Omar El Akkad

Cihttp://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100381190/Images/87286100381190L.jpgty Lights welcomes Omar El Akkad in conversation with Micheline Aharonian Marcom to discuss & read from his acclaimed new novel, American War, published by Knopf.

http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/Omar%20El%20Akkad_credit%20Michael%20Lionstar.jpegAn audacious and powerful debut novel. a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Omar El Akkad, formerly of the Globe and Mail, is an award-winning journalist and author who has travelled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. He is a recipient of the National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting for his coverage on the “Toronto 18” terrorism arrests. He has also received the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honourable mentions. He is a graduate of Queen’s University.

Micheline Aharonian Marcom  is the author of five books including the critically acclaimed trilogy of novels: Three Apples Fell from Heaven (2001), The Daydreaming Boy (2004) which earned her the 2004 Lannan Literary Fellowship as well as the 2005 PEN/USA Award for Fiction, and Draining the Sea (2008). She currently teaches Creative Writing at Mills College and is also on the faculty of the Goddard College MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Elif Batuman

City Lights presents Elif Batuman who discusses her new novel, The Idiot, published by Penguin Press. http://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100643900/Images/87286100643900L.jpg

A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself.

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.

At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty–and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail.http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/elif.jpg

Elif Batuman has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2010. She is the author of The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and a Paris Review Terry Southern Prize for Humor, she also holds a PhD in comparative literature from Stanford University.

Deepak Unnikrishnan

City Lighttp://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100583950/Images/87286100583950L.jpghts welcomes Deepak Unnikrishnan in conversation with Shanthi Sekaran in celebrating his new award winning novel, Temporary People from Restless Books.

In the United Arab Emirates, foreign nationals constitute over 80% of the population. Brought in to construct the towering monuments to wealth that bristle the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, this labor force works without the rights of citizenship, endures miserable living conditions, and is eventually required to leave the country. Until now, the humanitarian crisis of the so-called “guest workers” of the Gulf has barely been addressed in fiction. With his stunning, mind-altering book Temporary People, debut author Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs, and illuminates the ways in which temporary status affects psyches, families, memories, stories, and languages.

Combining the irrepressible linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the darkly funny satirical vision of George Saunders, Deepak Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp, to a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress, to a man who grows ideal workers designhttp://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/deepak.jpeged to live twelve years and then perish—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert. In this polyphony of voices, Unnikrishnan brilliantly maps a new, unruly global English, and in giving substance and identity to the anonymous workers of the Gulf, he highlights the disturbing ways in which “progress” on a global scale is bound up with dehumanization.

Deepak Unnikrishnan is a writer and taleteller from Abu Dhabi (and now, Chicago). He has lived on the East Coast and in the Midwest, reciting and mining his myths in Teaneck, New Jersey, Brooklyn, New York, and Chicago’s North and South sides. He has studied and taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and presently teaches at New York University Abu Dhabi. Temporary People, his first book, was the inaugural winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

Shanthi Sekaran teaches creative writing at California College of the Arts, and is a member of the Portuguese Artists Colony and the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Her work has appeared in Best New American Voices and Canteen, and online at Zyzzyva and Mutha Magazine. Her first novel, The Prayer Room, was published by MacAdam Cage. She recently released a new novel: Lucky Boy from G.P. Putnam & Sons.

Joyce Carol Oates 3

http://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100609580/Images/87286100609580L.jpgCity Lights welcomes back Joyce Carol Oates, who reads from her new novel A Book of American Martyrs from Ecco Press.

A BOOK OF AMERICAN MARTYRS intimately links the stories of two very different families. Luther Dunphy is an ardent Evangelical who envisions himself as acting out God’s will when he assassinates an abortion provider in his small Ohio town. Augustus Voorhees, the idealistic doctor who is killed, leaves behind a wife and children scarred and embittered by grief. As the story moves forward, the daughters of these men—one a boxer, the other a journalist—continue to be inextricably tied by the dramatic connection they share. As she alone can, Oates renders whole these two very different families—with very different values and views. Epic and intimate, the narrative explores their warring convictions with dazzling equanimity. A story as immediate as today’s headlines, it also offers a larger perspective on the ways that issues tear us apart as individuals and as a nation.

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Critics Circlhttp://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/JCO.jpege Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde (a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize), and the New York Times bestsellers The Falls (winner of the 2005 Prix Femina Etranger) and The Gravedigger’s Daughter. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. In 2003 she received the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature, and in 2006 she received the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jim Nisbet 2

City Lights welcomes Jim Nisbet to celebrate the paperback release of The Syracuse Codex, published by the Overlook Press.

Over the course of http://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100478520/Images/87286100478520L.jpgthe last decade, The Overlook Press has brought into print, in quality paperback editions, the majority of the literary oeuvre of San Francisco literary great Jim Nisbet. The Syracuse Codex is the latest in the series of books that are essential reading for all lovers of fiction, especially of the “noir” variety.

In The Syracuse Codex, Nisbet returns in a wild tale of skullduggery, mayhem, and history peopled with a rogue’s gallery of the eccentric and unscrupulous.

San Francisco frame maker Danny Kestrel regularly rubs elbows with the rich and immohttp://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/NISBET.jpgral at art openings and commissions. But he’s never dreamt of entering their lurid world until Renée Knowles―interior decorator, billionaire’s wife, nymphomaniac―asks for a ride.

When Knowles is murdered soon after their one-night stand, Danny finds himself a prime suspect. Renée’s death has stirred up a hornet’s nest of fabulously crooked and wealthy collectors of black market historical artifacts, all seeking the crown jewel: the eponymous Syracuse Codex, a secret account of Empress Theodora’s illegitimate son. Worse, everyone seems to think Danny has it.

Jim Nisbet is the author of twelve novels and five books of poetry. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, shortlisted for the Hammett Prize, and published in ten languages. Visit his website at: http://noirconeville.com

Molotov Editions Kick-Off Party

City Lights celebrates the launch of Molotov Editions’ first two titles: The White Devil by Domenic Stansberry and The Death of Teddy Ballgame by Robert Mailer Anderson.

This event includes reading, music, theater, movie stars, regular slobs, writers, ducks, barking dogs, circus freaks, beautiful people, materialistic fools, politicians, homeless passerbys, maybe nobody at all, ghosts, old lovers, new lovers, dead parents, parents you wish were dead, friends and lost ones who haunt your imagination and refuse to abandon these empty streets.

About The White Devil:

After a six year hiatus, Edgar award winning novelist Domenic Stansberry has returned to the mystery scene with a chilling new noir: The White Devil, that tells the story of  an aspiring American actress who—together with her brother— is implicated in a series of crimes dating back to their childhood. The novel begins in Rome, among the American ex-patriot community, and from there follows the siblings’ deadly obsession with an aging Italian movie star and her charismatic husband. Stansberry’s protagonist, Vicki Wilson, narrates the story in a voice alternately intimate and distant, a cipher of unwholesome impulse and erotic intrigue.  The result is an elegant tour de force, a psychological noir exploring the murky depths where the differences between the criminal and victim are not entirely clear.

About The Death of Teddy Ballgame:

From Robert Mailer Anderson, the bestseller author of Boonville. The last patrons of Caffe Dante gather for their morning coffee during what may be the final days of civilization. Apocalyptic events disrupt the routine of their lives and they are forced to take responsibility for a darkly comic reckoning which questions their faith in God, love, culture, family, humanity and each other. It’s Beckett meets Mamet meets O’Neil over a double jolt of expresso!

About Molotov Editions:

Molotov Editions are a San Francisco press from the underworld, the howl of individual expression apart from the mainstream, no matter its genre, using whatever means necessary, affordable, convenient or possible. Books are considered to be incendiary devices, messages in flaming bottles that ignite the soul, communicated in private, and their mercantile value has little to do with the echo in the canyon.

For more info visit: http://www.molotoveditions.com

Rabih Alameddine

The Angel of HistoryCity Lights welcomes Rabih Alameddine in celebrating the release of The Angel of History from Atlantic Monthly Press.

The incendiary new novel by National Book Award finalist Rabih Alameddine, about an Arab American poet, whose adult life in San Francisco spans the AIDS decades, and his hilarious and heartbreaking struggle to remember and forget the events of an astonishing life. Following the criti

cal and commercial success of An Unnecessary Woman, Alameddine delivers a spectacular portrait of a man and an era of political and social upheaval.

Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/RabihA.jpgHistory follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS. Hovered over by the presence of alluring, sassy Satan, who taunts Jacob to remember his painful past, and dour, frigid Death, who urges him to forget anxd give up on life, Jacob is also attended to by fourteen saints. With Jacob recalling his life in Cairo, Beirut, Sana’a, Stockholm, and San Francisco, Alameddine gives us a charged philosophical portrayal of a brilliant mind in crisis. This is a profound and winning story of the war between memory and oblivion with which we wrestle every day of our life.

Rabih Alameddine is the author of the novels An Unnecessary Woman; I, the Divine; Koolaids; The Hakawati; and the story collection, The Perv.

Rikki Ducornet

City Lights welcomes Rikki Ducornet, reading from her new novel Brightfellow published by Coffee House Press.

A feral boy comes of age on a campus decadent with starched sheets, sweating cocktails, ahttp://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100362450/Images/87286100362450L.jpgnd homemade jams. Stub is the cause of that missing sweater, the pie that disappeared off the cooling rack. Then Stub meets Billy, who takes him in, and Asthma, who enchants him, and all is found, then lost. A fragrant, voluptuous novel of imposture, misplaced affection, and emotional deformity.http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/rikki.jpeg

An artist and writer, Rikki Ducornet has illustrated books by Robert Coover, Jorge Luis Borges, Forrest Gander, and Joanna Howard. Her paintings have been exhibited widely, including, most recently, at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Salvador Allende Museum in Santiago, Chile.

Justin Chin Tribute

City Lighhttp://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100047050/Images/87286100047050L.jpgts Booksellers celebrates the release of Justin Chin: Selected Works hosted by Jennifer Joseph with readings and remembrances by Kevin Killian, Rabih Alameddine, Henry Machtay, Larry-Bob Roberts, Thea Hillman, Maw Shein Win, Alvin Orloff , and Daphne Gottlieb.

Justin Chin’s fearless and fierce voice was resolute in relating his worldview, whether directly or through metaphorical language. As a queer Asian American, born and raised in Southeast Asia within a devoutly Christian, ethnically Chinese family of medical professionals, Chin’s early life experience informed his writing and framed his point of view. In his literary works, the seemingly conflicted duality of existence is paramount: sacred and profane, saints and sinners, health and illness, hope and despair, life and death. His works also explore his experience of living with HIV, which progressed into AIDS in his final years.

This unique collection of Chin’s literary legacy will serve as both a primer for those new to his works, as well as a loving tribute by those writers who knew him and his work best. Notable literary figures pay tribute to the poet/writer with personal commentaries on works selected from his seven books.

Among many others, contributing writers include R. Zamora Linmark (Rolling the R’s), Michelle Tea (How To Grow Up), Timothy Liu (Don’t Go Back To Sleep), and Lois-Ann Yamanaka (Night at the Pahala Theatre).http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/JustinChin.jpg

Justin Chin (1969-2015) was the award-winning author of four poetry books, two essay collections, one book each of short fiction, and text-based performance art works. His writing appeared in literary magazines, including Beloit Poetry Journal, and anthologies, including American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon). He taught at UC Santa Cruz and at San Francisco State University. He was a recipient of fellowships and grants from the California Arts Council, Djerassi Foundation, Franklin Furnace Fund, PEN American Center, and PEN Center USA West, among others.

 

Ali Eteraz

Ali Eteraz reads from his novel, Native Believer (published by Akashic Books), at City Lights. He is joined by Vanessa Hua.

Ali Eteraz’s much-anticipated debut  is the story of M., a supportive husband, adventureless dandy, lapsed believer, and second-generation immigrant who wants nothing more than to host parties and bring children into the world as full-fledged Americans. As M.’s world gradually fragments around him—a wife with a chronic illness; a best-friend stricken with grief; a boss jeopardizing a respectable career—M. spins out into the pulsating underbelly of Philadelphia, where he encounters others grappling with fallout from the War on Terror. Among the pornographers and converts to Islam, punks, and wrestlers, M. confronts his existential degradation and the life of a second-class citizen. 

Darkly comic, provocative, and insightful, Native Believer is a startling vision of the contemporary American experience and the human capacity to shape identity and belonging at all costs.

Ali Eteraz is based at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. He is the author of the coming-of-age memoir Children of Dust (HarperCollins) and the surrealist short story collection Falsipedies & Fibsiennes (Guernica Ed.). Eteraz’s short fiction has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, storySouth, and Crossborder, and his nonfiction has been highlighted by NPR, The New York Times, and the Guardian. Recently, Eteraz received the 3 Quarks Daily Arts & Literature Prize judged by Mohsin Hamid, and served as a consultant to the artist Jenny Holzer on a permanent art installation in Qatar. Eteraz has lived in the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Alabama. Native Believer is his debut novel.

Vanessa Hua is an award-winning writer and journalist. For nearly two decades, she has been writing about Asia and the diaspora. She received a 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for Fiction, and is a past Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, FRONTLINE/World, Washington Post, Guernica, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. A former staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, she has filed stories from China, South Korea, Panama, Burma and Ecuador. Deceit and Other Possibilities, her debut story collection, will be published this fall (Willow Books).

Tony Serra 2

City Lights hosts Tony Serra as he celebrates the release of his debut novel, The Scaffold: A Treason Death Penalty Trial, published by Grizzly Peak Press.

Beginning with an outline as a young lawyer around 1960 and finally completed in prison as a tax resister, 50 or so years later, J. Tony Serra presents his first novel, The Scaffold: A Treason Death Penalty Trial. The story takes  place during the Second World War in the South Pacific with U.S. P.T. Boats and Japanese zero attack planes juxtaposed against an island paradise. At the center is a court martial trial filled with Serra’s legal career experiences but also an example of life as absurdity. All aspects of living are viewed as metaphors of absurdity. Intellectual discourse is explored as an expression of the Theater of the Absurd. The message is: war is absurd; treason is absurd; the death penalty is absurd and platonic love is humanity’s only redemption.

A native son of San Francisco, Tony Serra has dedicated his life to defending society’s outcasts.  After hearing a Philosophy degree from Stanford University, Serra went on to graduate from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in the 1960s, an era he calls “the golden age of law.”  In his more than 45 years of practice, Serra has helmed a number of noteworthy cases, including Huey Newton, Bear Lincoln, Chol Soo Lee, the Hell’s Angels, Hooty Croy, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the White Panthers, Bari & Cherney v. FBI and more. Serra has been honored with awards from, among others, NORML, ACLU, American Lawyer Magazine, San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. Although he has been admitted to practice in 45 separate federal and state jurisdictions in 28 different states, Serra still calls San Francisco home. His first two books are Walking The Circle and Tony Serra published by Grizzly Peak Press.

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.

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.”

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.

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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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.