The fall is filled with new releases, live readings, festivals and other events. (Collage by Sarah Hotchkiss; Covers courtesy of Disability Visibility Project, Penguin Random House, Macmillan Publishers and Sandra Cisneros)
In fall, a love for all things literary comes to life in the nighttime. With the smell of crisp autumn leaves and the rustle of fresh pages, September brings a renewed sense of fervor for literature with a series of new releases, live readings, zine festivals and author conversations.
Embodying the ferocity of the tiger, an animal revered for its strength in her Chinese culture, San Francisco disabled activist and writer Alice Wong shares her bold insights in her debut memoir Year of the Tiger. Described as a “scrapbook,” the book features a collection of personal essays, conversations and commissioned art that provides an intimate glimpse into Wong’s life and her thoughts on power, ableism, access and more. Mirroring her years of experience with community organizing, Wong’s memoir creates space for disabled individuals to be in conversation and community with one another.
Born in El Salvador, celebrated poet Javier Zamora is known for braiding together English and Spanish to create work on immigration that is observational, visceral and deeply affecting. In his poem “How I Learned to Walk,” Zamora writes: “I’ve heard / of how I used to run to him. His hair still / smelling of fish, gasoline, and seaweed. It’s how / I learned to walk they say. Calláte.”
On Sept. 6, his new memoir Solito debuts, recounting his nine-week journey across Guatemala and Mexico towards Arizona. At nine years old, he underwent this exhausting voyage alone, supported by other migrants as he trudged forward, yearning for his mother and father.
Zamora will read from Solito at Book Passage’s Corte Madera location on Sept. 11. Attendants will be among the first to hear Zamora read from this new collection aloud—a collection that, when vocalized, bears the powerful weight of the ways separation and war have shaped the writer.
There’s already excitement surrounding fiction writer Jonathan Escoffery’s debut collection of linked stories, If I Survive You, publishing Sept. 6. Oprah Daily says that the book “may well be the buzziest debut of 2022.” It’s not hard to see why—the title alone is alluring and gritty, beckoning a second glance, a moment of pause.
Currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Escoffery has a penchant for worldbuilding, with stories that contain characters as rich and exuberant as the real world has to offer. They read like people you could really befriend, with personal histories full of idiosyncrasies and quirks that illustrate lives that are full and expanding.
If I Survive You is a collection of connected stories centered on a Jamaican family trying to survive in Miami as they face racism, financial hardship, natural disasters, bad luck and other tumult.
City View at Metreon, San Francisco
Sept. 4, 11am-5pm
After party: Silver Sprocket, San Francisco
Sept. 4, 7-9:30pm
After two years of remote programming, the beloved SF Zine Fest returns in person at a new venue, City View at Metreon. With over 200 exhibiting artists and collectives, the event welcomes zine, comic and art lovers to spend a day perusing work from local favorites like Mixed Rice Zines and Irrelevant Press as well as artists outside the Bay Area. Since its founding in 2001, SF Zine Fest has become the largest and longest running fair in Northern California for DIY artists and publishers.
And there’s nothing quite like preparing for a zine fair: emptying your largest tote bag and bursting with anticipation, wondering what books will fill it at the end of the day. Bracing yourself, you enter the festival and spot your favorite artist tabling at a busy corner, greeting other fans as you consider the least awkward way to approach and say hello. By the end of the day, you’ll be buzzing with leftover adrenaline, holding your bag delicately to prevent scuffing the treasures you collected over the course of the afternoon. Until next year, you think, eager to do it all again.
When I first read Sandra Cisneros’ 1983 novel The House on Mango Street, I was around the same age as the book’s protagonist, Esperanza Cordero. Even then, as a preteen still naïve to much of the world around me, I was moved by the tenderness and vulnerability of Cisneros’ voice as she moved through vignettes that depicted the complicated intricacies of girlhood.
On Sept. 13, Cisneros returns with Woman Without Shame, her first book of poetry in 28 years. This new work is a culmination of the writer’s voice over the years: sincere and honest, heartfelt and meditative. Her poems reflect on her journey as an artist and her search for home as she contemplates memory, desire and love.
On Sept. 19, Cisneros will read her work at Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley followed by a conversation with author Reyna Grande.
Tucked away in the Mission District, Silver Sprocket is San Francisco’s hole-in-the-wall comics oasis. It’s a quiet spot during the day—a tranquil haven where indie rock tunes play as you amble towards the back, stopping to touch whatever book covers interest you along the way. In late September, this sense of wonder continues with Silver Sprocket’s Permanent Damage Comics Fest, where the store will become a bustling hub for alternative comic artists to gather, showcase and sell their original work.
Permanent Damage will feature over 20 cartoonists from around the country, including local Oakland “psychedelic nightmare” artist Skinner, Wuvable Oaf creator Ed Luce and San Francisco cartoonist Harry Nordlinger.
First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley
Oct. 19, 7pm
Masterful at crafting mysteries rich with psychological and social tension, writer Celeste Ng is back with new novel Our Missing Hearts this October. Ng’s last book Little Fires Everywhere was lauded globally before making its way onto the silver screen with a star-studded cast. While success may bring intense pressure, Ng sticks to her passion for crafting stories about family, loss and changes from generation to generation.
Our Missing Hearts focuses on the perspective of Bird Gardner, a young boy with a newfound desire to search for his mother, a Chinese American poet who left the family years before. In a world where “American” identity is protected zealously and work from writers like Bird’s mother are removed from libraries, Our Missing Hearts digs into how people are left to grapple with legacies when they are broken through injustice.
On Oct. 19, Ng will discuss her new novel with R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries and editor of the short story collection Kink.
For two weeks, thousands of people will gather for San Francisco's biggest literary event of the year: Litquake. For literature lovers, the festival presents a varied lineup of readings, panels and performances from over 500 writers. At the end of its run, the festival will build up to Lit Crawl, a one-night journey through numerous bars, cafes, bookstores, barbershops and other staples of the Mission District, where surprise literary events await.
It’s a chance to be embedded within the diverse and dynamic literary culture of the city: to celebrate in book launches held at museums, learn about queer publishers over cocktails, listen to stories of deception and unreliable narrators at a comics shop, and to embrace the love for reading palpable in the air during Litquake. The festival announces its schedule and lineup on Sept. 6.
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