Book club: Amanda Gorman joins us at the Festival of Books

Poet Amanda Gorman and the cover of her book, "Call Us What We Carry."
(Danny Williams / Viking Books)

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

Inauguration poet Amanda Gorman stepped onto the national stage in January 2020 with that unforgettable yellow coat and a voice full of passion, showing millions of Americans the power of poetry and its deep relevance to all our lives.

“Having a mom who is a teacher had a huge impact on me,” Gorman said at the time, tracing her love of verse to the third grade, when her teacher read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” to the class.


The first national youth poet laureate of the United States, Gorman went on to dazzle audiences at the Super Bowl, the Met Gala and back home in Los Angeles with such groups as her beloved WriteGirl.

She turned 24 this month and in April will join L.A. Times Book Club readers to discuss “Call Us What We Carry,” a new collection of poems set in a time of pandemic and unrest.

Here’s a passage from “Compass,” about “This year the size of a sea.”

Lost as we feel, there is no better
Compass than compassion.
We find ourselves not by being
The most seen, but the most seeing.

Join us on April 23 at the Festival of Books, where Gorman will be in conversation with Natalie J. Graham, Orange County’s new poet laureate and a previous book club guest. The free event will be at 11:30 a.m. on the L.A. Times stage.

Gorman’s book club talk serendipitously falls in National Poetry Month in April. We’ll discuss her work, the state of Southern California poetry and where to enjoy live readings as the world opens up this spring and summer.

Tell us: What are your favorite places to enjoy poetry in L.A. and why? After spending so many months at home watching a computer screen, I look forward to hearing about your discoveries and longtime favorites. I’ll include a selection of your replies in an upcoming book club newsletter. Send comments in an email to

A young woman in a yellow coat gestures as she speaks at a podium.
Amanda Gorman reads “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Book Festival returns

Announced Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times Book Festival lineup features more than 500 authors, including previous book club guests Lisa See, Michael Connelly, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Laila Lalami, Luis J. Rodriguez, Gregory Boyle and Héctor Tobar.

You’ll also find a wide range of other authors, artists, chefs, celebrities, and musicians, among them Don Winslow, Roxane Gay, Attica Locke, Amor Towles, Jasmine Guillory, Rachel Lindsay, Billy Porter, Josh Peck, Michael Schur, Janelle Monáe, Jonathan Franzen, Alton Brown, T. Jefferson Parker and Susan Straight.

The book festival returns to the USC campus after a two-year hiatus. I look forward to seeing everyone at Amanda Gorman’s book talk on Saturday morning. I’m also moderating a mystery panel with authors Craig Johnson and Attica Locke at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 24.

Be sure to plan time for the festival’s Ask a Reporter stage, which builds on our popular community discussion series. The Mudd Hall lineup features two days of conversations with Times staffers sharing some of the most interesting, innovative work at the paper right now. A few highlights:

  • Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida will be in conversation with columnist Carolina A. Miranda.
  • Columnist Gustavo Arellano will host a live podcast about the L.A. mayoral, council and sheriff’s races with Julia Wick, Erika D. Smith and Alene Tchekmedyian. (Wick, by the way, is part of the reporting team behind the new L.A. on the Record newsletter, an essential guide to a momentous election year in Los Angeles.)
  • Photographer Genaro Molina will share “My L.A.” and 26 years of photographing the city.
  • Reporter Christopher Reynolds and editor Michelle Woo will discuss “How a travel writer set out to find the 101 best California experiences.”
  • Deputy Sports editor Iliana Limón Romero moderates “LeBron James and L.A.’s superstar tradition” with sports reporter Broderick Turner, columnist Bill Plaschke and TV editor Matt Brennan.

If you go: The full Festival of Books lineup is now online here.

General tickets: Reservations for individual panels are available starting April 17 at 10 a.m. Most events are free.

Friends of the Festival: Get early access to event tickets and other benefits.

Portrait of a woman smiling as she stands on a beach.
Author Reyna Grande.
(Imran Chaudhry)

Meet Reyna Grande

Reyna Grande says she never expected to write her new novel, “A Ballad of Love and Glory.”


After a reading in 2013, an audience member approached Grande with a book idea: “Have you heard about the St. Patrick’s Battalion?”

Grande brushed it off. “Sometimes at events, people come up to me to talk and they tell me, ‘You should write a book about this, you should write a book about that,’” she says in an interview with Dorany Pineda. “It often happens to writers, and this was the same thing.”

But the conversation piqued Grande’s curiosity. She ended up spending seven years researching and writing a historical novel set during the Mexican-American War and featuring the battalion, a unit of mostly Irish immigrants who enlisted in the U.S. Army, only to desert and fight on Mexico’s side. “A Ballad of Love and Glory” transports readers to 1846 as the U.S. Army marches south to wage war.

On March 29, Grande will join book club readers at 6 p.m. for a virtual conversation with editor Steve Padilla. Get tickets and signed books on Eventbrite.

If you enjoy our community book club: The Times has offered many book club conversations and other live journalism events free and virtual. We’ve worked hard to make it easy for readers to connect with authors and newsmakers during the pandemic. Now we need your help to keep going and growing. Please consider supporting the new Los Angeles Times Community Fund.

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(Parisa Hajizadeh-Amini/ Los Angeles Times )