Book Club newsletter: How many ways can you tell a story?

Times reporter Daniel Hernandez (left) interviewed Luis J. Rodriguez at the Colony Theatre in Burbank.
(Varon Panganiban/For The Times)

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

In a wide-ranging conversation with our community book club, author, essayist and former L.A. poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez shared the stories behind his timely new collection, “From Our Land to Our Land.”

Rodriguez talked about his escape as a youth from gang life, his awakening to his indigenous identity and why he’s always writing across so many genres.


“There’s a lot of ways to write, a lot of ways to tell a story, a lot of ways to tell the news,” he says, “and poetry is one of them.” Listen to him speak at the Colony Theatre here.

Rodriguez was joined this past week on stage by Jason Alvarez, an 18-year-old member of the Get Lit players, L.A.’s teen troupe of spoken word performers.

Alvarez performed “Mi Vida Loca,” an ode to his neighborhood in Northridge inspired by Rodriguez.

The high school senior says he wrote his first poem seven months ago after listening to Rodriguez read poetry at Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center. Now Rodriguez was listening to his words. (And you can listen here.)

Get Lit's Jason Alvarez performs a poem inspired by book club author Luis J. Rodriguez.
(Varon Panganiban/For the Times)

Save the date

This spring we’ll be reading “Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes & Stories,” the upcoming memoir by Fanny Singer about growing up at the epicenter of California cuisine.

Singer is the daughter of Alice Waters, the well-known chef behind Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley and the founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project, which teaches kids how to grow and eat healthful foods.

Singer and Waters will join the L.A. Times Book Club on May 8 to discuss food and family with Times arts and entertainment editor Laurie Ochoa. Ticket information will be coming soon.

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Book prizes

Recent book club guests Ronan Farrow (“Catch and Kill”) and Michael Connelly (“The Night Fire”) are among the finalists for the 40th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes announced this week.

Crime novelist Walter Mosley was named as the winner of the 2019 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. The Los Angeles-based nonprofit WriteGirl will receive the annual Innovator’s Award, and author Emily Bernard will be honored with the Christopher Isherwood Prize for autobiographical prose.

Winners will be announced on April 17, on the eve of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Stories and Ideas on the University of Southern California campus.

The annual book prizes recognize work in 12 categories: autobiographical prose, biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction, graphic novel/comics, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science fiction, science and technology, and young-adult literature. Here’s the rundown of all finalists and winners.

Walter Mosley
Author Walter Mosley
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Help wanted

The Festival of Books, which draws more than 150,000 book lovers to the USC campus every April, turns 25 this year.

Would you like to be part of it? The festival depends on the generous participation of volunteers who help with book talks and registration. The 2020 festival will be on Saturday, April 18, and Sunday, April 19.

For more details and to volunteer, visit

Help us get L.A. reading and talking.

The Los Angeles Times Book Club is your chance to help us build something amazing. It’s about much more than the remarkable books we read. It’s about coming together to share an experience.

Stay tuned for more events and conversations, and stay in touch. Tell us: What stories do you want to share? What authors would you most like to meet?