Yiyun Li

City Lights welcomes Yiyun Li in celebrating the release of her new book, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life published by Random House.

In her first nonfiction book, award-winning novelist Yiyun Li explores a question we ask ourselves: How does one make life livable?

Startlingly original and shining with quiet wisdom, this is a luminous account of a life lived with books. Written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life is a painful and yet richly affirming examination of what makes life worth living.

Yiyun Li grew up in China and has spent her adult life as an immigrant in a country not her own. She has been a scientist, an author, a mother, a daughter—and through it all she has been sustained by a profound connection with the writers and books she loves. From William Trevor and Katherine Mansfield to Søren Kierkegaard and Philip Larkin, Dear Friend is a journey through the deepest themes that bind these writers together.

Interweaving personal experiences with a wide-ranging homage to her most cherished literary influences, Yiyun Li confronts the two most essential questions of her identity: Why write? And why live? Dear Friend is a beautiful, interior exploration of selfhood and a journey of recovery through literature: a long letter from a writer to like-minded readers.

Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing and came to the United States in 1996. She has received fellowships and awards from Lannan Foundation and Whiting Foundation. Her debut collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Guardian First Book Award, and California Book Award for first fiction. Her novel, The Vagrants, won the gold medal of California Book Award for fiction, and was shortlisted for Dublin IMPAC Award. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, her second collection, was a finalist of Story Prize and shortlisted for Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages. She was selected by Granta as one of the 21 Best Young American Novelists under 35, and was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 20 writers under 40. MacArthur Foundation named her a 2010 fellow. She is a contributing editor to the Brooklyn-based literary magazine, A Public Space.

She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two sons, and teaches at University of California, Davis.

Rachel Aspden

City Lights welcomes Rachel Aspden! She discusses her new book, Generation Revolution:  On the Front Line
Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East,
from Other Press.

http://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100257410/Images/87286100257410L.jpgIn 2011 during the Arab Spring, the government of Egypt transformed from a dictatorship to a democratic presidency. The chaos that resulted during this time erupted from a decade of social and political unrest among the Egyptian people. GENERATION REVOLUTION is the story of the millennial generation in Egypt during the Arab Spring, from the perspective of several different young men and women whose different views explore the way Egypt has been shaped before, during, and after the 2011 end of Hosni Mubarak’s presidency.

Aspden spent years in Egypt during the beginning of unrest in 2003 and moved back again during the years following post-revolution in 2011. Aspden offers a window into the world of the Middle East during the Arab Spring, before, during, and after Egypt’s chaotic overthrow of their President Mubarak and his successor, the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi. Through Aspden’s curious and unbiased gaze, readers hear the Egyptian voices of Amr, an atheist university-educated software engineer, Amal, a fiercely independent young woman who lives on her own in Cairo which is practically unheard of, Ayman, a devout Muslim teenager who chooses to follow ultraconservative Salafi Islam to the surprise of his middle-class parents, and Mazen, a fan of TV preacher Amr Khaled who finds himself on the front lines during the revolution. With these perspectives along with others’, readers learn that from atheists to ultra-religious, from conservative young men to liberal young women, the growing generation of Egypt is vastly different, struggling to find a place for various voices during chaotic government upheaval. Aspden writes from the front lines of this new generation, sharing their stories and harbouring their own doubts, resentments, and hope for what is to come.

http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/RachelAspden.jpegRachel Aspden became literary editor of the New Statesman in 2006, at the age of 26. She now works at the Guardian, and also writes on a freelance basis for the New Statesman, Observer, Prospect and Think magazine (Qatar). She lived in Cairo in 2003-4 and worked as an editor and reporter on the English-language Cairo Times. Since then, from her UK base, she has travelled to and reported from across the region and the wider Muslim world: Yemen, the UAE, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Pakistan and north India. In 2010, she was awarded a year-long travelling fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to research activists working to fight extremism within Islam. Following the Arab spring uprisings in 2011, she moved back to Egypt to research this book. She is currently based in London and reports for the Guardian.

Okey Ndibe

City Lights presents Okey Ndibe, celebrating the release of Never Look an American in the Eye: A Memoir of Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American from Soho Press.

Okey Ndibe’s funny, charming, and penetrating memoir tells of his move from Nigeria to America, where he came to edit the influential—but forever teetering on the verge of insolvency—African Commentary magazine. It recounts stories of Ndibe’s relationships with Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and other literary figures; examines the differences between Nigerian and American etiquette and politics; recalls an incident of racial profiling just 13 days after he arrived in the US, in which he was mistaken for a bank robber; considers American stereotypes about Africa (and vice-versa); and juxtaposes African folk tales with Wall Street trickery. All these stories and more come together in a generous, encompassing book about the making of a writer and a new American.

Okey Ndibe first arrived in the US to take up appointment as the founding editor of African Commentary, a magazine published by the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe. He has been a visiting professor at Brown University, Connecticut College, Simon’s Rock College, Trinity College, and the University of Lagos (as a Fulbright scholar). The author of Foreign Gods, Inc., Ndibe served on the editorial board of Hartford Courant where his essays won national and state awards. He earned MFA and PhD degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He lives in West Hartford, CT, with his wife, Sheri, and their three children.

Carey Perloff and Joshua Mohr

http://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100775260/Images/87286100775260L.jpgCo-presented by Litquake, and with a introduction from City Light’s publisher and executive director Elaine Katzenberger, City Lights welcomes Carey Perloff, the Artistic Director of A.C.T. to discuss Beautiful Chaos: A Life in the Theater (published by the City Lights Foundation). Beautiful Chaos was chosen by the San Francisco Public Library as their One City One Book selection for Fall 2016! Carey is interviewed by novelist Joshua Mohr, whose most recent book is All This Life.
Perloff pens a lively and revealing memoir of her twenty-plus years at the helm, and delivers a provocative and impassioned manifesto for the role of live theater in today’shttp://www.citylights.com/resources/persons/17050.gif technology-infused world.

Perloff’s personal and professional journey—her life as a woman in a male-dominated profession, as a wife and mother, a playwright, director, producer, arts advocate, and citizen in a city erupting with enormous change—is a compelling, entertaining story for anyone interested in how theater gets made. She offers a behind-the-scenes perspective, including her intimate working experiences with well-known actors, directors, and writers including Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Robert Wilson, David Strathairn, and Olympia Dukakis.

Whether reminiscing about her turbulent first years as a young woman taking over an insolvent theater in crisis and transforming it into a thriving, world-class performance space, or ruminating on the potential for its future, Perloff takes on critical questions about arts education, cultural literacy, gender disparity, leadership and power.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

City Lights welcomes Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, reading from and discussing his new book Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening from The New Press.

Birth of a Dream Weaver charts the very beginnings of a writer’s creative output. In this wonderful memoir, Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o recounts the four years he spent at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda—threshold years during which he found his voice as a journalist, short story writer, playwright, and novelist just as colonial empires were crumbling and new nations were being born—under the shadow of the rivalries, intrigues, and assassinations of the Cold War.Birth of a Dream Weaver

Haunted by the memories of the carnage and mass incarceration carried out by the British colonial-settler state in his native Kenya but inspired by the titanic struggle against it, Ngũgĩ, then known as James Ngugi, begins to weave stories from the fibers of memory, history, and a shockingly vibrant and turbulent present.

What unfolds in this moving and thought-provoking memoir is simulhttp://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/thiongo_ngugi_wa_daniel_anderson.jpgtaneously the birth of one of the most important living writers—lauded for his “epic imagination” (Los Angeles Times)—the death of one of the most violent episodes in global history, and the emergence of new histories and nations with uncertain futures.

One of the leading African writers and scholars at work today, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was born in Limuru, Kenya, in 1938. He is the author of A Grain of Wheat; Weep Not, Child; Petals of Blood; and Birth of a Dream Weaver (The New Press). He is currently distinguished professor in the School of Humanities and the director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine. He has been nominated for the Man Booker International Prize.

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.