The Bay Area book scene has been boiling hot this year, with this summer alone bringing Alexandra Kleeman’s Hollywood satire meets Cli-Fi novel Something New Under The Sun; Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties, a posthumous collection of short stories centering around Cambodian Americans; and Jaime Cortez's Gordo, a set of stories about migrant laborers in Santa Cruz County.
This fall's lineup of books keeps this focus on social justice, whether advocated through fiction, non-fiction, or poetry. Tongo Eisen-Martin aims to capture the breadth of the Black experience while Rabih Alameddine worries about the unrepresentability of the refugee suffering; Angela Davis pushes for the abolition of prisons and police while Gene Slater mourns California's history of white backlash to racially integrated neighborhoods.
Live events, put on hold during the pandemic, have made a slow recovery as the public readjusts to new restrictions. The most ambitious event in the calendar? October's Litquake, with the in-person return of the pure pandemonium that is Lit Crawl. And what's a good bar crawl without a good pregame? Here are seven shots and one chaser.
By Shruti Swamy
Publishes Sept. 7
Shruti Swamy made her debut last year with A House is a Body, a short story collection focusing on motherhood, terror and the climate crisis. In an interview with Electric Lit, she summarized the two questions with which her work grapples: “How do we live here at the edge? How do we find meaning?” If her stories focused on the former, The Archer pivots to the latter: it is a künstlerroman focused on a young kathak dancer coming to terms with the meaning of art and life amidst the turmoil of 1970s Bombay.
‘The Wrong End of the Telescope’
By Rabih Alameddine
Publishes Sept. 19
San Francisco author Rabih Alameddine is known for his careful portraits of LGBTQ+ Arab Americans in the Bay Area. Another such figure arrives in September with The Wrong End of the Telescope’s Mina Simpson: a Lebanese doctor, estranged from her family after her transition, currently flying halfway across the globe to help fleeing Syrian refugees in Greece access medical care. Herself displaced from her native Beirut as a child, she bonds with the ailing matriarch Sumaiya, who desperately needs a liver cancer treatment only available in the well-stocked hospitals of Athens.
‘Freedom to Discriminate’
By Gene Slater
Publishes Sept. 21
California’s shameful 1964 Proposition 14 used the ballot amendment process to put racist fear to a public vote: Can housing discriminate on the basis of race? 65% of Californians voted yes. Longtime affordable housing advocate Gene Slater teases out the complex history of this vote, beginning with the fact that the nation’s first single-family zoning regulations, which created all-white housing tracts, were enacted close to home in Berkeley. Freedom to Discriminate shows how realtors organized to suppress facts, fight civil rights legislation and hammer home a “color-blind” message of individual liberty that would become an influential mantra in the budding conservative movement.
‘Blood on the Fog’
By Tongo Eisen-Martin
Publishes Sept. 21
Tongo Eisen-Martin’s poems “yell, shriek, whisper, mumble in a mosaic of disenfranchised voices,” as a KQED review of his second poetry collection Heaven is All Goodbyes put it. Now, San Francisco’s current poet laureate releases his third book—his first “on the job”—continuing his exploration of jazz rhythms, city life and the call of Black liberation.
Monterey Poetry Festival 2021
The spacious neighborhood standby Old Capitol Books was forced to shut down during the pandemic—but, in a happy ending, it reopened this spring just a couple blocks away from its old location. Consider the weekend-long Monterey Poetry Festival at Old Capitol Books a tribute to independent bookstores, which connect readers with local artists and writers like nothing else. This year’s slate of events includes “A Night of Trans Poetry,” a showcase of CSU Monterey Bay students and a fundraiser for undocumented rights advocacy group No More Deaths.
Bikes to Books Eight-Year Anniversary Ride
The recently passed Lawrence Ferlinghetti pushed the city of San Francisco to rename several of its streets after famous local writers: Jack Kerouac Alley, William Saroyan Place and, eventually, his own Via Ferlinghetti. Bikes to Books is a tribute to the literary legacy of the city that Ferlinghetti sought to enshrine; it is an on-bike street tour of the various offices, apartments, and cafes that the literary stars of the past frequented. Plus, it ends right outside City Lights—perfect timing to sit down with a good book.
‘Angela Davis: An Autobiography' & 'Abolition. Feminism. Now.’
Publishes Oct. 19; Oct. 26
Angela Davis’ autobiography, first published in 1974, is a classic of radical literature. Now, Haymarket Books publishes the third edition of the book with a new introduction by Davis reflecting on her intellectual development from the ’80s (at the time of the second publication of the book) until the present. The new edition is accompanied by the publication of the Abolition. Feminism. Now. manifesto on divesting from jails and policing, co-written by Davis, Gina Dent, Erica Meiners and Beth E. Richie.
The Bay Area's biggest literary event of the year returns as a half-virtual, half-indoors amalgam of talks, readings and panels. This year's guests include Isabel Allende, Tommy Orange, Dave Eggers, Chang-rae Lee and Paul Auster. The iconic Lit Crawl also returns after going virtual during the pandemic, which will take place, as customary, at various locations around San Francisco's Mission District, with festival-goers stumbling between venues like barflies.
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