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Life Story: Jon Mooallem & Casey Parks

Sat, Nov 5, 2022 from 10:45 am - 11:45 am PDT
1219 SW Park Ave Portland, OR 97205

General Admission Pass required for entry

Narrative journalism at its very best, with acclaimed essayist Jon Mooallem and award-winning journalist Casey Parks. Moderated by Melissa Febos, author of Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative.

Jon Mooallem’s powers of perception have established him as one of the most distinctive, empathic, and clear-sighted narrative journalists working today. The Wall Street Journal has called his writing “as much art as it is journalism,” and Jia Tolentino has praised his “grace and command.” In Serious Face, Mooallem brings to life the desperate hopes and urgent fears of the people he meets, telling their stories with empathy, humor, insight, and kindness. These elegant, moving essays form an idiosyncratic tapestry of human experience: our audacity and fallibility, our bumbling and goodwill. In moments of calamity and within the extreme absurdity of everyday life, can we learn to love the people we really are, behind the serious faces we show the world?

Diary of a Misfit is part art memoir, part sweeping journalistic saga: As Casey Parks follows the mystery of a stranger’s past, she is forced to reckon with her own sexuality, her fraught Southern identity, her tortured yet loving relationship with her mother, and the complicated role of faith in her life. Diary of a Misfit is the story of Parks’s life-changing journey to unravel the mystery of Roy Hudgins, the small-town country singer from grandmother’s youth, all the while confronting ghosts of her own. With an enormous heart and an unstinting sense of vulnerability, Parks writes about finding oneself through someone else’s story, and about forging connections across the gulfs that divide us.
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In Body Work, a bold and exhilarating mix of memoir and master class, Melissa Febos tackles the emotional, psychological, and physical work of writing intimately while offering an utterly fresh examination of the storyteller’s life and the questions which run through it. How might we go about capturing on the page the relationships that have formed us? How do we write about our bodies, their desires and traumas? What does it mean for an author’s way of writing, or living, to be dismissed as “navel-gazing”—or else hailed as “so brave, so raw”? And to whom, in the end, do our most intimate stories belong?


Portland Book Festival General Admission Passes are required for entry into all events. Passes are $15 in advance and $25 day of Festival. Youth 17 & under, or with a valid high school ID get in FREE. All full-priced General Admission Passes include a $5 book fair voucher and entry into Portland Art Museum. Passes admit attendees to the Festival; individual events are first-come, first-served. More info here.

Jon Mooallem

Jon Mooallem is a longtime writer for The New York Times Magazine and a contributor to lots of other magazines and podcasts, including This American Life, The Daily, 99% Invisible and WiredSerious Face is his third book. His previous book This is Chance! was named a best book of 2020 by BuzzFeed, Amazon and The Marginalian and is currently being adapted into a film by writer-director Ol Parker. His first book, Wild Ones, was chosen as a best book of 2013 by The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, and Canada’s National Post, among others. Jon performs regularly at Pop-Up Magazine and occasionally collaborates on live storytelling and music projects with members of the Decemberists. He lives on Bainbridge Island with his family.
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Casey Parks

Casey Parks is a Washington Post reporter who covers gender and family issues. She was previously a staff reporter at the Jackson Free Press and spent a decade at The Oregonian, where she wrote about race and LGBTQ+ issues and was a finalist for the Livingston Award. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times MagazineThe New YorkerOxford AmericanESPNUSA TODAY, and The Nation. A former Spencer fellow at Columbia University, Parks was most recently awarded the 2021 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for her work on Diary of a Misfit. Parks lives in Portland.
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Melissa Febos

Melissa Febos is the bestselling author of four books, including Girlhood—LAMBDA Award finalist and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative. Her fifth book, The Dry Season, is forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf. Her awards and fellowships include those from the Guggenheim Foundation, LAMBDA Literary, the National Endowment for the Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The British Library, The Black Mountain Institute, MacDowell, the Bogliasco Foundation, and others. Her work has recently appeared in The Paris Review, The Sun, The New York Times Magazine, Kenyon Review, The Best American Essays, Vogue, and New York Review of Books. Febos is an associate professor at the University of Iowa and lives in Iowa City with her wife, the poet Donika Kelly.
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