Poet Victoria Chang touches on feminism, grief and art at L.A. Times Festival of Books

People wait in line in front of tents with framed writing and words posted on them.
Attendees enjoyed sunny skies and numerous author events Sunday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the USC campus.
(Michael Blackshire/Los Angeles Times)

Poet Victoria Chang stood on a stage behind a podium, setting up a timer before reading several poems from her new book “With My Back to the World,” which touches on issues such as feminism, art, depression and grief.

The idea for the book, she explained to the small crowd at her poetry reading, was inspired by one of the screenprints in Agnes Martin’s series, which is titled by the same name.

Victoria Chang sits at a table with her hands folded on it.
Victoria Chang, author of “The Trees Witness Everything,” in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books photo studio at USC in Los Angeles on Sunday.
(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Chan began with the reading of “On a Clear Day,” which made reference to a gunman’s mass shooting at three Atlanta-area spas in 2021 that left eight people dead, mostly women of Asian descent.

On some clear days, there are only forty eight birds and forty eight people and forty eight houses.

And forty eight wars. And forty eight apples.


I keep counting grids. But no matter how I try, I still get six dead Asian women who fit into forty eight boxes.

Chang was one of dozens of authors who appeared Sunday on the last day of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the USC campus. There were numerous indoor and outdoor events such as panel discussions, book signings and cooking demonstrations to name a few.

The Times’ book festival is the largest literary event in the United States, frequently drawing 155,000 people over two days. This year, there were more than 200 events featuring more than 550 participants, including authors, experts and more.

Under a bright spring sun and reveling in temperatures in the low 70s, attendees on Sunday made their way past crowded rows of white-tented vendor booths, stopping to purchase books and artwork or speak to authors who were signing books.

At the main stage Aminta Skye, a Los Angeles singer, was conducting a sound check as her band prepared to play. Observing the band was Andrew Chapman, 31, who drove from Encino to the festival with his wife and 3-year-old son to attend a reading by Blippi, a YouTube character who makes educational videos for kids.

Chapman said he heard the sound of instruments and wandered over to the stage.

Holding his son, who wore a Blippi shirt and sunglasses, he watched the band on the stage.

“He likes to listen to music and watch shows,” Chapman said of his son.

Asked how the rest of the festival was going, Chapman could summarize it with two words: “It’s awesome.”