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Speak Now: Arya Shahi & Jen St. Jude

PBF Pass

November 4, 2023 @ 4:45 pm - 5:45 pm

Portland Parks Foundation Park Tent

Arya Shahi‘s An Impossible Thing to Say is a bold novel-in-verse starring a Persian American teen navigating his first crush, his family’s post-9/11 dynamics, and the role of language in defining who we are. If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a YA debut from Jen St. Jude about queer first love and mental health at the end of the world-and the importance of saving yourself, no matter what tomorrow may hold. Moderated by Aiden Thomas (The Sunbearer Trials).

Omid needs the right words to connect with his newly met grandfather and distant Iranian heritage, words to tell a special girl what she means to him and to show everyone that he truly belongs in Tucson, Arizona, the only home he’s ever known. Neither the school play’s Shakespearean English nor his parents’ Farsi seems up to the task, and it’s only when Omid delves into the rhymes and rhythms of rap music that he starts to find his voice. But even as he does so, an act of terrorism transforms familiar accents into new threats.

Then a family member disappears, and it seems everyone but Omid knows why. When words fail altogether and violence takes their place, what will Omid do next?

An Impossible Thing to Say is tender, honest, and unforgettable, filled with characters that delight, verses that shine, and moments that took my breath away. Few books have ever made me feel so seen.”
—Adib Khorram, award-winning author of Darius the Great Is Not Okay


Avery Byrne has secrets. She’s queer; she’s in love with her best friend, Cass; and she’s suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to live: an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.

Trying to spare her family and Cass additional pain, Avery does her best to make it through just nine more days. As time runs out and secrets slowly come to light, Avery would do anything to save the ones she loves. But most importantly, she learns to save herself. Speak her truth. Seek the support she needs. Find hope again in the tomorrows she has left.

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a celebration of queer love, a gripping speculative narrative, and an urgent, conversation-starting book about depression, mental health, and shame.

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a novel that carves a space in your heart and remains there forever. Breathtakingly written, Jen St. Jude masterfully explores queerness, depression, and shame, while beautifully capturing family, friendship, and love, and the intersections that often exist between these things. Hopeful above all else.”
—Rachael Lippincott, New York Times bestselling author of She Gets the Girl

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 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.


Arya Shahi

Arya Shahi is an Iranian American playwright, poet, and rapper. He is the cofounder of PigPen Theatre Co., an award-winning theater company and band. With PigPen, Arya has written, directed, and performed in original plays as well as books adapted for stage. Arya lives in Los Angeles. His debut young adult novel is An Impossible Thing to Say.
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Jen St. Jude

Jen St. Jude is a Lambda Literary Fellow, who holds creative writing degrees from Colby College and Harvard University Extension School. She works in talent acquisition and has served as an editor at the Chicago Review of Books, Arcturus Magazine, Burning Worlds – Climate Change in Art & Literature, and Just Femme & Dandy Magazine. Jen grew up in New Hampshire apple orchards but now lives in Chicago with her wife and catlike dog. Her book is the young adult novel If Tomorrow Doesn't Come.
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Aiden Thomas

Aiden ThomasNew York Times bestselling author of The Sunbearer Trials, Cemetery Boys, and Lost in the Never Woods, received their MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Born in Oakland, California, Aiden currently resides in Portland, Oregon, where they get most of their inspiration from the lush wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Aiden is notorious among their friends for always being surprised by twist endings to books/movies and organizing their bookshelves by color. When not writing, Aiden enjoys exploring the outdoors with their dog, Ronan. Their cat, Figaro, prefers to support their indoor hobbies, like reading and drinking too much coffee.
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November 4, 2023
4:45 pm - 5:45 pm
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Portland Parks Foundation Park Tent
1010 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205 United States
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