Ben Philippe published his debut novel The Field Guide to the North American Teenager in the spring of 2019. The YA book follows a wisecracking black French Canadian teenager named Norris who moves to Austin, Texas. Philippe has an MFA in fiction and screenwriting and has contributed to publications like Vanity Fair, the Guardian and Playboy.
Philippe is of Haitian descent, was raised in Montreal and is now a teacher at Barnard College in New York.
CBC Books named Philippe a writer to watch in 2019.
- Why Ben Philippe wrote a YA novel about being a black French Canadian kid in Texas
- 19 Canadian writers to watch in 2019
Books by Ben Philippe
"A lot of the details from the book are lifted from my life. Norris Kaplan is a black French Canadian; I'm a black French Canadian. He moves to Texas and hates it; I moved to Texas and hated it. Although Norris moved to Texas for high school and I lived there for graduate school, the broad strokes of Norris are very much lifted from my life. I wrote him as a superpowered version of me: Norris says and does whatever he thinks. I never did, as I was too worried about everyone was thinking about me at school. But he loves poking the bear.
It was an interesting teenage anxiety — do you hang out with your own 'kind' or do you follow your own interests?- Ben Philippe
"It was an interesting teenage anxiety — do you hang out with your own 'kind' or do you follow your own interests? That was my black Canadian identity and what I write about in the book."