary Festival will continue on March 14 with a reading by 2017 Heimbold Chair and playwright, Owen McCafferty.