Omar Musa

Omar Musa comes to City Lights to perform rhymes and then read from his novel, Here Come the Dogs, published by the New Press. Mighty Joe opens the show.

In small-town suburban Australia, three young men from three different ethnic backgrounds—one Samoan, one Macedonian, one not sure—are ready to make their mark. Solomon is all charisma, authority, and charm, a failed basketball player down for the moment but surely not out. His half-brother, Jimmy, bounces along in his wake, underestimated, waiting for his chance to announce himself. Aleks, their childhood friend, loves his mates, his family, and his homeland and would do anything for them. The question is, does he know where to draw the line?

Solomon, Jimmy, and Aleks are way out on the fringe of Australia, looking for a way in. Hip-hop, basketball, and graffiti give them a voice. Booze, women, and violence pass the time while they wait for their chance. Under the oppressive summer sun, their town has turned tinder-dry. All it’ll take is a spark.

As the surrounding hills roar with flames, the change storms in. But it’s not what they were waiting for. It never is.

Omar Musa is a Malaysian Australian rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, Australia. The author of Here Come the Dogs (The New Press), he has opened for Gil Scott Heron and performed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City. He attended University of California, Santa Cruz. He has released three hip-hop albums and two poetry books, and he received a standing ovation at TEDxSydney at the Sydney Opera House.

Shobha Rao

Shobha Rao comes to City Lights to celebrate the release of her short story collection, An Unrestored Woman, published by Flatiron Books.

shobhaunrestoredThe twelve paired stories in Shobha Rao’s An Unrestored Woman trace their origins to the formation of India and Pakistan in 1947, but they transcend that historical moment. A young woman in a crushingly loveless marriage seizes freedom in the only way left to her; a mother is forced to confront a chilling, unforgiveable crime she committed out of love; an ambitious servant seduces both master and mistress; a young prostitute quietly, inexorably plots revenge on the madam who holds her hostage; a husband and wife must forgive each other for the death of their child. Caught in extreme states of tension, in a world of shifting borders, of instability, Rao’s characters must rely on their own wits. When Partition established Pakistan and India as sovereign states, the new boundary resulted in a colossal transfer of people, the largest peacetime migration in human history. This mass displacement echoes throughout Rao’s story couplets, which range across the twentieth century, moving beyond the subcontinent to Europe and America. Told with dark humor and ravaging beauty, An Unrestored Woman unleashes a fearless new voice on the literary scene.Shoba

Shobha Rao moved to the U.S. from India at the age of seven. She is the winner of the 2014 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, awarded by Nimrod International Journal. She has been a resident at Hedgebrook and is the recipient of the Elizabeth George Foundation fellowship. Her story “Kavitha and Mustafa” was chosen by T.C. Boyle for inclusion in the Best American Short Stories 2015. She lives in San Francisco.

Ralph Nader

City Lights Bookstore welcomes Ralph Nader for the release of his new book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think  published by City Lights Books. Elaine Katzenberger, publisher and executive director of City Lights, opens the event. Matt Gonzalez introduces Ralph who talks about the main thrust of his new book, namely what normal citizens can do, right now, to break through corporate power and make change happen.http://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100290780/Images/87286100290780L.jpg

In Breaking Through Power, Nader draws from a lifetime waging—and often winning—David vs. Goliath battles against big corporations and the United States government. In this succinct, Tom Paine-style wake-up call, the iconic consumer advocate highlights the success stories of fellow Americans who organize change and work together to derail the many ways in which wealth manipulates politics, labor, media, the environment and the quality of national life today. Nader makes an inspired case about how the nation can—and must—be democratically managed by communities guided by the U.S. Constitution, not by the dictates of big businesses and the wealthy few. This is classic Ralph Nader, a crystallization of the core political beliefs and commitmImage result for ralph naderents that have driven his lifetime of advocacy for greater democracy.

Ralph Nader is a two-time Nieman Fellow who has been awarded for his political activism that focuses in the areas of consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. His work has been affected the passing of several pieces of legislation, such as  the Freedom of Information Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the Whistleblower Protection Act. Nader was the subject of the documentary film, An Unreasonable Man, which showed at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006.

 

Wes “Scoop” Nisker

Wes “Scoop” Nisker came to City Lights to celebrate the release of his latest book, You Are Not Your Fault And Other Revelations, published by Soft Skull Press.

 

In You Are Not Your Fault and Other Revelations, Wes draws on his diverse experiences delivering a collection that brims with the insight, humor and wisdom he is famous for.

Compiled for the first time, Wes’ best-known essays as well as a selection of recent and never before published work, Wes takes readers on both a cultural journey (a tour through the sixties, through the modern

environmental movement, the surge of Buddhism to the West) and a more personal one, exploring the motivation behind humanity’s search for spiritual enlightenment.

WES “SCOOP” NISKER is an award-winning broadcast journalist and commentator, a renowned Buddhist meditation teacher, a best selling author and a captivating performer. He is the author of the enduring classic Crazy Wisdom and the widely acclaimed Buddha’s Nature, and the editor of the Buddhist journal Inquiring Mind. An enduring San Francisco celebrity, having been on Bay Area radio for more than twenty-five years, Nisker is a teacher of Buddhist meditation and philosophy, and is located prominently in the group of our country’s most influential voices of spiritual transformation. He lives in Berkeley.

Elizabeth Percer

City Lights welcomed Elizabeth Percer to celebrate the release of her novel, All Stories Are Love Stories, published by HarperCollins.

percer2All Stories Are Love Stories follows a group of survivors thrown together in the aftermath of two major earthquakes that strike San Francisco within an hour of each other. Among the survivors are a motley crew of about a dozen individuals who have found shelter in the auditorium of the Nob Hill Masonic and Performing Arts Center.

There is Max, who is still haunted by an abandonment long ago; Vashti, who has lost several people in her life…but she can’t stop thinking about one in particular: Max, the one who got away; and Gene, a geologist from Stanford who knows too much about the earthquakes happening around them. As the night goes on, and fires begin around the city, Max and Vashti, trapped in the Masonic Temple, have to finally confront each other while Gene embarks on a frantic search around the city to find his partner, Franklin, who isn’t answering the phone. By morning nothing will look the same. A beautiful, lyrical novel about the power of nature, the resilience of survival, and most importantly, love.

Percer

Elizabeth Percer is the author of An Uncommon Education. Her poetry has been published widely, and she has been twice honored by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation and nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. She received a B.A. in English from Wellesley, a Ph.D. in arts education from Stanford University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship for the National Writing Project at Berkeley. Percer’s academic publications on art, the education of the imagination, and writing have been published and presented internationally. She lives in California.

Chinaka Hodge

City Lights celebrates the release of Chinaka Hodge’s Dated Emcees, published by City Lights Books (Sister Spit Imprint). She is joined by Tongo Eisen-Martin & RyanNicole, performing to a standing-room only crowd in the main room.

Chinaka Hodge came of age along with hip-hop—and its influence on her suitors became inextricable from their personal interactions. Form blends with content in Dated Emcees as she examines her love life through the lens of hip-hop’s best known orators, characters, archetypes and songs, creating a new and inventive narrative about the music that shaped the craggy heart of a young woman poet, just as it also changed the global landscape of pop.

Chinaka Hodge is a poet, educator, playwright and screenwriter originally from Oakland, California. When not educating or writing for the page, Chinaka rocks mics as a founding member of a collaborative hip hop ensemble, The Getback. Her poems, editorials, interviews and prose have been featured in Newsweek, San Francisco Magazine, Believer Magazine, PBS, NPR, CNN, C-Span, and in two seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry.

Born in San Francisco, Tongo Eisen-Martin is a movement worker, educator, and poet who has organized against mass incarceration and extra-judicial killing of Black people throughout the United States. He has educated in detention centers from New York’s Rikers Island to California’s San Quentin State Prison. His work in Rikers Island was featured in the New York Times. His latest curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, We Charge Genocide Again, has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country. He uses his craft to create liberated territory wherever he performs and teaches. He recently lived and organized around issues of human rights and self-determination in Jackson, MS.

RyanNicole is an artist, actress, activist, athlete and world-renown MC & Poet whose lyrical prowess has been exploited on international stages and web platforms, garnering fans in the thousands across the globe. Her musical compositions include a solo mixtape, entitled Dis’Onance and several collaborative efforts with her group Nu Dekades and other artists. RyanNicole has performed with a wide array of artists and persons of influence, most notably President Barack Obama.

Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee comes to City Lights to celebrate the release of his novel, High Dive. He is joined by author Colin Winnette in this event co-sponsored by Electric Literature.

In September 1984, a bomb was planted in the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England, set to explode on the day Margaret Thatcher and her entire cabinet would be staying there. High Dive takes us inside this audacious assassination attempt, and also into the hearts and minds of a group of unforgettable characters. Nimbly weaving together fact and fiction, comedy and tragedy, the story switches among the perspectives of Dan, a young IRA bomb maker; Moose, a former star athlete gone to seed, now the career-minded deputy hotel manager; and Freya, his teenage daughter, trying to decide what comes after high school. A novel of laughter and heartbreak, this is an indelible portrait of clashing loyalties, doubt, guilt, and regret, and of how individuals become the grist of history.

 

Jonathan Lee is a British writer whose recent short stories have appeared in Tin House, Granta, and Narrative, among other magazines. High Dive is his first novel to be published in the U.S. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is an editor at the literary journal A Public Space, a contributing editor for Guernica, and a regular contributor to The Paris Review Daily.

 

Colin Winnette is the author of several books, most recently, Haints Stay (Two Dollar Radio) and the SPD best seller COYOTE. He is the associate editor at PANK magazine. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Believer, Lucky Peach, and numerous other publications. He lives in San Francisco.

Electric Literature is an independent publisher whose mission is to guide writers and readers through a rapidly evolving publishing landscape. By embracing new technologies and mixed media, collaborating with other publishers, and engaging the literary community online and in-person, Electric Literature aims to support writers while broadening the audience of literary fiction, and ensure that literature remains a vibrant presence in popular culture.”

Of Poetry and Protest

City Lights celebrates the release of Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, a stunning new anthology that illuminates today’s black experience through the voices of our most transformative and powerful African American poets. Michael Warr, one of the editors of the anthology, hosts the event, which features readings by Devorah Major, D. Scott Miller, and others.

Included in this extraordinary volume are the poems of 43 of America’s most talented African American wordsmiths, including Pulitzer Prize–winning poets Rita Dove, Natasha Tretheway, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Tracy K. Smith, as well as the work of other luminaries such as Elizabeth Alexander, Ishmael Reed, and Sonia Sanchez. Included are poems such as “No Wound of Exit” by Patricia Smith, “We Are Not Responsible” by Harryette Mullen, and “Poem for My Father” by Quincy Troupe. Each is accompanied by a photograph of the poet along with a first-person biography. The anthology also contains personal essays on race such as “The Talk” by Jeannine Amber and works by Harry Belafonte, Amiri Baraka, and The Reverend Dr. William Barber II, architect of the Moral Mondays movement, as well as images and iconic political posters of the Black Lives Matter movement, Malcolm X, and the Black Panther Party. Taken together, Of Poetry and Protest gives voice to the current conversation about race in America while also providing historical and cultural context. It serves as an excellent introduction to African American poetry and is a must-have for every reader committed to social justice and racial harmony.

Michael Warr received a Creative Work Fund award for “Tracing Poetic Memory.” He is deputy director of the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

 

Jack Hirschman & Mahnaz Badihian

City Lights hosts Jack Hirschman and Mahnaz Badihian for a bilingual reading of the love poems of Rumi, in Farsi and in English.

JackHirschmanJack Hirschman is the former poet Laureate of San Francisco, a translator, and editor. His powerfully eloquent voice has set the tone for political poetry in the US for decades. Since leaving a teaching career in the ’60s, Hirschman has taken the free exchange of poetry and politics into the streets where he is, in the words of poet Luke Breit, “America’s most important living poet.” He is the author of numerous books of poetry, plus some 45 translations from a half a dozen languages, as well as the editor of anthologies and journals. Among his many volumes of poetry are All That’s Left, Frontlines, Endless Threshold, The Xibalba Arcane, and Lyripol (City Lights, 1976). Hirschman is a founding member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of San Francisco (RPB,2009), World Poetry Movement (WPM, Medellin, Colombia, 2011), and Member of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA).

MahnazMahnaz Badihian is an Iranian born poet and translator whose work has been published into several languages worldwide, including Persian, Turkish, Italian, and Malayalam. She attended the Iowa Writer’s workshop with a focus on international poetry while practicing as a dentist in Iowa City. Her publications include two volumes of poetry in Persian and a best-selling translation of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions into Persian. Her first English language book is a critically acclaimed book of original English language poetry, From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi. She has an awarding winning selection of poetry (XIV Premio Letterario Internazionale Trofeo Penna d’Autore, Tornio) translated into Italian by Cristina Contili and Pirooz Ebrahimi. Currently, she resides in Northern California where she runs an online multilingual literary magazine, MahMag.org, in an effort to bring the poetry of the world together.

Greg Jackson

Greg Jackson was at City Lights to celebrating the release of Prodigals: Stories, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, with a reading and a discussion.

Prodigals“People are bullets, fired,” the narrator declares in one of the desperate, eerie stories that make up Greg Jackson’s Prodigals. He’s fleeing New York, with a woman who may be his therapist, as a storm bears down. Self-knowledge here is no safeguard against self-sabotage. A banker sees his artistic ambitions laid bare when he comes under the influence of two strange sisters. A midlife divorcée escapes to her seaside cottage only to find a girl living in it. A journalist is either the guest or the captive of a former tennis star at his country mansion in the Auvergne.

Jackson’s sharp debut drills into the spiritual longing of today’s privileged elite. Adrift in lives of trumpeted possibility and hidden limitation, in thrall to secondhand notions of success, the flawed, sympathetic, struggling characters in these stories seek refuge from meaninglessness in love, art, drugs, and sex. Unflinching, funny, and profound, Prodigals maps the degradations of contemporary life with unusual insight and passion–from the obsession with celebrity, to the psychological debts of privilege, to the impotence of violence, to the loss of grand narratives.

Prodigals is a fiercely honest and heartfelt look at what we have become, at the comedy of our foibles and the pathos of our longing for home.

GregJacksonGreg Jackson grew up in Boston and coastal Maine. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and Granta. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Virginia and has been a Fiction Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center and a resident at the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. A winner of the Balch and Henfield prizes, he was a finalist for the 2014 National Magazine Award in Fiction. Prodigals is his first book.

Leonard Pitt

Leonard Pitt comes to City Lights to celebrate the release of his latest book, My Brain on Fire: Paris and Other Obsessions, published by Soft Skull Press.

This is Leonard Pitt’s story of growing up the misfit in Detroit in the 1940s and my-brain-on-fire50s. In a later age he would have been put on Ritalin and paraded before psychiatrists because he couldn’t pay attention in school. In 1962, at the end of a misguided foray towards a career in advertising he took the ultimate cure, a trip to Paris. He thought it would only be a visit. He stayed seven years. There in the City of Light, Leonard’s mind exploded. And it hasn’t stopped since.

Studying mime with master Etienne Decroux and living in Paris were the university he never knew. This inspiration unleashed a voracious appetite to understand the “why” of things. He asked a simple question, “Why did the ballet go up?” While building a theatre career performing and teaching, he embarked on a quest to study the origins of the ballet, the history of early American popular music, the pre-Socratic philosophers, early modern science, the European witch hunt, the history of Paris, and more. To his unschooled mind it all fits together. Who would see a historical arc between Louis XIV and Elvis Presley? Leonard does. And he’ll tell you about it.

Pitt-Leonard1

 

Leonard Pitt is an actor and author. He has written two books on Paris, Walks Through Lost Paris and Paris Postcards: The Golden Age, plus A Small Moment of Great Illumination, about the life of 17th century healer, Valentine Greatrakes. He currently co-directs The Flying Actor Studio, a conservatory for the study of physical theater located in San Francisco. He has performed and taught around the world and lives in Berkeley, California.

Joyce Carol Oates 2

National Book Award-winning and bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates was at City Lights discussng her latest novel, the critically acclaimed The Man Without a Shadow. In this recording, Joyce Carol Oates also conducts an interview with herself as both questioner and respondent.

This book examines the intimate, illicit relationship between neuroscientist Margot Sharpe and Elihu 87286100622230LHoopes—the “man without a shadow”—whose devastated memory, unable to store new experiences or to retrieve the old, will make him the most famous and most studied amnesiac in history. Their thirty-year relationship, both as scientist and subject and as objects of love, is an exploration of the labyrinthine mysteries of the human brain. Where does “memory” reside? Where is “love”? Is it possible to love an individual who cannot love you, who cannot “remember” you from one meeting to the next?

Jewelle Gomez

Award-winning author Jewelle Gomez returns to City Lights in honor of the Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition of her novel The Gilda Stories, recently published by City Lights. She read from the book in the main room.gilda_cover_full

This remarkable novel begins in 1850s Louisiana, where Gilda escapes slavery and learns about freedom while working in a brothel. After being initiated into eternal life as one who “shares the blood” by two women there, Gilda spends the next 200 years searching for a place to call home. An instant lesbian classic when it was first published in 1991, The Gilda Stories has endured as an auspiciously prescient book in its explorations of blackness, radical ecology, redefinitions of family, and yes, the erotic potential of the vampire story.

 

Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax

City Lights hosted an evening of discussion and readings with author Michael McGregor, John Beer, and S.T. Georgiou to celebrate the release of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax, published by Fordham University Press.

RobertLaxA companion piece to Thomas Merton’s bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax tells the story of Merton’s best friend and early spiritual inspiration. Written by a close friend of Lax, Pure Act gives an intimate view of a friendship and a life that affected Merton in profound ways. It was Lax, a daringly original poet himself, who encouraged Merton to begin writing poetry and Lax who told him he should desire to be a saint rather than just a Catholic. To the end of Merton’s life, Lax was his spiritual touchstone and closest friend.

Pure Act tells the story of poet Robert Lax, whose quest to live a true life as both an artist and a spiritual seeker inspired Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac, William Maxwell and a host of other writers, artists and ordinary people. Known in the U.S. primarily as Merton’s best friend and in Europe as a daringly original avant-garde poet, Lax left behind a promising New York writing career to travel with a circus, live among immigrants in post-war Marseilles and settle on a series of remote Greek islands where he learned and recorded the simple wisdom of the local people. Born a Jew, he became a Catholic and found the authentic community he sought in Greek Orthodox fishermen and sponge divers.

Written by Michael McGregor, who met Lax in Greece when he was a young seeker himself and visited him regularly over fifteen years, Pure Act is an intimate look at an extraordinary but little-known life. Much more than just a biography, it’s a tale of adventure, an exploration of friendship, an anthology of wisdom, and a testament to the liberating power of living an uncommon life.

Reverend Billy

Reverend Billy Talen makes a visit to City Lights once again to speak about his new book titled The Earth Wants You. With the perfect blend of conviction and humor, the radical reverend offers an insightful critique of commercialism and its environmental impacts in the form of short monol 87286100270160Logues and sermons.

Reverend Billy and his choir of singing-activists are on the front lines of creative direct action, and here they offer up a distillation of the passion, the inspiration, and the hopes for love and survival that fuel their work. In a mix of essays, polemics, surrealist scenarios and news flashes from the frontlines, Reverend Billy answers the question, “What are we to do?” with a resounding chorus of “Take Action NOW!

*Simultaneous to the publication of this book is the album, fittingly called The Earth Wants You. The fourth official release from Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, the eleven tracks on the record play like a joyful mission statement writ large: songs about climate change, revolution, empowerment, and community, reformist hymns sung by a disparate group of people all brought together by one common purpose.

 

 

Sara Majka and Naomi Williams

In conversation with Yiyun Li, authors Sara Majka & Naomi Williams make an appearance at City Lights to discuss their new books Cities I’ve Never Lived In (Sara Majka) and Landfalls (Naomi Williams).

About Cities I’ve Never Lived in: Fearlessly riding the line between imagination and experience, fact and fiction, the linked stories in Sara Majka’s debut collection offer intimate glimpses of a young New England woman whose cities-ive-neverlife must begin afresh after a divorce. Traveling the roads of Maine and the train tracks of Grand Central Station, moving from vast shorelines to the unmade beds of strangers, these fourteen stories circle the dreams of a narrator who finds herself turning to storytelling as a means of working through the world and of understanding herself. A book that upends our ideas of love and belonging, and which asks how much of ourselves we leave behind with each departure we make, Cities I’ve Never Lived In exposes, with great sadness and great humor, the ways in which we are most of all citizens of the places where we cannot stay.

About Landfalls: Landfalls is a gripping story of a dramatic eighteenth-century voyage of discovery. In her wildly inventive debut novel, Naomi J. Williams reimagines the historical Lapérouse expedition, a voyage of exploration that left Brest in 1785 with two frigates, more than two hundred men, and overblown Enlightenment ideals and expectations, in a brave attempt to circumnavigate the globe for science and the glory of France.

Deeply grounded in historical fact but refracted through a powerful imagination, Landfalls follows the exploits and heartbreaks not only of the men on the ships but also of the people affected by the voyage-indigenous people and other Europeans the explorers encountered, loved ones left waiting at home, and those who survived and remembered the expedition later. Each chapter is told from a different point of view and is set in a different part of the world, ranging from London to Tenerife, from Alaska to remote South Pacific islands to Siberia, and eventually back to France. The result is a beautifully written and absorbing tale of the high seas, scientific exploration, human tragedy, and the world on the cusp of the modern era.

Rob Roberge

Author Rob Roberge appeared for a City Lights event to celebrate the release of Liar, a darkly funny, intense memoir about mental illness, memory and storytelling, published by Crown Books. Joshua Mohr, who was scheduled to appear as well, was unable to attend and instead Gina Frangello joined Rob in conversation about his writing process, revisiting trauma, and grappling with mental illness in the modern world.Rob Roberge AP - Credit Dirk Vandenberg

When Rob Roberge learns that he’s likely to have developed a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living and frequent concussions, he is terrified by the prospect of becoming a walking shadow. In a desperate attempt to preserve his identity, he sets out to (somewhat faithfully) record the most formative moments of his life—ranging from the brutal murder of his childhood girlfriend, to a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, to opening for famed indie band Yo La Tengo at The Fillmore in San Francisco. But the process of trying to remember his past only exposes just how fragile the stories that lay at the heart of our self-conception really are.

As Liar twists and turns through Roberge’s life, it turns the familiar story of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll on its head. Blackly comic and brutally frank, it offers a remarkable portrait of a down and out existence cobbled together across the country, from musicians’ crashpads around Boston, to seedy bars popular with sideshow freaks in Florida, to a painful moment of reckoning in the scorched Wonder Valley desert of California. As Roberge struggles to keep addiction and mental illness from destroying the good life he has built in his better moments, he is forced to acknowledge the increasingly blurred line between the lies we tell others and the lies we tell ourselves.

Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff appeared again at City Lights to speak about his new book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and to answer questions on all things pertaining to the effect of technology on culture.

87286100320950LWhen protesters shattered the windows of a bus carrying Google employees to work, their anger may have been justifiable, but it was misdirected. The true conflict of our age isn’t between the unem­ployed and the digital elite, or even the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Rather, a tornado of technological improvements has spun our economic program out of control, and humanity as a whole—the pro-testers and the Google employees as well as the shareholders and the executives—are all trapped by the consequences. It’s time to optimize our economy for the human beings it’s supposed to be serving.

In this groundbreaking book, acclaimed media scholar and author Douglas Rushkoff tells us how to combine the best of human nature with the best of modern technology. Tying together disparate threads—big data, the rise of robots and AI, the increasing participation of algorithms in stock market trading, the gig economy, the collapse of the eurozone—Rushkoff provides a critical vocabulary for our economic moment and a nuanced portrait of humans and commerce at a critical crossroads.

Jarett Kobek and Kevin Killian

City Lights welcomed Jarett Kobek, author of I Hate the Internet, for a discussion and Q&A, accompanied by guest speaker Kevin Killian.87286100650100L

What if you told the truth and the whole world heard you? What if you lived in a country swamped with Internet outrage? What if you were a woman in a society that hated women?

Set in the San Francisco of 2013, I Hate the Internet offers a hilarious and obscene portrayal of life amongst the victims of the digital boom. As billions of tweets fuel the city’s gentrification and the human wreckage piles up, a group of friends suffers the consequences of being useless in a new world that despises the pointless and unprofitable.

In this, his first full-length novel, Jarett Kobek tackles the pressing questions of our moment. Why do we applaud the enrichment of CEOs at the expense of the weak and the powerless? Why are we giving away our intellectual property? Why is activism in the 21st Century nothing more than a series of morality lectures typed into devices built by slaves?

Here, at last, comes an explanation of the Internet in the crudest possible terms.

Frank Lima Tribute

City Lights celebrates the release of Incidents of Travel in Poetry: New and Selected Poems, a collection of Latino poet and visionary Frank Lima’s most celebrated work, along with previously unpublished material. The evening included readings of Lima’s poems from editors Garrett Caples and Julien Poirier, and other guest readers including Cedar Sigo, Joseph Lease, Jackson Meazle, Rod Roland, Brian Lucas, and Chris Carosi.
This event was recorded in the Poetry Room at City Lights – toward the end of the reading (recorded on Mardi Gras), a band can be heard playing down in Kerouac Alley, which certainly added to the evening!


 

Protégé of Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, and Allen Ginsberg, the streetwise Puerto Rican/Mexican poet Frank Lima was tfrank limahe only Latino member of the New York School during its historical heyday. Born in Spanish Harlem in 1939, he endured a difficult and violent childhood, discovering poetry as an inmate of the juvenile drug treatment center under the tutelage of the painter, Sherman Drexler, who introduced him to his poet friends. Rubbing shoulders with everyone from Edwin Denby and Joe Brainard to Jasper Johns and the de Koonings, Lima appeared in key New York School anthologies and published two collections of his own with prominent publishers. In the late seventies, Lima left the poetry world to pursue a successful career as a chef, and though he rarely published, and his work fell out of circulation, he continued to write a poem a day until his death in 2013.

Incidents of Travel in Poetry is a landmark re-introduction to the work of this major Latino American poet. Beginning with poems from Inventory (1964), his installment in the legendary Tibor de Nagy poetry series, Incidents includes selections from Lima’s previous volumes, tracing his development from his early snapshots of street life to his later surrealist-influenced abstract lyricism. The bulk of the collection comes from his later unpublished manuscripts, and thus Incidents represents the full range of Lima’s work for the first time. Edited by poets Garrett Caples and Julien Poirier, and including a biographical introduction.

Homero Aridjis

Accompanied by his translator (and daughter) Chloe Aridjis, Mexican poet and activist Homero Aridjis makes another appearance at City Lights, this time to read from and answer questions on his latest book The Child Poet. 87286100983630L

Homero Aridjis has always said that he was born twice. The first time was to his mother in April 1940 and the second time was as a poet, in January 1951. His life was distinctly cleaved in two by an accident. Before that fateful Saturday he was carefree and confident, the youngest of five brothers growing up in the small Mexican village of Contepec, Michoacán. After the accident – in which he nearly died on the operating table after shooting himself with a shotgun his brothers had left propped against the bedroom wall – he became a shy, introspective child who spent afternoons reading Homer and writing poems and stories at the dining room table instead of playing soccer with his classmates. After the accident his early childhood became like a locked garden. But in 1971, when his wife became pregnant with their first daughter, the memories found a way out. Visions from this elusive period started coming back to him in astonishingly vivid dreams, giving shape to what would become The Child Poet.

Aridjis is joyously imaginative. The Child Poet has urgency but still takes its time, celebrating images and feelings and the strangeness of childhood. Readers will love being in the world he has created. Aridjis paints the pueblo of Cotepec — the landscape, the campesinos, the Church, the legacy of the Mexican Revolution — through the eyes of a sensitive child.

Finn Brunton

FinnFinn Brunton joined City Lights to celebrate the release of Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest, published by MIT Press. At the event, Brunton discussed the meaning of obfuscation, explained why it’s necessary to fight against data collection and theft, and took questions about the future of surveillance and what we can do right now to combat it.

With Obfuscation, Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum mean to start a revolution. They are calling us not to the barricades but to our computers, offering us ways to fight today’s pervasive digital surveillance—the collection of our data by governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privacy protecting techniques and projects, they propose adding obfuscation: the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects. Brunton and Nissenbaum provide tools and a rationale for evasion, noncompliance, refusal, even sabotage—especially for average users, those of us not in a position to opt out or exert control over data about ourselves. Obfuscation will teach users to push back, software developers to keep their user data safe, and policy makers to gather data without misusing it.

Brunton and Nissenbaum present a guide to the forms and formats that obfuscation has taken and explain how to craft its implementation to suit the goal and the adversary. They describe a series of historical and contemporary examples, including radar chaff deployed by World War II pilots, Twitter bots that hobbled the social media strategy of popular protest movements, and software that can camouflage users’ search queries and stymie online advertising. They go on to consider obfuscation in more general terms, discussing why obfuscation is necessary, whether it is justified, how it works, and how it can be integrated with other privacy practices and technologies.

Finn Brunton is Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet (MIT Press).

Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication and Computer Science at New York University and the author of Privacy in Context. She is one of the developers of the TrackMeNot software.

Robert Jensen

Featured several times in past City Lights line-ups, author Robert Jensen returns to celebrate the release of his new book, Plain Radical: Living, Loving and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully, published by Soft Skull Press.

RobertJensenThere was nothing out of the ordinary about Jim Koplin. He was just your typical central Minnesota gay farm boy with a Ph.D. in experimental psychology who developed anarchist-influenced, radical-feminist, and anti-imperialist politics, while never losing touch with his rural roots. But perhaps the most important thing about Jim is that throughout his life, almost literally to his dying breath, he spent some part of every day on the most important work we have: tending the garden.

Plain Radical is a touching homage to a close friend and mentor taken too soon. But it is also an exploration of the ways in which an intensely local focus paired with a fierce intelligence can provide a deep, meaningful, even radical engagement with the world.

Drawing on first hand accounts as well as the nearly 3,000 pages of correspondence that flowed between the two men between 1988 and 2012, this book is about the intersection of two biographies and the ideas two men constructed together. It is in part a love story, part intellectual memoir, and part political polemic; an argument for how we should understand problems and think about solutions—in those cases when solutions are possible—to create a decent human future.

Robert William Jensen spent his twenties working at newspapers as a reporter and copy editor, receiving an M.A. in journalism and public affairs from American University. After earning a PhD in media ethics and law from the University of Minnesota, in 1992, he began his teaching career at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a professor in journalism and interdisciplinary programs. Jensen is also active in a variety of national political movements and community organizations.

Kathryn S. Olmstead and Eric Rauchway

Authors and historians Kathryn S. Olmstead and Eric Rauchway discuss their new books: Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism by Kathryn S. Olmstead and The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace by Eric Rauchway.

about Right Out of California:

87286100004370LIn a major reassessment of modern conservatism, noted historian Kathryn S. Olmsted reexamines the explosive labor disputes in the agricultural fields of Depression-era California, the cauldron that inspired a generation of artists and writers and that triggered the intervention of FDR’s New Deal. Right Out of California tells how this brief moment of upheaval terrified business leaders into rethinking their relationship to American politics—a narrative that pits a ruthless generation of growers against a passionate cast of reformers, writers, and revolutionaries.

Olmsted reveals how California’s businessmen learned the language of populism with the help of allies in the media and entertainment industries and in the process created a new style of politics: corporate funding of grassroots groups, military-style intelligence gathering against political enemies, professional campaign consultants, and alliances between religious and economic conservatives. The business leaders who battled for the hearts and minds of Depression-era California, moreover, would go on to create the organizations that launched the careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. A riveting history in its own right, Right Out of California is also a vital chapter in our nation’s political transformation whose echoes are still felt today.

about The Money Makers:

87286100496990MAn absorbing narrative history showing how FDR and his advisors pulled the levers of monetary policy to save the domestic economy and propel the United Sates to unprecedented prosperity and superpower status.

Shortly after arriving in the White House in early 1933, Franklin Roosevelt took the United States off the gold standard. His opponents thought his decision unwise at best, and ruinous at worst. But they could not have been more wrong.

With The Money Makers, Eric Rauchway tells the absorbing story of how FDR and his advisors pulled the levers of monetary policy to save the domestic economy and propel the United States to unprecedented prosperity and superpower status. Drawing on the ideas of the brilliant British economist John Maynard Keynes, among others, Roosevelt created the conditions for recovery from the Great Depression, deploying economic policy to fight the biggest threat then facing the nation: deflation.

Nayomi Munaweera Returns

In celebration of her second novel, What Lies Between Us (from St. Martins Press), author Nayomi Munaweera returns visit to City Lights for an interview with her sister, discussion, and a reading from an excerpt of the novel.

what liesIn the idyllic hill country of Sri Lanka, a young girl grows up with her loving family; but even in the midst of this paradise, terror lurks in the shadows. When tragedy strikes, she and her mother must seek safety by immigrating to America. There the girl reinvents herself as an American teenager to survive, with the help of her cousin; but even as she assimilates and thrives, the secrets and scars of her past follow her into adulthood. In this new country of freedom, everything she has built begins to crumble around her, and her hold on reality becomes more and more tenuous. When the past and the present collide, she sees only one terrible choice.

From Nayomi Munaweera, the award-winning author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors, comes the confession of a woman, driven by the demons of her past to commit a single and possibly unforgivable crime.