Past Events

Past Events

Scenes from our 2023 Season

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Ingrid Rojas Contreras and Héctor Tobar touched our hearts, souls and minds!

The magical and thought-provoking discussion between Ingrid Rojas Contreras and Héctor Tobar was awakening. Rojas Contreras discussed her Pulitzer Prize finalist memoir, The Man Who Could Move Clouds, which tells the story of her lineage of curanderos and personal reckonings with the bounds of reality. Héctor Tobar, a journalist, novelist and is a Professor of English and Chicano/Latino Studies at the UC Irvine, emphasized the worth, value and potential of Latinos. 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.”

Sabba Tahir and Sehba Sarwar was unforgettable!

New York Times bestselling author Sabaa Tahir, best known for her An Ember in the Ashes series, mesmerized the audience at our first Young Adult Open Book event. Her recent novel All My Rage, received the 2022 YA National Book Award as well as eight starred reviews and the 2022 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry.  It is a brilliant, unforgettable, and heart-wrenching contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents. Pasadena author, artist and community activist Sehba Sarwar was the evening’s moderator. In 2019 her novel, Black Wings, was released in the US. It is the story of a mother and daughter who struggle to meet across the continents, generations, cultures, and secrets that separate them. In her closing, Sabba encouraged those in attendance to “spend time thinking about your dream everyday”.

Culinary adventures from Kim Fay, Maite Gomez-Rejón and Fanny Singer left us hungry for more

At LitFest in the Dena’s Open Book Culinary Panel, Kim Fay, Maite Gomez-Rejón and Fanny Singer shared their perspectives uniquely illustrating the ways in which food can draw meaningful connections between art, culture, and the people we love. From fiction, to memoir, to the fusion of art and food, they explored how our wellbeing is inextricably tied to how we feed ourselves and each other, through the nourishment of delicious food, artistic expression, and human connection.

Kim Fay is the author of two historical novels, the Instant National Bestseller and #1 Indie Next Pick Love & Saffron and The Map of Lost Memories, an Edgar Award Finalist for Best First Novel. She has also written a food memoir, Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, a Gourmand World Cookbook Award winner.

For over a decade Maite Gomez-Rejón has been exploring the nexus of art and culinary history through lectures, cooking classes and tastings presented at museums and cultural centers across the country. She worked in restaurant kitchens in France and Mexico before combining her two passions of art and food in 2007 when she founded ArtBites

Fanny Singer is a writer and founder of Permanent Collection, a design brand that makes heirloom quality objects for the kitchen and home. In March of 2020, her first book, Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes and Stories, was published by Knopf. Her next book, devoted entirely to salad, will be published in 2025.

Moderator Lian Dolan, is a writer and talker. She’s the author of four best-selling novels, including her latest, Lost and Found in Paris, and the producer and host of the award-winning talk show Satellite Sisters.

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Scenes from a long awaited Season Four

Emily Levesque and John Mulchaey were out of this world!

Award-winning astronomer Dr. Emily Levesque, shared stories of modern-day stargazers, the people willing to adventure across high mountaintops and to some of the most remote corners of the planet, all in the name of science. In The Last Stargazers, Levesque shows how astronomers in this scrappy and evolving field are going beyond the machines to infuse creativity and passion into the stars and space and inspires us all to peer skyward in pursuit of the universe’s secrets. Her book is a love letter to astronomy and an affirmation of the crucial role that humans can and must play in the future of scientific discovery. Dr. John Mulchaey, director and the Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair of the Carnegie Observatories, one of the world’s premier astronomy institutions was the evening’s moderator.

Stories of resilience from Antong Lucky, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado and Obed Silva left us inspired

At LitFest Pasadena’s Open Book Memoir Panel, Antong Lucky, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado and Obed Silva shared their inspiring accounts of overcoming monumental obstacles. Antong went from the founder and leader of the Dallas Bloods to a sought-after prison mentor. Silvia survived childhood sexual abuse and went on to conquer the Seven Summits (the highest mountain on each continent). After being paralyzed as a result of gang warfare, Obed became a respected English professor. Moderator Jeff Hobbs, is an acclaimed author who stunningly captures the challenges of being a young person confronting the future.

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Attica Locke and Rachel Howzell Hall mesmerized the audience at NOOR

Attica Locke is the author of five books, including her latest novel Heaven, My Homesequel to the Edgar Award-winning and NY Times best-seller Bluebird, Bluebird. Her books have won the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, an NAACP Image Award, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize.  She was a writer and producer on the Fox series, Empire, the Netflix series When They See Us and the Emmy-nominated Little Fires Everywhere. She is currently writing and producing an adaptation of her sister Tembi Locke’s memoir From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home for Netflix.

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Scenes from a thrilling season three:

Andrew McConnell Stott enthralled the audience at A Noise Within Theater

Andrew McConnell Stott is the author of four books of non-fiction.  His books have won the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Prize for Non-Fiction, the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography, the George Freedley Memorial Award, and was a BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week”.  His most recent book is What Blest Genius?: The Jubilee that Made Shakespeare (Norton, 2019).

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Justice was served by Ben H. Winters at the Western Justice Center in Pasadena.  And that’s no lie!

Ben H. Winters is the author of ten novels, including most recently Golden State (Mulholland Books), an Indie Next pick for January, 2019 and a Book of the Month Club selection.  Ben grew up in suburban Maryland and went to college at Washington University in St. Louis. Presently, he lives in Los Angeles.

Scenes from a sensational season 2:

A Packed House was rapt when Jacqueline Winspear took the Stage at the Pasadena American Legion Post 13

Jacqueline Winspear is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of the Maisie Dobbs mystery series.   Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England and currently lives in California.

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Leif Enger and John Horn charmed a Full House at the Historic Sierra Madre Playhouse

Leif Enger is the critically acclaimed and bestselling author of three novels: Peace Like a River, So Brave, Young, and Handsome, and Virgil Wander. Enger spent nearly twenty years of his career working as a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio before becoming a full-time fiction writer.  Enger was raised in Minnesota, where he currently lives with his wife, Robin.

John Horn is the popular host of The Frame, KPCC’s weekday arts and entertainment broadcast.

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Les Klinger Enthralled a Full House at the Magnificent Mountain View Mausoleum

Leslie S. Klinger is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, H. P. Lovecraft, Frankenstein and 19th-century genre fiction.  His work has received numerous awards and nominations, including the Edgar® for Best Critical-Biographical Book in 2005 for The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes:  The Complete Short Stories and the Anthony for Best Anthology in 2015 for In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (co-edited with Laurie R. King).

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Scenes from our fabulous first season

Danzy Senna in conversation with Chris L. Terry

May 17, 2018

Danzy Senna is the author of three novels, a memoir and a short-story collection along with numerous essays centering on the issues of identity, motherhood, gender and race. Her first book, Caucasia, has been translated into ten languages, won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, and was named one of the LA Times Best Books of the Year in 1998.  Her most recent novel, New People, has been named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, Vogue, Time Magazine, NPR and The Root.  Book Page called New People, “ . . . blazing, unstoppable  . . .  a fast, darkly funny read.”  Newsday said, “. . . its compound of caustic observations and shrewd characterizations could only have emerged from a writer as finely tuned to her social milieu as [Jane] Austen was to hers.”  Ms Senna was born and raised in Boston.  She earned a BS from Stanford University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine.  Ms Senna was the recipient of the 2016 Dos Passos Prize for Literature.   She presently lives in South Pasadena and is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

Chris L. Terry is the son of an African-American father and an Irish-American mother and he describes Senna’s book, Caucasia, as “a formative read” for him as a young man.  He was born in Boston, raised in Richmond, Virginia and spent his youth touring the US and Europe as a singer for various punk rock bands.  He has a BA from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Creative Writing MFA from Columbia College, Chicago. In the past, he has worked in book publishing and taught creative writing to juvenile inmates.  His debut novel, Zero Fade, was on the American Library Association’s Best of 2013 list. His second novel, to be published in 2019, is a supernatural satire about a mixed-race punk rock musician who is trying to win his Black Card — his credibility as a black person.  A resident of LA since 2013, he is currently a PEN Center USA Artist in Residence.

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Percival Everett in conversation with David Ulin

January 24, 2018

Percival Everett has been called “one of our culture’s preeminent novelists, a nonpareil ironist-satirist.” (LA Times). He is the author of nearly 30 books, in multiple genres, including Erasure, I’m Not Sidney Portier, and his latest novel, So Much Blue. The Boston Globe raved about So Much Blue, saying, “Three stories, scattered across time . . . taken together they add up to a masterpiece.” NPR called So Much Blue, “a generous, thrilling book by a man who might well be America’s most under-recognized literary master.” Percival Everett is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California, and the recipient of the Academy Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Believer Book Award, and the 2006 PEN USA Center Award for Fiction.

David L. Ulin is the award-winning author, most recently, of the novel, “Ear to the Ground.” A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, one of his eight previous books is “Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles,” that was shortlisted for the PEN/diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. He is the previous book critic and book editor for The Los Angeles Times.

Amor Towles

NOVEMBER 7, 2017

Amor Towles burst onto the literary scene with his bestseller, The Rules of Civility. He returns with an equally enthralling novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, about a Russian aristocrat ordered to spend the rest of his life inside the Metropol, a grand hotel across from the Kremlin. Brimming with humor and charm, A Gentleman in Moscow paints an indelible portrait of a man confined by time and space who somehow manages to enter a much larger world of emotional discovery. “Marvelous,” – The Chicago Tribune.  How delightful that in an era as crude as ours, this finely composed novel stretches out with an old-World elegance.” – The Washington Post. “Buzzes with the energy of numerous adventures, love affairs, twists of fate and silly antics.” – The Wall Street Journal.

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