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Beach Reads and Beyond: Five Literary Events to Make Your Summer Sizzle

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Collage by Ingrid Rojas Contreras.

This summer, San Francisco boasts some of the best book releases of the year—and the best parties. Although we may not have as many sunny days as Southern California, the Bay Area’s literary scene is lit.

Here are five events book lovers should add to their calendars.

Radar’s Quinceañera

June 7. San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco. Details here.


In the vein of coming-of-age quinceañera parties, RADAR Productions raises a glass to its 15th anniversary this June with cake, pink tulle, balloons and tiaras. With programming like the fabulous Drag Queen Story Hour (bringing drag queens to libraries and schools to read books to children), the Sister Spit Tour (which spotlights queer and trans authors of color) and monthly reading series spotlighting the hottest queer and feminist voices, RADAR is a tremendous organization. The party features performances by Grace Towers, Brontez Purnell, Jewelle Gomez and Arisa White, whom Roxane Gay called “exhilarating and memorable.” Oh, and there will be cake, and the first 40 people through the door get a tiara.

Zyzzyva’s Summer Dance Party

June 15. Make Out Room (3225 22nd St) in San Francisco. Details here.

There is no party like a Zyzzyva party. For the second year in a row, the literary magazine is throwing a dance party fundraiser, giving local authors and their readers a welcome opportunity to blow off some steam. Editor Oscar Villalón stated over e-mail: “Given the understandably anxious mood most of us share in the Bay Area these days—dread of the cost of living, dread of the authoritarian bent the country has taken, dread of all the things likely to go wrong under Trump—Laura and I thought maybe we should re-cast our traditional fundraiser as an opportunity for people to leave all that aside for a few hours and just enjoy  themselves.”

The evening is hosted by Glen David Gold and features performances by Paul Beatty and Michelle Latiolais. Did I mention there’s a raffle to win a manuscript consultation with Sirens author Joshua Mohr?

Otessa Moshfegh.

Otessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation

July 11. Green Apple Books on the Park, San Francisco. Details here.

I’ve been waiting for Otessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation since reading an excerpt in VICE’s fiction issue last December. In My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a woman decides she will go into hibernation by taking as many drugs as her (terrible) psychiatrist will prescribe to her. Hers is a constantly evanescing reality. She wakes up to herself on a train, for example, and wonders:

Was the sun coming up, or was it setting? Which way was the train headed? I looked at my hands again, at the gray line of dirt under my chewed-up fingernails. When a man in uniform passed, I stopped him. I was too shy to ask the important questions—“What day is it? Where am I going? Is it night or morning?”—so I asked him what the next stop on the train would be instead.

Moshfegh writes dizzying whorls out of reality, and her characters are mystifying and absolutely alluring. I read her in a gulp.

R.O. Kwon. (Smeeta Mahanti)

R.O. Kwon’s The Incediaries

July 31, Green Apple Books on the Park, San Francisco. Details here

R.O. Kwon’s novel, The Incediaries, promises to be one of the most sizzling debuts of the summer. It’s a story about God, domestic terrorism, a cult and love—which is to say, the perfect read for relaxing in the sun. Kwon’s prose is elegant, addictive and profoundly affecting. For the release of her debut, Kwon will be in conversation with Esmé Weijun Wang (author of the Border of Paradise).

Virgie Tovar.

Virgie Tovar’s You Have a Right to Remain Fat

Aug. 13. The Bindery, San Francisco. Details here.

Amid anxiety-inducing swimsuit season, if there was ever an ideal beach read, this is it. Tovar is a force. In the opening chapter, she writes:

I think it’s almost a fact that everyone remembers that kid in their class who used to look up all the girls’ skirts… I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the boy who looked up skirts was also the first person who called me fat. After all, unsolicited masculine sexual attention and the drive to control feminine bodies go hand in hand.

Weaving personal stories with cultural critique, You Have the Right to Remain Fat is as astute as it is refreshing.

The Spine is a biweekly column. Catch us back here in two weeks.

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