Open Book

OPEN BOOK, it’s not just an event, it’s an experience.

INGRID ROJAS CONTRERAS was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her Pulitzer Prize finalist memoir, The Man Who Could Move Clouds, tells the story of her lineage of curanderos, and her mother, who was the first woman in the family to become one. So when Rojas Contreras, now living in the United States, suffered a head injury in her twenties that left her with amnesia–from which she woke not just with amnesia, but also the ability to see ghosts–the family assumed “the secrets” had been passed down once again. Interweaving family stories more enchanting than those in any novel, resurrected Colombian history, and her own deeply personal reckonings with the bounds of reality, Rojas Contreras writes her way through the incomprehensible and into her inheritance. The result is a luminous testament to the power of storytelling as a healing art and an invitation to embrace the extraordinary.

The book won a Medal in Nonfiction from the California Book Awards, was a National Book Award Finalist, and was long-listed for a Carnegie Medal in Excellence in Nonfiction, and National Book Critics Circle Award. It was named a “Best Book of the Year” by  TIMEPeople, NPR, Vanity FairBoston Globe, among others. Her first novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree was the silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor’s choice. Her work has appeared in the New York Times MagazineThe CutZyzzyva, and is forthcoming from Harper’s.

“A memoir full of magic…Using philosophical and startlingly delicate prose, Rojas Contreras spins colonial history, personal narrative and the magical around the axis of her family story. The reader feels their soft rotation, like planets around a sun.” — Washington Post

HÉCTOR TOBAR is the Los Angeles-born author of six books, including the novels The Tattooed Soldier, The Barbarian Nurseries, and, most recently, The Last Great Road Bum. His non-fiction Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of Thirty-Three Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times bestseller; it was adapted into the film The 33, starring Antonio Banderas. His books have been translated into fifteen languages. The Barbarian Nurseries was a New York Times Notable Book and won the California Book Award Gold Medal for fiction. Tobar’s fiction has also appeared in Best American Short Stories. He earned his MFA in Fiction from the University of California, Irvine, where he is currently a professor. As a journalist, he was the Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Buenos Aires and Mexico City. Tobar has also been an op-ed writer for the New York Times and a contributor to The New Yorker, Harper’s, Smithsonian and National Geographic. In 2020, he received a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University, where he wrote his most recent book, Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino.” In 2023, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction. He is the son of Guatemalan immigrants.

The New York Times calls Our Migrant Souls, “a resonant and deeply affecting book,” And Publisher’s Weekly (starred review) calls it “lyrical and uncompromising.”

What is the Open Book Series?

Building on the successful Pasadena Festival of Women Authors event which has been presented annually since 2009, the vision for the new series is to provide opportunities for the community to enjoy authors of all kinds – both established and emerging, national and local, men and women, writers of fiction and non-fiction – in settings that complement the author’s work or background and allow for engagement with the attendees.