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What Makes a Critic?

May 6, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Much has changed in the world of letters since 1890, when Oscar Wilde famously wrote that “the critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.” These days, when Goodreads reviews and social media takedowns outnumber dwindling book review publications and shrinking newspaper book pages, what role does professional criticism still play, and how can aspiring critics best prepare to engage in the literary discourse? The National Book Critics Circle’s Emerging Critics Fellowship seeks to identify, nurture, and support the development of the next generation of book critics. In this session, recent Emerging Critics—Yohanca Delgado, Ricardo Jaramillo, Jonathan Leal, Antonio López, and Maisie Wiltshire-Gordon—will reflect on their own development as critics and discuss what the next generation of book critics will bring to the table, in a conversation moderated by NBCC President Heather Partington.

Find the event on the Bay Area Book Festival website here.

Yohanca Delgado is a 2021-2023 Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University and a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts recipient. Her recent fiction appears in The Best American Short Stories 2022, The O. Henry Prize Stories 2022The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021, The Paris Review, One Story, A Public Space, Story, and elsewhere. Her recent essays appear in TIME, The Believer, and New York Times Magazine. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from American University and is a graduate of the 2019 Clarion workshop.

Ricardo Jaramillo is a poet and writer from Philadelphia. His work has been published in the New York Times, The Believer, and The Rumpus, among other places. He was an inaugural 2021 PERIPLUS fellow, and a 2019-2020 Fulbright teaching fellow at La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City. Currently, he works as a case manager at a school for immigrant youth in the Oakland Unified School District.

Jonathan Leal is an author, composer, and researcher based in Los Angeles. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley, a South Texas region located at the border of the United States and Mexico, Jonathan works as an artist-scholar to create writing and collaborative arts projects that grapple with issues of borders and memory, place and belonging, technology and aesthetics, and creative and political practices. His musical projects have been featured in Pitchfork, Democracy Now!Texas MonthlyRemezclaLatino USA, and elsewhere, and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of BooksThe RumpusSan Francisco Classical Voice, and elsewhere. He is the author of Dreams in Double Time (forthcoming August 2023 from Duke University Press) and co-editor of Cybermedia: Explorations in Science, Sound, and Vision (Bloomsbury 2021). A former Emerging Critic with the National Book Critics Circle (2018–2019), Jonathan holds a PhD in Modern Thought & Literature from Stanford University and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Southern California.

Antonio López is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop and a CantoMundo Fellow. He holds degrees from Duke University, Rutgers-Newark, and the University of Oxford. He is pursuing a PhD in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University. His debut poetry collection, Gentefication, was selected by Gregory Pardlo as the winner of the 2019 Levis Prize in Poetry. Antonio is currently fighting gentrification in his hometown as the newest and youngest council member for the City of East Palo Alto.

Maisie Wiltshire-Gordon is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric at UC Berkeley, an interdisciplinary humanities department. Her dissertation asks how a novel’s formal choices are also ethical ones: how texts (especially modernist novels) express an ethical position, and position us ethically. Before Berkeley, she wrote middle school math curricula and then worked in strategy consulting.

Moderator Heather Scott Partington is a writer, teacher, and book critic. She is president of the National Book Critics Circle, also served as the Vice President in charge of the Emerging Critics program and was one of the NBCC’s first cohort of Emerging Critics. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Alta Journal, among other publications. She lives in Elk Grove, California.


May 6, 2023
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Residence Inn Berkeley – Ballroom 2
2121 Center St
Berkeley, CA 94704 United States
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