Cults, climate change, dystopia, and also poetry and community, all this coming week

Five book events in Los Angeles feature Luis J. Rodriguez, Jenny Offill, Gish Jen and more.


This week’s biggest and best book events celebrate poetry, pay homage to Los Angeles’ literary scene, and feature novelists who’ve crafted great stories about cults, climate change and class dystopia.

Homies are forever

Romantic love is one of poetry’s most reliable wellsprings but what about friendship, that other love so often left unsung? Poet Danez Smith celebrates one of life’s great succors in their new collection, “Homie.” Prompted by the loss of one of Smith’s closest friends, it is an anthem to the healing power of friendship and the revolutionary, often joyful state of being black and queer in America. At this Palentine’s Party, Smith will read and be in conversation with fellow poet Fatimah Asghar. The after-soiree will include a DJ set and drinks.

7:30-9:30 p.m. Friday. California African American Museum, 600 State Drive. Free.

Poet of the lands

In his latest book, “From Our Land to Our Land: Essays, Journeys and Imaginings From a Native Xicanx Writer,” Luis J. Rodriguez writes about a range of ideas and experiences, including being Los Angeles’ poet laureate, his indigenous identity and the immigration debate. The former teenage gang member, who chronicled his violent past in his breakthrough 1993 memoir, “Always Running,” embraced his stint as poet laureate from 2013-15 with hundreds of readings, helping compile a huge anthology of L.A.-area poets, and more. As he wrote in an excerpt published by the Los Angeles Times, he wanted to “make poetry a radical and healing act for everyone, so the city could honor all voices, including those plagued by traumas and lifted by triumphs.” Rodriguez will be in conversation with Times reporter Daniel Hernandez.


4 p.m. Saturday. The L.A. Times Book Club at the Colony Theatre, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank. $10-$15.

From community to cult

R.O. Kwon’s debut novel, “The Incendiaries,” tracks Jejah, a group that transforms from a ragtag band of Christian seekers into a cult capable of highly coordinated violence. John Leal is the leader, a former prisoner of North Korean agents on the Chinese side of the border who was arrested for helping to smuggle out refugees. Or that’s the story he tells, anyway — one of many shifting and unreliable narratives in this novel that Ilana Masad praised in The Times for “beautiful writing and nuanced storytelling.” Kwon, the 2020 Mary Routt Chair of Writing at Scripps, will be in conversation with Fresh Air’s literary critic Maureen Corrigan.

3:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday. Balch Auditorium, Scripps College, 1030 N. Columbia Ave., Claremont. Free.

The weather outside is frightful

The Department of Speculation,” Jenny Offill’s 2014 breakout novel, captured marriage and adultery by weaving together seemingly small moments of domesticity. “Weather,” Offill’s “remarkable and resonant” new novel, as Bethanne Patrick wrote in The Times, takes the same tack with more deliberation. Lizzie, a middle-aged librarian and mother, frets over the 2016 election, climate change and so many other seemingly unsolvable problems, resulting in “a disorienting but precise dissection of the way we live now and the way we’ve always lived.” Offill will be in conversation with Nate DiMeo, creator of the podcast “The Memory Palace.”

7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave. Free.

Writing as resistance

In a turn away from her earlier realistic novels, Gish Jen tackles dystopia with her fifth work, “The Resisters,” set in a future world. “AutoAmerica” is half underwater and populated by two groups of people: the “Netted” of the higher ground and the “Surplus,” who live on swampland. Grant, Eleanor and their daughter Gwen try to live off the grid, until their life is thrown into question when Gwen, a talented athlete, is offered a chance to attend “Net U” for free. Jen recently told The Times that “if you try to write about our present moment, you might get caught in outrage.” But the future is freeing: “Ironically, I’m better able to describe the human experience.” Jen will be in dialogue with Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Sympathizer.”


7:30 p.m. Wednesday. ALOUD at Central Library, Mark Taper Auditorium, 630 W. 5th St. Free.