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Stephanie Land, Jane Goodall and Reyna Grande join our book club lineup

A photo of author Stephanie Land next to the book cover of "Maid."
(Legacy Lit / Hachette Books)

Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

Our book club’s starting lineup for 2022 kicks off with three distinctive, powerful women whose books promise absorbing reading and fascinating discussions in the weeks ahead.

We start off this month reading “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive,” by Stephanie Land, who joins us Jan. 25 for a conversation with Times reporter Paloma Esquivel.

Land’s bestselling memoir, the inspiration for a popular new Netflix series, recounts her journey from life as a $10-an-hour domestic worker to a college student with a budding career as a writer.

“I was really fascinated and emotionally moved by Land’s portrayal of motherhood, and the hardships she faced,” says my colleague Amy Wong. She was particularly haunted by Land’s account of stopping her car to retrieve her daughter’s lost doll, which led to a car crash.

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“Every single parent teetering on poverty does this,” Land wrote. “We work, we love, we do. And the stress of it all, the exhaustion, leaves us hollowed. ... That’s how I felt for those few days after the accident, like I wasn’t fully connected to the ground when I walked. I knew that at any moment, a breeze could come and blow me away.”

“Maid” is unique, with its candid look inside the life of a house cleaner. But millions of Americans face the same daily struggles Land depicts, and business journalist Martin Wolk put together this smart reading list about inequalities built into our economy and some potential fixes.

The covers of 10 books in a collage
(Harvard University Press; Legacy Lit / Hachette Books; Doubleday; Random House; Crown; Twelve Books; The New Press; Knopf; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In February, we’ll meet up with legendary naturalist and activist Jane Goodall to learn about her latest project, “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times.” Renowned expert on chimpanzees, anthropologist and U.N. messenger of peace, Goodall is the subject of the new, immersive “Becoming Jane” experience at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and we’ll be talking about that too.

In March, California author Reyna Grande will join us for a conversation with Times editor Steve Padilla about her upcoming book, “A Ballad of Love and Glory.” Grande is the bestselling author of “The Distance Between Us” and “A Dream Called Home,” and her new historical novel is set against the backdrop of the Mexican-American War.

Stayed tuned for more details about upcoming conversations with Goodall and Grande. And please share your comments and questions in advance of our Jan. 25 “Maid” discussion in an email to bookclub@latimes.com.

Ask a Reporter

Right before the pandemic, “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” showed viewers the harrowing story of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy who died at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend. The Netflix series detailed Gabriel’s ongoing abuse and 2013 murder and exposed systemic failures within the Los Angeles County agencies charged with protecting our most vulnerable children.

On Jan. 20, Garrett Therolf, a former Times journalist who produced the series, and Matt Hamilton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, will join the latest Ask a Reporter forum.

Therolf and Hamilton will examine what’s ahead as the county’s child welfare agencies undergo major scrutiny and leadership changes in 2022. Guests include County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell.

The virtual forum will begin livestreaming at 7 p.m. Sign up on Eventbrite to join the discussion.

An "Ask a Reporter" graphic with two men pictured.
Garrett Therolf, top, and Matt Hamilton
(Los Angeles Times)

Keep reading

What L.A. is reading: Two of our book club picks —“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett and “A Promised Land” by former President Barack Obama — were among the most popular books with Los Angeles Public Library readers during 2021. Browse the library’s full list. Then revisit Michelle Rafter’s guide on how to use library apps to read for free.

Mapping fiction: The geographies of fictional worlds created by authors Octavia E. Butler, Jack London, Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson and J.R.R. Tolkien are explored in a new exhibit at the Huntington Library. The “Mapping Fiction” project focuses on novels and maps from the 16th through the 20th centuries and will be on view until May 2. Highlights include Butler’s hand-drawn maps from notes for “Parable of the Talents” and the Pasadena science fiction writer’s unpublished novel, “Parable of the Trickster.”

Literary tart: Gabriel San Roman previews Citric Acid, a new online journal focused on Orange County and its writers. “The future is unwritten,” says founder Andrew Tonkovich, who co-edited “Orange County: A Literary Field Guide” in 2017. “The resources are limited, but the imagination is robust.”

From book to screen: Columnist Mary McNamara and TV editor Matt Brennan debate the merits of the series based on Emily St. John Mandel’s bestselling novel, “Station Eleven,” one of our early pandemic reads. McNamara observes, “It quickly became obvious, from the running references to Shakespeare and the (fictional) graphic novel ‘Station Eleven,’ that this story was not about how to survive a pandemic. It was about how art and culture can help people, and civilization, survive complete catastrophe.”

Laguna revisited: Laguna Beach was a trip in the ’60s. So is T. Jefferson Parker’s hallucinatory new thriller, “A Thousand Steps,” says reviewer Paula L. Woods.

January books: Here are 10 new books to add to your reading list this month, including “Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzalez and “Thank You, Mr. Nixon” by Gish Jen.

First in a series: Writer and poet Maya Angelou now appears on a U.S. quarter. The news reminded editor Steve Padilla of this Paris Review Q&A with her about word craft. Among his favorite quotes: “Of course, there are those critics — New York critics as a rule — who say, Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer. Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.”

Last word: “Let us not return to what was normal, but reach toward what is next.” L.A.’s Amanda Gorman writes in a new poem, “New Day’s Lyric.”


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