(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times) Sunday
If you want some great fiction, you can’t go wrong with Fiction: Disappearing Acts on Sunday at 11 a.m. The panel, moderated by writer Mary Otis, features the novelists Edan Lepucki, author of the bestselling “California” whose “Woman No. 17” comes out in two weeks; Amy Gentry, author of “Good as Gone,” which came out in January; Lydia Millet, whose “Sweet Lamb of Heaven” was longlisted for the National Book Award; our critic at large Alexander Chee, talking about his book “The Queen of the Night.”
Alexander Chee (M. Sharkey / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Speaking of our critics at large, you can find more of them on Sunday: Viet Thanh Nguyen and Laiala Lalami in conversation at 11 a.m.; at 12:30 p.m., Marlon James in conversation with Times Editor and Publisher Davan Maharaj at 12:30 pm.; John Scalzi in conversation with Cory Doctorow at 1:30 p.m.; and at 3 p.m., Rebecca Carroll will interview Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, always rumored to be in serious contention for the Nobel Prize in literature; and also at 3 p.m., Susan Straight will join Steve Lopez, with Steven P. Wallace and Susan B. Geffen, for a conversation about California’s hidden poor.
For great nonfiction, here are some can’t-miss ideas:
The 10:30 a.m. panel Police, Prisons and Justice with Gary Younge, author of “Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives”; Victor Rios, author of “Human Targets: Schools, Police, and the Criminalization of Latino Youth”; Heather Ann Thompson, author of “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy”; and Les Klinger, co-editor of “Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted,” moderated by Margot Roosevelt.
At noon, the panel Nonfiction: Lost Stories of the West will feature four writers: Tim Hernandez, whose book “All They Will Call You” tells the story of a California plane crash and the Mexican farmworkers who were erased from its history; Kimball Taylor, author of “The Coyote’s Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire”; Gabriel Thompson, author of “America’s Social Arsonist,” a biography of Fred Roos; and Christine Pelisek previewing her book “The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central,” which hits shelves in June, moderated by Miriam Pawell.
Chris Hayes of MSNBC, whose new book is “A Colony in a Nation,” will be talking to The Times’ Christina Bellantoni at 12:30 p.m.
Viet Thanh Nguyen (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
And at 3:30, the panel Nonfiction: What’s Up With America features book prize finalist Jane Mayer with her book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right”; Jeff Chang, author of “We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation”; James Poulos and his book “The Art of Being Free: How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us from Ourselves”; and Mugambi Jouet, author of “Exceptional America: What Divides Americans From the World and Each Other,” moderated by Dinah Lenney.
Jane Mayer (Stephen Voss)
And last but not least, the panel I’m most likely to attend, if I’m still standing: Nonfiction: The Culture of Southern California with Josh Kun, Gustavo Arellano and David L. Ulin, moderated by The Times’ Carolina Miranda. It starts at 3:30 p.m.
See you at the festival!
Author Roxane Gay (Jay Grabiec)
Bestselling author Roxane Gay drew loud applause from the packed house at Bovard Auditorium on Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
Gay and Times critic-at-large Alexander Chee discussed a variety of topics. Here are a few highlights.
On the film adaptation of ‘An Untamed State’
Gay anticipates the screenplay will be completed by September. The movie will star Gugu Mbatha-Raw and will be directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.
“I want readers to watch the movie. I really had to think about how to preserve the darkness and be respectful of the actors and the viewers,” said Gay.
“Hunger” will be released on June 13 and is influenced by Lidia Yuknavitch’s “The Chronology of Water.” Like “The Chronology of Water,” Gay’s memoir isn’t linear. It goes between past and present.
“ ‘Hunger’ is about me and my relationship with trauma… It was difficult to be honest with myself, how I got to this place and how difficult it is to break free from it,” said Gay.
On dealing with success
“It actually just makes me want more. I always feel like I’m half a breath away from destitution,” said Gay.
Chee suggested she might be alluding to a sense of immigrant hustle. Gay agreed, but she also identifies her feelings toward success as the imposter syndrome.
“Even though I haven’t fully absorbed it, I’m still having a blast,” said Gay.
On why ‘Difficult Women’ is timely
Gay had to put aside “Difficult Women” because she couldn’t get it published.
“Editors said, we love [‘Difficult Women’] but it makes me want to kill myself,” said Gay.
Gay explains why the stories in “Difficult Women” are important.
“We still live in a culture where women aren’t believed, where people are surprised by the scope of traumas…I’m going to keep writing these stories.
"I do it because it feels necessary. We have a president who grabs women by the [crotch] and a lot of women voted for him.”
There was one night when I was in Chicago on the book tour. It was after the book release, and I walked past this old movie theater, and they were showing "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation" [which Hughes wrote and produced] and I was like, "How many times am I going to be able to say that I’m in my hometown, it’s snowing out, and I just did my book release party, and I got a couple hours to kill, I’m going to see this movie." It was actually weirdly emotional to see Chevy Chase, which, you know, you should never get emotional about Chevy Chase.
On the same Saturday when thousands of people participated in the March for Science in downtown Los Angeles and around the world, book lovers also communed nearby at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books for the Activist on the Front Lines panel.
Matt Pearce, moderator and national reporter for The Times, thanked the activists in the audience for coming and encouraged them to head over to the march after the panel.
Pearce delved into the activism experiences of each of the four authors: Cleve Jones, L.A. Kauffman, Wesley Lowery and Ron Kovic. One of the many topics discussed rested on the power of creating activism narratives to be known and understood.
Jones, an LGBTQ and labor activist, was depicted by Emile Hirsch in the movie “Milk.” In his experiences working with people, he found that many people didn’t know who Harvey Milk was until the movie was released.
“Most Americans don’t read what you read. If you are truly about changing the hearts of citizens, we need to be better about using popular culture,” said Jones.
Kovic, who fought in the Vietnam War and became a leading antiwar activist, wrote about those experiences in his bestselling memoir “Born on the Fourth of July” (and was co-screenwriter of the film adaptation) and other books. He agreed with Jones.
"I’ll always believe in literature but when you combine literature with film it is even more powerful," said Kovic.
Kauffman, organizer and movement journalist for more than 30 years, pointed out how it could be difficult for a journalist to cover newer movements.
"There has been a broad shift away from the model of leadership. The movements that have sprung up tend to have a multiplicity of leaders, so it can be hard for a journalist and others to see what is going on. That landscape can be hard to get a handle on,” said Kauffman. “But if you look closely there are so many close ties. It really is a network.”
Lowery, a Washington Post reporter and the 2017 winner of the L.A. Times Christopher Isherwood prize for autobiographical prose for his book "They Can’t Kill Us All" about Ferguson, Mo., and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, gave his take on the role of a journalist.
"The news has been democratized. People can give direct and immediate feedback. It also complicates the role of media and it sharpens the need for [a journalist] in the role of verification."
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times) (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)
Rep. John Lewis was greeted with a standing ovation on Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
Lewis, co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell took turns center stage sharing stories about the making of “March,” the graphic memoir trilogy based on Lewis’ life in Alabama and the civil rights movement.
Aydin is also the digital director of Lewis’ congressional district, a job he describes as “tweet[ing] for a living.” When asked how to inspire young people, his answer was to write a comic book.
“When you finally meet [a good person] and work for one, you know you have to do something special to tell their story,” said Aydin.
Lewis was inspired by “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” a comic book published in 1957. He intended to create the same inspiration for a younger generation by writing a comic book.
“We’ve made too much progress. We’ve gone too far and we are not going back,” said Lewis. “The ‘March’ series will inspire a new generation of people. They must understand that they will be the leaders of the 21st century. Maybe we can serve as a model.”
"March: Book Three" won the National Book Award in November.
In the book, Powell emphasized the role of young people in the civil rights movement when approaching how to illustrate Lewis’ story. He also did not shy away from depicting the violence.
“You have a responsibility to depict these acts of violence because there is a sense of urgency. They could have been your friends and family,” said Powell.
For Lewis and Aydin, publishing the trilogy and attending book signings have been full-circle moments.
As a child, Lewis was told by a librarian in Troy, Ala., that library cards are for whites only. He never went back to that local library until the “March” book signing.
For another book signing stop, Aydin went back to his school where he got in trouble for reading comic books in his English class. He had a conversation with an English teacher, who once said comic books aren’t real books, about how “March” is being used in schools to teach students about the civil rights movement.
“If this is your first comic, welcome. Please don’t let it end there,” said Powell.
The way to the spring… is blocked. At least that’s the case for the Palestinians of Nabi Saleh, a small village northwest of Ramallah. The expansion-minded residents of a nearby Jewish settlement, with the aid of the Israeli army that occupies the West Bank, have taken over the town’s water source, which Palestinian farmers depended on to irrigate their fields.
Ben Ehrenreich, an award-winning writer based in Los Angeles, discovered as much when he moved to the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in a war with its Arab neighbors in 1967. Ehrenreich, who lived in that troubled land intermittently between 2011 and 2014 (in part, reporting for Harper’s and the New York Times Magazine), demonstrates that Nabi Saleh is no anomaly. “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine” emerges as a sobering, iconoclastic “collection of stories about resistance, and about people who resist,” marred slightly by the author’s unwillingness to subject Palestinian militant activity, which has often included terrorism, to moral scrutiny.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The LA Times)
Almost exactly 20 years ago, I arrived in Los Angeles in the month of June. I had received my doctorate from UC Berkeley in May and had turned 26 in February. That summer, I found a small apartment in Silver Lake and began preparing for a new career as a professor at USC. I look back on myself with bemusement and sympathy, for there were many things I did not know when I was 26. My naiveté protected me when I sat down to write at my small kitchen table and in that hot, stifling, first summer in Los Angeles and began a short story collection. If I had known that it would take me 17 years to finish that collection, and three more years to publish it, perhaps I never would have even begun.