Book club: Reading ‘Pageboy’ and more summer picks

LeVar Burton meets Times readers at Wednesday's book club night.
LeVar Burton meets Times readers at Wednesday’s book club night.
(Varon Panganiban / For the Times)

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

Elliot Page never thought he’d be capable of writing a memoir. But three years after coming out as transgender, the Academy Award-nominated “Juno” actor says that once he sat down to tell his story “it just came out and I didn’t stop. I just kept writing.”

“Books, particularly memoirs, have really shifted my life, offered me inspiration, comfort, been humbling, all of those things,” says Page, who stars in “The Umbrella Academy.” “And I think this period of not just hate, of course, but misinformation or just blatant lies about LGTBQ+ lives, about our healthcare, it felt like the right time.”


The result is “Pageboy,” which explores the actor’s journey, relationships, mental health and Hollywood experiences. “Pageboy” will be published on June 6.

On June 8, Page will be in conversation with actor Kate Mara at the L.A. Times Book Club at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood. Please join us.

Elliot Page's new memoir, "Pageboy."
(Flatiron / Catherine Opie)

Family Secrets

When he was growing up in San Diego, Luis Alberto Urrea opened the Pandora’s box that eventually led to his new novel.

Urrea’s mother, Phyllis Irene McLaughlin de Urrea, had served in World War II as a volunteer with the American Red Cross and still possessed her Army-issued footlocker. It was strictly off-limits to young Luis.

“Of course, I opened the trunk,” Urrea tells writer Martin Wolk. “And I found all kinds of war stuff.”

The photos and other mementos Urrea discovered gave him a glimpse into his mother’s experiences, and his new novel, “Good Night, Irene,” reveals the little-known story of the “Donut Dollies” who bravely supported U.S. troops on the front lines.

Phyllis McLaughlin de Urrea with fellow Red Cross volunteers
From left: Phyllis McLaughlin de Urrea with fellow Red Cross volunteers Jill Pitts Knappenberger and Helen Anderson.
(Photo from Luis Alberto Urrea)

Urrea says he began researching the book after his mother’s death in 1990. With his wife, Cindy, Urrea spent years combing through journals and other documentation, and traveling thousands of miles across the United States and Europe.


The author of 17 previous works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, Urea joins the Los Angeles Times Book Club on July 19 to discuss “Good Night, Irene” with Times editor Iliana Limón Romero.

Luis Alberto Urrea and "Good Night, Irene"
(Nicole Waite / Little, Brown)

State of Banned Books

The book ban debate just kept escalating this month. First Penguin Random House jumped into the fray with a lawsuit against a Florida school district that had banned authors with the nation’s largest book publisher. Then Los Angeles poet Amanda Gorman decried Miami school leaders who removed her inaugural poetry from library shelves. “I’m gutted,” Gorman wrote on Tuesday.

On Wednesday night actor, author and “Picard” star LeVar Burton joined book club readers for a wide-ranging conversation in Los Angeles about who gets to tell their stories, how to raise kids who love reading and how students, parents, librarians and teachers can respond to book ban challenges in their communities and across the country.

“I have a feeling people pushing book bans aren’t really readers,” Burton told Times editor Steve Padilla.

"Reading Rainbow" founder Levar Burton at the L.A. Times Book Club.
(Varon Panganiban / For The Times

ICYMI: Watch the entire conversation here.

Browse: The 15 most-banned books in America this school year.

LeVar Burton takes a photo with Times readers at May 24 L.A. Times Book Club on State of Banned Books.
LeVar Burton took photos with every reader who wanted to meet him during book club night.
(Varon Panganiban / For The Times

(More) summer reading

What are you reading this holiday weekend? Here are the 5 bestselling novels in L.A. this week:

1. “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,” by April book club author Gabrielle Zevin.

2. “Demon Copperhead,” by Barbara Kingsolver.

3. “The Covenant of Water,” by Abraham Verghese.

4. “Lessons in Chemistry,” by Bonnie Garmus.

5. “The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece,” by Tom Hanks.

Check out the complete Los Angeles Times Bestseller List.

From hula tales to literary scandals: These May books showcase the diversity of cultures, styles and genres for AAPI Heritage Month.

Critics’ picks: 11 novels to get excited about this summer.

Keep reading

California book awards: The Commonwealth Club honors top California books of the year. Gold medal winners include: “Heartbroke,” by Chelsea Bieker (fiction); “Nightcrawling,” by Leila Mottley (first fiction); “American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis,” by Adam Hochschild (nonfiction); and “The High Sierra: A Love Story,” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Californiana).

Final work: Knopf plans to publish ”Until August,” by Nobel Prize-winning writer Gabriel García Márquez, who completed the novel before his death in 2014. The author’s sons, Rodrigo Garcia and Gonzalo García Barcha, said of the novel: “Until August was the result of our father’s last effort to continue creating against all odds. Reading it once again almost ten years after his death, we discovered that the text had many highly enjoyable merits and nothing that prevents us from delighting in the most outstanding aspects of Gabo’s work.” P.S. Here’s a book club reading guide to his work.

Read your way through Los Angeles: Author and former Times reporter Hector Tobar (his new book is “Our Migrant Souls”) shares his guide to books and writers that cut through the city’s layers.

Pushing the limits: Megan Abbott’s new thriller, “Beware the Woman,” is ‘Get Out’ for the post-Roe era, says reviewer Bethanne Patrick. It’s a horror story about a pregnant woman losing control over her body.

Crime fiction: How L.A. novelist Ivy Pochoda upends the dead girl trope in “Sing Her Down.”

Join us: If you value our community book club, please sign on as a supporter of the Los Angeles Times Community Fund. You’ll help us produce more in-person and virtual book club conversations throughout the year. We’ll also feature your name at the next book club night. Here’s how.

 LeVar Burton (right) discusses the State of Banned Books with Times editor at the L.A. Times Book Club
LeVar Burton (right) discusses the State of Banned Books with editor Steve Padilla at the L.A. Times Book Club at the ASU California Center.
(Varon Panganiban / For The Times)

Last word

“A question I’ve been asked a couple of times these past weeks is: ‘What’s it like to have a TV show coming out during a strike?’ It would seem like a complicated question to answer, but it’s not. It’s pretty easy, actually,” says author and “Primo” creator Shea Serrano.

“I’m bummed that the strike had to happen, but also I’m proud that the strike is happening. And what I mean is: Writers are wildly important. Every movie or TV show you’ve ever loved started out as something that someone wrote. It was words on a page. Without writers, you don’t have that — it’s impossible.”