Rank #1: R.O. Kwon
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, Time, Parade, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, PBS, Vulture, Buzzfeed, BookRiot, PopSugar, Refinery29, Bustle, The Rumpus, Paste, and the BBC.
“A shocking novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.”
R. O. Kwon is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing is published or forthcoming in The Guardian, Vice, Buzzfeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, and elsewhere. She has received awards from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, the Steinbeck Center, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she has lived most of her life in the United States.
Rank #2: Forrest Gander and Jonathan Santlofer with Susan Steinberg
Forrest Gander and Jonathan Santlofer celebrate the release of their two books: Be With, by Forrest Gander, published by New Directions & The Widower’s Notebook: A Memoir by Jonathon Santlofer, published by Penguin. Conversation moderated by Susan Steinberg.
A conversation about how loss and grieving can give rise to creativity and then healing.
Rank #3: The Situationists and May 1968: An Evening with Ken Knabb
City Lights presents Ken Knabb, leading translator of Guy Debord and the Situationist International, discussing the situationists’ key influence on the nationwide May 1968 revolt in France, and how that astonishing social eruption remains relevant to our present-day world.
Ken Knabb is a writer, translator, and radical theorist, known for his translations of Guy Debord and the Situationist International. His own English-language writings, many of which were anthologized in Public Secrets (1997), have been translated into over a dozen additional languages. He is also a respected authority on the political significance of the anarchist poet and essayist Kenneth Rexroth. His other translations include Guy Debord’s film scripts (Complete Cinematic Works), Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, and Ngo Van’s In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary. Knabb’s own writings include leaflets, comics, pamphlets and articles on Wilhelm Reich, George Brassens, and Gary Snyder.
Rank #4: Margaret Randall
Margaret Randall is a feminist poet, writer, photographer and social activist. Born in New York City in 1936, she has lived for extended periods in Albuquerque, New York, Seville, Mexico City, Havana, and Managua. Shorter stays in Peru and North Vietnam were also formative. In the turbulent 1960s she co-founded and co-edited EL CORNO EMPLUMADO / THE PLUMED HORN, a bilingual literary journal which for eight years published some of the most dynamic and meaningful writing of an era. From 1984 through 1994 she taught at a number of U.S. universities. She was privileged to live among New York’s abstract expressionists in the 1950s and early ’60s, share the rebellion of the Beats, participate in the Mexican student movement of 1968, live in Cuba during the second decade of that country’s revolution (1969-1980), reside in Nicaragua during the first four years of the Sandinista project (1980-1984), and visit North Vietnam during the heroic last months of the U.S. American war in that country (1974).
Rank #5: John Freeman, Jaime Cortez, and Rebecca Solnit
From the voices of protestors to the encroachment of a new fascism, everywhere we look, power is revealed. Spouse to spouse, soldier to citizen, looker to gazed upon, power is never static: it is either demonstrated or deployed. Its hoarding is itself a demonstration. This thought-provoking issue of the acclaimed literary annual Freeman’s explores who gets to say what matters in a time of social upheaval.
Rank #6: Richard Rhodes
Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes reveals the fascinating history behind energy transitions over time—wood to coal to oil to electricity and beyond.
Richard Rhodes is the author of numerous books and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He graduated from Yale University and has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Appearing as host and correspondent for documentaries on public television’s Frontline and American Experience series, he has also been a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT and is an affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Visit his website: RichardRhodes.com
Rank #7: Jenny Xie and Jennifer S. Cheng
Rank #8: Preserving Fire: The Prose of Philip Lamantia
City Lights celebrates the release of Preserving Fire: Selected Prose by Philip Lamantia, edited by City Lights’s own Garrett Caples and published by Wave Books. Readings by Will Alexander, Micah Ballard, James Brook, Chris Carosi, Steve Fama, Brian Lucas, and Sunnylyn Thibodeaux.
Preserving Fire recounts the life and thought of Surrealist, Beat Generation, and San Francisco Renaissance poet Philip Lamantia through his fugitive prose works. Ranging from poetry to politics to mythology to dance, from manifestos to travelogues to wartime declarations of conscientious objection, these writings—expertly collected by Garrett Caples—offer a dynamic picture of Lamantia’s multifaceted intellectual life and the artistic movements he helped shape.
Philip Lamantia (1927–2005) was an influential Surrealist, Beat, and San Francisco Renaissance poet. He is the author of many books, including Erotic Poems, Touch of the Marvelous, Meadowlark West, Tau and Journey to the End, and The Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia.
Rank #9: Darius James
The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University and New York Review Books in conjunction with City Lights present an afternoon with Darius James celebrating the eagerly awaited re-release of his seminal novel Negrophobia: An Urban Parable, introduction by Amy Abugo Ongiri, published by New York Review Books.
Darius James is a writer and spoken-word performance artist. He is also the author of That’s Blaxploitation!: Roots of the Baadasssss ‘Tude (Rated X by an All-Whyte Jury); Voodoo Stew; and Froggie Chocolate’s Christmas Eve. His writing has appeared in multiple publications, including The Village Voice, Vibe, and Spin, and he is the co-writer and narrator of the 2012 film The United States of Hoodoo. He makes his home in Connecticut.
Rank #10: Daegan Miller
Working in a tradition that stretches from Thoreau to Rebecca Solnit, Miller offers nothing less than a new way of seeing the American past—and of understanding what it can offer us for the present . . . and the future.
Rank #11: William Middleton
William Middleton in conversation with City Lights’ Paul Yamazaki discussing the subject of his new book Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil published by Alfred Knopf. (recorded in the City Lights Publishing office)
City Lights celebrates the first and definitive biography of the celebrated collectors Dominique and John de Menil, who became one of the greatest cultural forces of the twentieth century through groundbreaking exhibits of art, artistic scholarship, the creation of innovative galleries and museums, and work with civil rights.
Rank #12: Max Yeh and Sesshu Foster
Founded in 1994, Kaya Press has established itself as the premier publisher of cutting-edge Asian and Pacific Islander diasporic writers in the United States. Their diverse list of titles includes experimental poetry, noir fiction, film memoir, avant-garde art, performance pieces, “lost” novels, and everything in between. Kaya and its authors have been the recipients of numerous awards, including the Gregory Kolovakas Prize for Outstanding New Literary Press, the American Book Award, the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award, the PEN Beyond Margins Open Book Prize, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Award, and the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Prize. Their books have become cornerstone texts in American Studies and Asian American Studies curricula at major universities throughout the country.
Rank #13: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Thi Bui, and Meron Hadero
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer), and contributors Thi Bui (The Best We Could Do) and Meron Hadero present/read from The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives. Edited by Nguyen, himself a refugee, The Displaced brings together a host of prominent refugee writers from around the world to explore and illuminate their experiences. The Displaced is an indictment of closing our doors and a powerful look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of asylum. The publisher will donate 10 percent of the cover price of this book, a minimum of $25,000 annually, to The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief, and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression or violent conflict.
Rank #14: Léonora Miano
Léonora Miano in conversation with City Lights events coordinator Peter Maravelis celebrating the release of her book, Season of the Shadow, published by Seagull Press. Co-presented by the Cultural Services of the Consul General of France.
This powerful novel presents the early days of the transatlantic slave trade from a new perspective: that of the sub-Saharan population that became its first victims. Cameroonian novelist Léonora Miano presents a world on the brink of disappearing—a pre-colonial civilization with roots that stretch back for centuries. One day, a group of villagers find twelve of their people missing. Where have they gone? Who is responsible? A collective dream, troubling a group of mothers in a communal dwelling, may have some of the answers, as the women’s missing sons call to them in terror; at the same time, a thick shadow settles over the huts, blocking out the light of day. It is the shadow of slavery, which will soon grow to blight the whole world.
Miano renders this brutal story in deliberately strange, dreamlike prose, befitting a situation that is, on its face, all but impossible for the villagers to believe.
Léonora Miano is a Cameroonian writer who lives in France. She is author of seven novels and two collections of essays. Season of the Shadow is her second book to be translated into English; her debut novel, Dark Heart of the Night, won the prix Femina when it was published in French in 2013.
Rank #15: Gabriela Alemán with Mauro Javier Cardenas and Dick Cluster
City Lights presents Gabriela Alemán, speaking alongside special guests Mauro Javier Cardenas and Dick Cluster to celebrate the release of her newest book Poso Wells. Opening statement by City Lights Publisher/Executive Director Elaine Katzenberger.
Poso Wells is published by City Lights Books and translated by Dick Cluster.
This is celebrated Ecuadorian author Gabriela Alemán’s first work to appear in English: a noir, feminist eco-thriller in which venally corrupt politicians and greedy land speculators finally get their just comeuppance!
Gabriela Alemán, based in Quito, Ecuador, has played professional basketball in Switzerland and Paraguay and has worked as a waitress, administrator, translator, radio scriptwriter, and film studies professor. She received a PhD at Tulane University and holds a Master’s degree in Latin American Literature from Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. Her literary honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006; member of Bogotá 39, a 2007 selection of the most important up-and-coming writers in Latin America in the post-Boom generation; one of five finalists for the 2015 Premio Hispanoamericano de Cuento Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia) for her story collection La muerte silba un blues; and winner of several prizes for critical essays on literature and film. Her other books include the short story collections, Maldito corazón, Zoom, Fuga permanente, and Álbum de familia; her novels in Spanish include Body Time, Poso Wells, and Humo. Her stories have appeared in anthologies in French, English, Chinese, Hebrew, and Serbo-Croatian. This is her first full-length work to appear in English.
Rank #16: Ana Raquel Minian
Ana Raquel Minian is Assistant Professor of History and of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University.
In the 1970s the Mexican government acted to alleviate rural unemployment by supporting the migration of able-bodied men. Millions crossed into the United States to find work that would help them survive as well as sustain their families in Mexico. They took low-level positions that few Americans wanted and sent money back to communities that depended on their support. But as U.S. authorities pursued more aggressive anti-immigrant measures, migrants found themselves caught between the economic interests of competing governments. The fruits of their labor were needed in both places, and yet neither country made them feel welcome.
Rank #17: John Sims and Special Guests
City Lights welcomes multi-media conceptual artist, writer and activist John Sims to celebrate the release of his video poem chapbook, A Blazing Grace and the AfroDixieRemixes: The San Francisco Session.
Joined by Terry Blackhawk, Sylvia L. Blalock, Drew Dellinger, and Tongo Eisen-Martin.
The AfroDixie music project confronts the song “Dixie” – the anthem of the Confederacy subversively by remixing, remapping and cross-appropriation with a collection of 14 tracks of Dixie in the many genres of black music: Spiritual, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Funk Calypso, Samba, Soul, R&B, House, Hip Hop. To critically engage this project with both historical and current social- political-cultural themes, the artist has been hosting listening sessions around the country, inviting poets, artists, scholars, activist and community members to respond to the music. This session has visited Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Detroit Institute of Arts and the Bowery Poetry Club. Special guest poets/writers and performers in the Bay Area were invited to respond to the various tracks for this performance.
This sound performance is a part of the artist’s 16-year multi-media project, Recoloration Proclamation, a 16-year multimedia project which explores the complexity of identity, cultural appropriation/remixing, white supremacy, visual terrorism in the context of Confederate iconography and African-American culture. This system of works features recolored Confederate flags, a noose hanging installation in Gettysburg, a 13 southern states Confederate flag funeral, videos, site specific performances, a play, a documentary film, the music project AfroDixieRemixes, the annual Burn and Bury Confederate Flag Memorial and most recently the outside performance and Kennedy Museum exhibition of The Proper Way to Hang to a Confederate Flag at Ohio University.
John Sims, a Detroit native, is a multi-media conceptual artist, writer and activist creating projects spanning the areas of installation, text, music, film, performance and large scale activism. His main projects are informed by mathematics, the politics of sacred symbols/anniversaries and the agency of poetry. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, NBC News, USA Today, NPR, The Guardian, and more.
Rank #18: Curtis White
The man Paul Auster called “a master of bewitchments” and a founder of the Fiction Collective returns to the novel after twenty years. In the spirit of “transcendental buffoonery,” Curtis White’s return to fiction is fun in the extreme. The story begins when a masked man with “a message both obscure and appalling” appears at the door of the Marquis claiming a matter of life and death, declaring, “I stand falsely accused of an atrocity!”
Rank #19: Tosh Berman
City Lights presents Tosh Berman, author of TOSH: Growing Up In Wallace Berman’s World, in conversation with Natalia Mount, chief curator at Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, CA.
Tosh Berman is a Los Angeles-based writer, poet, and avant-garde publisher, notably of TamTam Books.
TOSH is a memoir of growing up as the son of an enigmatic, much-admired, hermetic, and ruthlessly bohemian artist during the waning years of the Beat Generation and the heyday of hippie counterculture. A critical figure in the history of postwar American culture, Tosh Berman’s father, Wallace Berman, was known as the “father of assemblage art,” and was the creator of the legendary mail-art publication Semina. Wallace Berman and his wife, famed beauty and artist’s muse Shirley Berman, raised Tosh between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and their home life was a heady atmosphere of art, music, and literature, with local and international luminaries regularly passing through.
TOSH takes an unflinching look at the triumphs and tragedies of his unusual upbringing by an artistic genius with all-too-human frailties, against a backdrop that includes The T.A.M.I. Show, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Easy Rider, and more. With a preface by actress/writer Amber Tamblyn (daughter of Wallace’s friend, actor Russ Tamblyn), TOSH is a self-portrait taken at the crossroads of popular culture and the avant-garde. The index of names included represents a who’s who of mid-century American—and international—culture.
Rank #20: Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Ingrid Rojas Contreras celebrating the release of her debut novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree, published by Doubleday. Joining her to read from the book are special guests Nancy Jooyoun Kim, Juliana Delgado Lopera, and Baruch Porras-Hernandez.
A mesmerizing debut set in Colombia at the height Pablo Escobar’s violent reign about a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, Guernica, and Huffington Post, among others. She has received fellowships and awards from The Missouri Review, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, VONA, Hedgebrook, The Camargo Foundation, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures. She is the book columnist for KQED Arts, the Bay Area’s NPR affiliate.