Amber Tamblyn and Lidia Yuknavitch talk about the patriarchy and more at the L.A. public library
“There’s not a choice to be quiet about certain things,” said Amber Tamblyn from the stage at the Mark Taper Auditorium at the Los Angeles Central Library on Tuesday night. The poet, actress and Time’s Up activist said that the election “felt like a catalyst for me… an intensified catapult” that unleashed a flood of new writing. In the last two years, she said, “I’ve felt much more connected to my rage space.”
Tamblyn, who appeared as Joan in the television series “Joan of Arcadia” joined author Lidia Yuknavitch, who retold the Joan of Arc story in her science fiction novel “The Book of Joan,” as part of the library’s ALOUD series.
The theme of the evening was “Misfits Unite,” a riff on Yuknavitch’s TED talk, “The Beauty of Being a Misfit,” which has more than 2 million views and led to her TED book “The Misfit’s Manifesto.” The evening’s readings and conversation, moderated by journalist Ann Friedman, touched on the patriarchy, the resistance, the necessity for “outsider” voices and how to dismantle — and rebuild — cultural narratives.
Tamblyn read from her poetry collection “Dark Sparkler,” about the lives of actresses who died young (“think a young Carol Lombard meets a younger Anna Nicole,” she read, recasting the insidiousness of the casting call) and closed with a new poem titled “Letter to My Childhood Dream,” which referenced Tom Brokaw, Beyoncé, water and wolves.
Wolves felt apropos, she said, considering “the fact that a certain gentleman is here in Los Angeles this evening.” (Streets adjacent to the library had closed for President Trump’s motorcade.) Her reading drew vigorous applause; Yuknavitch kissed her hand on bended knee.
“People are forever thinking that the unthinkable can’t happen,” read Yuknavitch, an excerpt from the beginning of “The Book of Joan,” in which a celebrity-turned-dictator rules a suborbital complex in the year 2049. “Yet another case of something shiny that entertained us and then devoured us,” she read, pausing for effect.
When the writers took the stage together, Yuknavitch described her ambition in “The Book of Joan” to “deconstruct the war story, the love story, and the god story.”
“It’s a beautiful failure,” she said, with genuine pride. “Some of us just missed, and continue to miss,” she said of the idea of a misfit, but what does matter if the endeavor is worthwhile? For her next project, “I’ve got my sights on deconstructing nations,” she said, asking, “what if we loved the planet the way we claim we love lovers?”
Tamblyn, who said she felt radicalized after the 2016 presidential election, is also writing — as well as mobilizing the movement Time’s Up. Its goals are equally ambitious: “ending workplace discrimination and harassment across all industries,” she said, adding that “we really need men to step up and be allies… we just need men to be quiet, to listen.”
The question of whose stories get told, and who gets to tell them, concerns both writers. “Part of the labor is to get more voices, the voices that are disappeared,” into the cultural narrative, said Yuknavitch. The patriarchy “seems to be breaking down,” she said, allowing greater diversity to “enter the critical space and form critical mass.” Tamblyn agreed. “I feel alive with the possibility of it,” she said.
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