Featured Speakers

Opening Session

Friday, January 20, 2017 - 4:00pm to 5:15pm
W Kamau Bell

Described by the New York Times as “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years,” acclaimed comedian and hit podcast host W. Kamau Bell describes himself as a “Socio-Political Comedian & Dad.” He has been voted San Francisco’s best comedian by the SF Weekly, the SF Bay Guardian, and 7×7 Magazine, and praised by Punchline Magazine as “one of our nation’s most adept racial commentators with a blistering wit.”

“Bell’s gimmick is intersectional progressivism: he treats racial, gay, and women’s issues as inseparable,” according to The New Yorker. His many roles include hosting the docu-series “United Shades of America,” the public radio show “Kamau Right Now!” and co-hosting the podcasts: “Politically Re-Active” and “Denzel Washington is The Greatest Actor of All Time Period.” He performs his one-man show, “The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour” at colleges across the country, has appeared on various Comedy Central programs, and his writing has been published in VanityFair.com, Salon, MSNBC.com, Buzzfeed, and The Hollywood Reporter.

His memoir and manifesto, titled The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’4”, African-American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Black, Proud, and Asthmatic Blerd, Mama’s Boy, B-Student, and Stand-up Comedian, will be released in May, 2017. The book will be a humorous, well-informed take on the world today, tackling issues such as race relations, fatherhood, the state of law enforcement, superheroes, politics, and many other issues. 

Bell is the ACLU’s Ambassador of Racial Justice and serves on the advisory boards of Race Forward, a racial justice think tank, and Hollaback, a non-profit movement to end street harassment. 

Photo Credit: John Novak/ © Cable News Network, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.

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Auditorium Speaker Series

Saturday, January 21, 2017 - 10:00am to 11:00am
Susan TanLeUyen PhamScott Westerfeld

Promising a lively conversation in this special Auditorium Speakers session, bestselling illustrator and authors LeUyen Pham, Susan Tan, and Scott Westerfeld join moderator Daniel Kraus.

LeUyen Pham is the bestselling illustrator of The Princess in Black series with Shannon and Dean Hale.  She wrote and illustrated Big Sister, Little Sister and The Bear Who Wasn’t There and is the illustrator of many other picture books, including The Boy Who Loved Math.

Debut author Susan Tan grew up in a mixed-race family, and like Cilla, the heroine of her enthusiastically received new novel, was bald until the age of five. Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire is a middle-grade novel about a biracial Asian American girl who dreams of becoming a famous, bestselling author, but first has to deal with the arrival of a new sibling and the differences between the two sides of her family.

Scott Westerfeld is the author of 18 novels (five for adults, 13 for young adults), including the worldwide bestselling Uglies series and the Locus Award–winning Leviathan series. He is co-author of the Zeroes trilogy, and his other novels include the New York Times bestseller Afterworlds, The Last Days, Peeps, So Yesterday, and the Midnighters trilogy. In 2017 he will publish the graphic novel The Spill Zone set in the near future Poughkeepsie, NY.

Moderator Daniel Kraus is the Booklist Books for Youth Editor and himself the award-winning author of such novels as Rotters, Scowler, and The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch

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Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture

Saturday, January 21, 2017 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Ryan Gravel

Ryan Gravel, urban visionary, planner, designer, and author of Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities, is the award-winning creator of the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile transit greenway that will ultimately connect 40 diverse Atlanta neighborhoods to city schools, shopping districts, and public parks. He presents an exciting pitch for how to make cities the kinds of places where we truly want to live, and argues that we can take the future into our own hands and improve our way of life by remodeling cities with better infrastructure to reconnect both neighborhoods and people.

Through his work on site design, infrastructure, concept development, and public policy as the founding principal at Sixpitch, Gravel also investigates the cultural side of infrastructure, and in Where We Want to Live, describes what these projects mean and why they matter. A compelling case for our capacity to address challenges that result from sprawl, traffic, divided neighborhoods, inequality, and both rapid growth and declining economies is made by the Atlanta Beltline, which has seen record-breaking use of its first section of mainline trail and $2.4 billion of private sector redevelopment since 2005.

Gravel’s work has been covered in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Monocle, CityLab, CNN International, USA Today, Esquire Magazine and others. Among his numerous awards and honors, he has been listed among the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine, the GOOD 100 by GOOD Magazine, “Visionary Bureaucrat” by Streetsblog, and “Top 25 Newsmakers” of 2011 by Engineering News-Record. He received an “Emerging Voices” citation from the AIA-Atlanta, 2011 and was identified in 2006 by Esquire Magazine as one of the “Best & Brightest.” His TEDx presentation provides a global overview of his work.

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Auditorium Speaker Series

Sunday, January 22, 2017 - 10:00am to 11:00am
Annette Gordon-Reed

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and law professor Annette Gordon-Reed, author of several books including The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and most recently “Most Blessed of Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (with Peter S. Onuf), is Sunday Auditorium Speaker. Her persistent investigation into the life of an iconic American president has dramatically changed the course of Jeffersonian scholarship, and in disentangling the complicated history of two distinct founding families’ interracial bloodlines, she offers an authentic portrayal of our colonial past.

Gordon-Reed was fascinated from childhood by the Jefferson family, and began a comprehensive re-examination of the evidence about the rumored committed relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. She has continued her inquiry into colonial interracial relations through several books since her first one, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. She is currently the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School, a professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Her honors include a fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award, and the Woman of Power & Influence Award from the National Organization for Women in New York City. Gordon-Reed was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and is a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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ALA President's Program

Sunday, January 22, 2017 - 3:30pm to 5:30pm
Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander—poet, educator, and award-winning, bestselling author of 24 books for children of all ages, including the 2015 Newbery Medal-winning The Crossover, the New York Times bestselling novel, Booked, and the forthcoming collection of personal essays and basketball rules, The Playbook—joins ALA President Julie Todaro as speaker on the President’s Program. 

You can look forward to hearing how Alexander’s work is inspired by his belief that poetry can change the world, and how he uses poetry to inspire and empower young people all over the world. His latest project pairs his uplifting poetry with more than 100 stunning photos of the world’s endangered animals in the photo-illustrated book Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures. The poetry and photographs by acclaimed National Geographic photographer and founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark Joel Sartore, speak to children of the importance of conservation and the beauty of the animal kingdom. Animal Ark is inspired by The Photo Ark, a multiyear effort with Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every animal species under human care, with special attention given to those facing extinction.

Alexander, a regular speaker at schools and conferences, recently served as the Bank Street College of Education Center for Children's Literature's Inaugural Dorothy Carter Writer-in-Residence. He leads an annual delegation of writers, educators, and activists to Ghana, as part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded that builds libraries and provides literacy professional development for teachers. He also travels widely to other places such as Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, and Shanghai to share his love of literature.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance and Sunrise Celebration

Monday, January 23, 2017 - 6:30am to 7:30am
Dr. Daina Ramey Berry

The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance and Sunrise Celebration commemorates Dr. King's legacy and recognizes the connection between his life's work and the library world. Join leaders from across ALA and the library profession for a reading of selected passages from the collected work and speeches of Dr. King. Gain a new perspective on Dr. King’s legacy and social justice from an always-engaging keynote speaker, and be inspired to bring these lessons into the everyday work of librarianship through the energizing Call-to-Action address, delivered by a notable leader and advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion in the library profession.

Acclaimed historian Dr. Daina Ramey Berry will deliver the keynote address for the 2017 Celebration.  Dr. Berry is Associate Professor of History and African and African Diaspora Studies and the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Fellow in History at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Berry is a specialist in the history of gender and slavery in the United States with a particular emphasis on the social and economic history of the nineteenth century. Her forthcoming book, “The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from the Womb to the Grave, in the Building of a Nation” offers a groundbreaking look at slaves as commodities through every phase of life, from birth to death and beyond, in early America. (Beacon Press, January 2017)

In addition to her scholarly writing and editing, Dr. Berry has appeared on several syndicated radio and television shows including NPR, NBC, PBS, C-SPAN, and the History Channel. Professor Berry's research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Association of University Women, the Ford Foundation, and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Dr. Berry's participation is generously made possible by Beacon Press.

Dr. Berry will be joined by Call-to-Action speaker Patricia M.Y. (Patty) Wong, County Librarian of the Yolo County (Calif.) Library System. Wong’s decades-long career, from her early days as a children’s librarian in Oakland to her present position as County Librarian and Chief Archivist for Yolo County and member leader in the California Library Association, the Ethnic Affiliates, and ALA, has borne witness to her tireless commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion and community-centered engagement.

Coffee, tea, and light refreshments will be served. Attendance is free and open to all Midwinter attendees.

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Closing Session

Monday, January 23, 2017 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Neil Patrick Harris

Don’t miss this magic! Adding young readers’ author to his list of accomplishments—actor, producer, director, host, author, and magician—Neil Patrick Harris joins us to close out the Midwinter Meeting. Harris is a five-time Emmy Award winner and winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. A celebrated awards host, he hosted the 87th Annual Academy Awards in 2015. His first book was published in 2014--Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography—a structurally innovative memoir that is “a revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/ personality/ carbon-based-life-form.”

The Magic Misfits (Fall 2017, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) is Harris’s middle-grade debut. Well known for his creative genius on the screen, stage, and page, with this latest endeavor he combines his passion as a magic enthusiast with his more recent experiences as a parent to craft a series that will inspire and entertain kids. “Books are awesome. Reading and books have become a mainstay in my family, and they have gotten me thinking in a new way about the power of storytelling,” he commented. “Playing with elements of magic, adventure, and friendship, The Magic Misfits is the kind of series that would have thrilled me as a kid, and I hope it does just that for today’s young readers.” 

Harris served as President of the Academy of Magical Arts from 2011–2014, won the Tannen's Magic Louis Award in 2006, and hosted the 2008 World Magic Awards. He directed the highly acclaimed intimate illusion show Nothing to Hide, featuring two award-winning magicians, in both Los Angeles and New York. He most recently served as host and Executive Producer of NBC’s live variety series Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris and will next be seen starring as Count Olaf in the Netflix’s original series “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

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