Celebrity interviews, workshops & more: Don’t miss the 2022 L.A. Times Festival of Books

An illustration of books and a palm tree
(Asia Pietrzyk / For The Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, April 21. I’m Justin Ray.

Hear ye, hear ye!

This weekend, the Los Angeles Times is hosting its annual Festival of Books.

Our lineup includes more than 500 authors, poets, artists, chefs, celebrities and musicians. For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will take place in person, April 23 and 24, on USC’s 226-acre campus.

Amanda Gorman will discuss “Call Us What We Carry,” a new collection of poems set in a time of pandemic and unrest. Janelle Monáe will answer questions about her upcoming collection of science fiction short stories, “The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer.”

I should also finally tell you all the big news: I will have the honor of interviewing Broadway icon and “Pose” star Billy Porter about his new memoir “Unprotected.” (I highly recommend that you get the audiobook. Porter’s enthusiasm, humor and sass are a gift that the world needs now.)

Celebrated authors include crime novelists Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Don Winslow and Attica Locke; literary luminaries Jonathan Lethem, Roxane Gay and Amor Towles; and many more, including Jasmine Guillory, Akwaeke Emezi, Imani Perry and Jean Chen Ho.

Other notable figures set to participate include Kelly Rowland, Meena Harris, Ziggy Marley, Tony Alva, Terry Crews, Adam Schiff, Rachel Lindsay and Valerie Bertinelli.


But there’s more: There will also be family-friendly entertainment, cooking demonstrations, music, poetry, activities for Spanish speakers, and live panels. Top Times journalists will also be in attendance, including Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida, columnists Carolina Miranda, Gustavo Arellano and Robin Abcarian and many others.

But there’s even more! More than 250 exhibitors will provide an array of giveaways, merchandise and books for sale.

You can check out the full lineup here. Want tickets? Click here. Love reading? Be sure to sign up for our book club.

Also FYI: Ahead of the event, we published “Lit City: The Everything Guide to Literary Los Angeles.” The series is comprehensive, tackling such topics as Los Angeles’ role in transforming American literature and the spaces that made literary L.A. My personal favorite is a story that includes thoughts from 49 L.A. writers about the people, places and passages that inspire them.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

Eight trailblazing weed shop owners who survived the war on drugs — and City Hall. After California legalized recreational-use cannabis, many cities — including Los Angeles — put in place programs designed to help budding cannabis entrepreneurs. But as you probably know, those efforts have been a hot mess on skates. Nevertheless, we have identified major movers and shakers in the weed community who overcame all odds. Los Angeles Times

Photo montage of eight cannabis dispensary owners with  marijuana leaves scattered around.
Eight cannabis dispensary owners.
(Photo illustration by Jim Cooke; photos by Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)


Cases against LAPD officers accused of making false gang allegations crumble. Officers were accused of deliberately misidentifying people as gang members two years ago, which created substantial fallout in the form of charges and investigations. In the years since, however, attempts to punish officers have largely fallen apart. Los Angeles Times

The LAPD headquarters on First Street in downtown Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

NBA icon and Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West is declaring the depiction of his character in HBO’s “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” to be “cruel” and “deliberately false,” and is demanding a retraction within two weeks. Los Angeles Times

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Only weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced an effort to push more people into court-ordered treatment for severe mental illness and addiction, homeless advocates are calling it legally misguided and immoral. Under the proposal, family members, behavioral health care providers and first responders, among others, could petition a civil judge to initiate a plan for eligible individuals who lack medical decision-making capacity. The program would be voluntary and include assistance from both a public defender and a so-called supporter, a person who would serve as a personal guide through the recovery process. But more than three dozen organizations and individuals signed an April 12 opposition letter, blasting Assembly Bill 2830 as involuntary and coercive treatment that would strip individuals of their personal liberties. Los Angeles Times


Deputies arrested a teenage suspect Monday, two days after a 16-year-old girl was stabbed twice in the back at a San Diego County apartment complex after being taunted with racial slurs by a group of teens, sheriff’s officials said. The crime in Lakeside is being investigated as a possible hate crime, Sheriff’s Lt. Shawn Wray said. “The Sheriff’s Department does not condone hate or acts of intolerance. We are a county that is welcoming of people from all backgrounds,” the department said in a statement. San Diego Union-Tribune


Rapper ASAP Rocky was detained Wednesday at LAX on his way back from Barbados, where he was vacationing with singer Rihanna, his girlfriend who is pregnant with the couple’s first child, a law enforcement source with knowledge of the case said. Los Angeles Times

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Fresno County could see millions in profits on a greenhouse gas solution. Not everyone is sold. The Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized an agreement with Toro Energy of California that is expected to bring the county $135 million over 25 years through the sale of landfill gas. The agreement is subject to an environmental review. At a hearing, speaker Kevin Hall criticized the plan as “climate change turned into climate cash” and cautioned supervisors not to trust the projections beyond the first five years. Fresno Bee


An iconic L.A. skate park is targeted as a site for new housing. Can skaters block it? The old West L.A. Courthouse on Corinth Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard is one of the most notable skate spots in the city (the actual courthouse has been closed since 2013). But the city and county are working with developers who want to use the land to create affordable and market-rate apartments, plus commercial and municipal space. “Honestly, it would just be like an iconic spot is gone. It’s like taking down the Liberty Bell to skaters. You know what I mean? It’s like history,” a skater who went by “Moose” told KCRW. KCRW

A food fight over olive oil sparks larger debate about the California brand. A new state law punishes those who improperly use the California name to peddle oil from elsewhere. The movement that led to the new law triggered one of the biggest food fights in California since Napa vintners got the state to ban charlatans from marketing their wines with the region’s name. It has implications extending far beyond the scenic olive groves of Northern California. Los Angeles Times

Guests relax amid the Tuscan olive trees at McEvoy Ranch
Guests relax amid the Tuscan olive trees at McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, Calif.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

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Los Angeles: Overcast, 66. San Diego: Overcast, 65. San Francisco: Rainy, 59. San Jose: Rainy, 63. Fresno: Rainy, 68. Sacramento: Rainy, 68. It is glorious.


Today’s California memory is from Shelly Lieff:

We moved to Southern California from the East Coast in 1970. We rented a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment on Canfield Avenue for $300 per month.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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