A Letter from Ben Philippe, author of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

by Ben Philippe

On shelves now!

Dear Reader, My favorite superhero has always been Spider-Man. This wasn't due to his superpower or beautiful love interests permanently dangling from bridges but the fact that shy Peter Parker was able to unleash biting snark on the world whenever he donned the Spider-Man mask. I identified with this withdrawn teenager from a tumultuous family background--who could not only fight villains but also relentlessly mock them. Norris Kaplan, much like me at a certain time in my life, has a mouth that is never lacking in opinions. His worst impulses are sent into overdrive when he is forced to move to Austin, Texas, and thrown into the prototypical American high school, hundreds of miles away from his only friend, left back in Montreal, Canada. From Cheerleaders to Jocks and everything in between, Norris is full of preconceived notions about the people he meets, which is something of a defense mechanism. Labels make the world smaller, easier to digest, and lest disappointing. Norris also happens to be a young black man in a time when black boys are getting arrested simply for falling asleep on campus or walking into a coffee show--or just for "being." Through Norris, I wanted to write a sometimes self-involved teenager like any other, whose race does not define him--at least not in his own eyes. A regular teenager who is funny, nerdy, flawed, and falls in love. All while black. It would be presumptuous (and kid of cringe-worthy) to say I wrote this novel for the Young Black Men of this world. Norris Kaplan is a very specific kid on a very specific journey. But maybe, hopefully, in showcasing more specific lives, personalities, and stories, the Black Male Youth will become a less monolithic archetype of fear and anxiety in today's age. Because at the end of the day, Spider-Man is just a guy who wants to take his girlfriend to prom . . . and, really, so does Norris. Kindly, Ben Philippe

About the Author

BEN PHILIPPE is a New York-based writer and screenwriter. He has a bachelor of arts from Columbia University and an MFA in fiction and screenwriting from the Michener Center for writers in Austin, TX. He teaches screenwriting at Barnard. This is his debut novel. He can be found online at www.benphilippe.com.

Praise for Field Guide to the North American Teenager:

“In Philippe’s funny debut, 16-year-old black French-Canadian Norris Kaplan must navigate life and love in Austin, Tex., after he and his mother move there... Philippe has a gift for dialogue and touches on a few instances of racism with sensitivity and humor in this crowd-pleaser.”—Publishers Weekly “Readers looking for a diverse, fun, coming-of-age tale need not look any further than this fantastic debut.”—Booklist “With a perfect balance of snark, keen observation, and wry humor, Ben Philippe has given us the brilliant Norris Kaplan—by far, the funniest, wittiest, smartest character I’ve ever read!"—Ibi Zoboi, author of American Street, National Book Award finalist