L.A. Times Festival of Books features musings on Trump, feminism, art and more

The presidency of Donald Trump and its implications on a wide range of areas — feminism, race relations, arts, science, children and even writing itself — was a powerful theme during the first day of the 22nd annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Saturday at USC.

The two-day festival — the nation’s largest dedicated to books — featured lectures, workshops and discussions with such luminaries as bestselling author George Saunders, former Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, writer and historian Rebecca Solnit and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.

On Saturday afternoon, a packed house greeted Lewis and his coauthors of the “March” trilogy, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, at USC’s Bovard Auditorium. Their graphic novel “March: Book Three” is based on Lewis’ life.

As a young man, Lewis said he was inspired to join the civil rights movement by the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” He went on to organize sit-ins and participated in the so-called Freedom Rides challenging segregation on public buses.

Lewis said he hopes his experiences covered in the book will inspire others to continue the fight, especially in the current political climate.

“We’ve made too much progress. We’ve gone too far, and we are not going back,” he said. “They must understand that they will be the leaders of the 21st century. Maybe we can serve as a model.”

One group discussion — titled “The Future is Female” — included a panel of feminists who tried to answer an audience member’s question about what it means to be a woman today.

The panel was moderated by former Times book editor Joy Press and featured three generations of feminists: Lindy West, a millennial who has written about body image and being harassed by online trolls; Rebecca Solnit, a baby boomer and prolific essayist whose book “Men Explain Things to Me” introduced the term “mansplaining” to the American lexicon; and Betty Fussell, an 89-year-old who has written extensively about food and said that the 1950s label “feminist” didn’t apply to her as a wife, mother and cook who had an independent outlook.

“It was very interesting to me that they were so separate in their viewpoints,” said Carolyn Stuart, who attended the panel.

Stuart, an art historian, and the panelists were heartened that feminists of all stripes have been galvanized by the election of President Trump and united in a common cause.

The panelists — and, evidently, their audience — were joined by their blatant dislike of Trump and concern for how his election would affect women’s rights and feminism in general. West referred, only half-jokingly, to Trump’s election as “the incident,” and Solnit described the current political climate as one of “crisis.”

But they were also optimistic.

Solnit said the women’s marches, the voices of women who were instrumental in ousting Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News, and the coming of age of a younger, multicultural generation gave her hope for the future.

“Fifty percent of people under 18 are not white,” Solnit said. “Their generation may make its own mistakes, but they are not going to be nice to conservatives, much less the far right and the alt-right.”

But it was not all politics. At another seminar, author Michael Connelly sat down with scriptwriter Dan Pyne to talk about the Amazon TV show based on Connelly’s mystery novels.

Connelly’s popular “Harry Bosch” series first finds his hero, Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, in his early 40s as an LAPD detective. The character ages throughout the books, going from detective to private investigator, back to the LAPD, on to early retirement and then to more P.I. work.

“I didn’t freeze Harry in time, because it’s better storytelling not to,” Connelly said. “As long as he can keep his health and his knees are good, he can close cases.”

“Bosch” is now the longest-running original series on the Amazon streaming service.

Other lectures, readings and discussions included Los Angeles Times Editor in Chief Davan Maharaj’s Q&A with Lakers legend Abdul-Jabbar, whose recent book, “Writings on the Wall,” focuses on “searching for a new equality beyond black and white”; a conversation with actor Bryan Cranston on his new book, “A Life in Parts”; and Jon Agee’s reading of his children’s book “Life on Mars.”

The festival, which continues Sunday, also includes concerts and booths representing booksellers, publishers, after-school programs and health clinics. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More than 160,000 people are expected to attend the festival over the course of the weekend.

nina.agrawal@latimes.com


UPDATES:

8:25 p.m. This story was updated with new comments and details from events at the book festival.

This story was originally posted at 11:45 a.m.

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