Opening General Session
Michael Eric Dyson opens the conference on a high note as part of the conference's Opening General Session, where the ALA President and others welcome you to ALA Annual Conference and set the stage for the coming days.
Named by Essence magazine as one of the 50 most inspiring African Americans in the U.S., Dyson was recommended by the ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to open the 2016 ALA Annual Conference because he provides some of the most significant commentary on contemporary social and intellectual thought, interwoven with cultural criticism, race theory, religion, philosophical reflection and gender studies. Taking on tough and controversial issues, Dyson—one of the nation's most renowned public intellectuals—is the author of 17 books including the American Book Award-winning Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster, a New York Times op-ed contributor, an MSNBC political analyst, and former host of NPR’s The Michael Eric Dyson Show. His most recent book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, is provoking wide and engaged discussion.
Dyson, a Georgetown University professor, bridges gaps between generations, connecting civil rights identity to hip-hop culture, and forging links between older and younger Americans, especially black Americans. As a cutting-edge historian, he reaches beyond race, addressing the universal commonality of American concern. Other recent topics have included racial profiling and its impact on black America, and Dr. King for the 21st Century.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt with the ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Auditorium Speaker Series
A rare opportunity to hear leading authors, thought-leaders, and experts from adult and youth fiction, technology, popular culture, and other areas in these stimulating general sessions on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Margaret Atwood is the award-winning author of more than 40 books of fiction, poetry, children’s literature, and critical essays, including The Handmaid’s Tale, the Booker Prize-winning The Blind Assassin, The Heart Goes Last , and the MaddAddam trilogy that began with the Man-Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake, continued with The Year of the Flood, and ended with MaddAddam. Her forthcoming book, The Tempest, (October 2016) is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project that sees Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today. Atwood has consistently named William Shakespeare as one of the most important influences on her own work. Her first encounters with him took place in the 1950s at her Toronto high school. “The Tempest is, in some ways, an early multi-media musical,” she says. “If Shakespeare were working today he’d be using every special effect technology now makes available. But The Tempest is especially intriguing because of the many questions it leaves unanswered. What a strenuous pleasure it has been to wrestle with it!”
Atwood’s work has been published in more than 40 languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic, and Estonian, and she has won many international awards. She has served as President of the Writers’ Union of Canada, President of the Canadian Centre (English Speaking) of PEN International , is a current Vice-President of PEN International, and has also worked as a cartoonist, illustrator, librettist, playwright, and puppeteer.
Penguin Random House
Remarkable teen entrepreneur and activist Maya Penn’s TEDWomen Talk has been viewed more than 1,200,000 million times (and is one of the top 15 TEDWomen Talks of all time). She has already given three TED Talks, created her own eco-friendly fashion line, developed animated films, is an award-winning philanthropist, a girls’ rights and environmental activist, and an artist, coder, illustrator, and writer.
She is the CEO of Maya’s Ideas, a company she started in 2008 when she was just eight years old; 10-20% of the profits go to local and global charities and environmental organizations. Her nonprofit, Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet, contributes to girls in developing countries. She also helps girls pursue their passions in technology and STEM fields.
Penn has been featured in Forbes, Time, NPR, CNN, O Magazine, Essence, The View, The Steve Harvey Show, Huffington Post, The NRDC, Entrepreneur Magazine, Wired, Black Enterprise, Cosmopolitan, Ebony, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and many other publications. In her forthcoming inspirational handbook, You Got This! Unleash Your Awesomeness, Find Your Path, and Change Your World (April 2016, North Star Way), Penn shares her journey and provides a creative blueprint for teens and young adults, along with the tools she has used to build an authentic, exciting, successful, and connected life.
Simon & Schuster
Nonfiction, suspense novels for adults, children’s books, comic books, and TV shows, and 2016 Honorary Chair of ALA’s Preservation Week—the multi-talented New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer does them all and more. A core belief underpins and runs through each of his projects: ordinary people change the world. He was recently added by The Hollywood Reporter to their list of Hollywood’s 25 Most Powerful Authors, and his television work includes hosting the History Channel shows “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” and “Lost History,” and co-creating “Jack and Bobby.”
Heroes are important to Meltzer, and he has been inspired by wanting his own children to have better heroes to look up to as he encourages them to dream big, one great role model at a time. His collectible picture book biography series Ordinary People Change the World carries the message that we can all be heroes. Heroes for My Son, Heroes for My Daughter are collections that he’s been working on since his children were born, and his newest illustrated children’s books include I Am Amelia Earhart and I Am Abraham Lincoln (to be followed later this year by Lucille Ball and Helen Keller).
Meltzer’s comic books include Justice League of America, for which he won the Eisner Award. His suspense novels for adults include the latest political thriller, The President’s Shadow. His newest nonfiction is History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. Based on his wide-ranging knowledge and research, the Department of Homeland Security recruited Meltzer to brainstorm different ways that terrorists might attack the US. His books have spent over a year on bestseller lists, and have been translated into more than 25 languages, from Hebrew to Bulgarian.
Penguin Young Readers
Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five and with the support of her parents, she transitioned to life as a girl. A year later, her first Barbara Walters interview aired, at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series—I Am Jazz—making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.
In her remarkable memoir, Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, (June, 2016), Jennings reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape mainstream attitudes toward the transgender community. She has faced challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen and learns to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence—particularly high school—complicated by the unique challenges of being transgender. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy—especially when you began your life in a boy’s body. Throughout, her family has supported her and stood against those who don't understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love.
Jennings, who hosts a series of videos about her life on YouTube, was named to Time’s Most Influential Teens list two years in a row, was one of Huffington Post’s 14 Most Fearless Teens, and was the youngest person ever featured on Out’s Out 100, as well as on Advocate’s 40 Under 40 list. In 2014, she was named a Human Rights Campaign Youth Ambassador and received LogoTV’s Youth Trailblazer Award.
Random House Children's Books
Actress, author, talk show host, activist, and philanthropist Holly Robinson Peete has devoted her life and career to autism awareness. Most recently she has co-authored the timely young adult novel Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express with her 18-year-old twins Ryan Elizabeth and RJ, addressing the challenges and triumphs of being a teen living with autism and the effects on family, school, friends and life. Ryan Elizabeth and RJ will join their mother in this Auditorium Speaker program.
Through alternating fictional narratives based on their own lives, Ryan Elizabeth and RJ, who has autism, reveal honestly what it means to be a teen living with autism. Same But Different explores the funny, painful, and unexpected aspects of teen autism while daring to address issues not usually talked about, underscoring tolerance, love, and the understanding that everybody’s unique drumbeat is worth dancing to.
Since 2000, when Peete learned of RJ’s autism diagnosis, she has worked tirelessly to help families everywhere who are raising children with autism. With her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, she founded the HollyRod Foundation, dedicated to offering help through compassionate care to families living with autism and Parkinson’s disease. Her picture book about living with autism, My Brother Charlie, co-written with Ryan Elizabeth and illustrated by Shane Evans, received an NAACP Image Award.
Ryan Elizabeth Peete is a college student and avid world traveler who has devoted herself to advocacy for children with special needs. Rodney Jackson Peete, “RJ,” serves as a mentor at the Los Angeles Speech and Language Therapy Center, where he provides support and help to young people like himself on the autism spectrum. The Peetes invite viewers into their bustling family life in the docuseries For Peete’s Sake, premiering on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, in March 2016.
Join ALA President Sari Feldman for the ALA Awards followed by the president's selected guest speaker, Diane Guerrero, always a highlight of the conference.
“America's libraries have advanced the American Dream by providing services and resources that welcome and support all immigrants,” says ALA President Sari Feldman, who looks forward to welcoming Guerrero to her program. “Diane Guerrero's personal story is a powerful reminder of the library's essential role in creating individual opportunity and community progress.”
Well known as an actress on the hit shows Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, Guerrero also volunteers with the nonprofit Immigrant Legal Resource Center and in 2015 was named a White House Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization. An outspoken advocate for commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform, Guerrero was taken in by other Colombian families in Boston after the rest of her family was deported without warning to Colombia when she was 14. She has worked with Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Mi Familia Vota, a nonpartisan Latino civic engagement organization, to promote citizenship and voter registration.
Guerrero, who has a degree in political science and communication as well as studying vocal music, has appeared on numerous TV series and in feature films. In 2015, Variety named her one of the top 10 Latina actresses to watch, and she received a Screen Actors Guild award for her role as Maritza Ramos on the award-winning Netflix series, Orange is the New Black. Her forthcoming memoir, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, will be published in May 2016 by Henry Holt & Co.
Henry Holt & Co. / Macmillan
Closing General Session
The Closing General Session is a not-to-miss event, where current ALA President Sari Feldman will pass the gavel to the 2016-17 ALA President Julie Todaro and introduce new Division Presidents, and an exciting, high-profile speaker will close out the conference. The Closing General Session will be immediately followed by the elegant Inaugural Brunch, 11:45am - 1:45pm.
Award-winning actress and New York Times bestselling children’s author Jamie Lee Curtis will close out the 2016 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition after current ALA President Sari Feldman passes the gavel to the 2016-2017 ALA President Julie Todaro and introduces the new ALA Division Presidents.
A Golden Globe and BAFTA Award winner, Curtis has starred in many films including True Lies, A Fish Called Wanda, Trading Places, and Halloween. Most recently, she returned to her horror roots as a lead in the TV series Scream Queens, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. Curtis always works with illustrator Laura Cornell on her children’s books, which address core childhood subjects and life lessons in a playful, accessible way. She was inspired to write the first one, When I Was Little: A Four-Year Old's Memoir of Her Youth, by her then-four-year-old daughter's boast that she was no longer "little.” Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born is a celebration of adoption and the start of a new family, inspired by the adoption of her own two children. Her other titles include the New York Times bestseller Today I Feel Silly, and Other Moods That Make My Day. Curtis and Cornell’s next book, This Is Me: The Story of Who We Are and Where we Came From (Workman, September 2016), brings her whimsical verse to the subject of immigration and identity. In other writing activities, she blogs for The Huffington Post. She is a staunch supporter of children's hospitals and their advocacy efforts, and is also involved in the work of the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation.