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Readers connect with renowned authors at LA Times Festival of Books day 2

Festival-goers at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books peruse through books at a display. Many vendors at the festival included beloved bookstores, such as The Ripped Bodice and Malik Books, which sold an array of books, bags, bookmarks and other memorabilia. (Ethan Manafi/Daily Bruin staff)

By Kaycie Rippe

April 24, 2023 4:16 p.m.

Sunday brought about a storybook ending to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Across town on rival territory, the LA Times closed the book on its 28th annual Festival of Books at the University of Southern California. This weekend, thousands of members of the literary community flocked to USC’s campus to enjoy all things written. Attendees entered the festival to find a myriad of booths lining the pathways. The event also featured live music, food trucks, author readings, book signings and panels from world-renowned authors. Elise Fukuda, a third-time visitor of the festival, said the booksellers were especially eager to share their stories.

“It does feel like a small community, but then you come here, and you’re like, ‘Wow, there’s (so many) people,’” Fukuda said. “Everyone’s very welcoming, and it feels very easy to engage.”

Booksellers included many beloved LA bookstores, including The Ripped Bodice and Malik Books. These vendors, along with several others, played music and displayed an array of books, bags, bookmarks and other memorabilia, which drew in large crowds. Although there were many returning booths this year, Fukuda said she always looks forward to new additions to the festival, such as Octavia’s Bookshelf.

[Related: LA Times Festival of Books day 1 broaches topics from womanhood to queer romance]

Beyond the booths, the event offered a full schedule of live speakers and performances. The Children’s Stage featured author readings of picture books to an audience of adults and children. People flooded the crowd to see Idina Menzel and Cara Mentzel read “Loud Mouse.” The YA Stage also welcomed a variety of author panels throughout the day in which they discussed the content of their novels and personal experiences. The “Legends and Fantasies” panel, for example, featured BookTok author Tracy Deonn, who dove into her relationship with the main character of her novel, “Legendborn.”

“I think the responsibility that I have as the author and the responsibility that Bree (her book’s protagonist) is wrestling with is actually quite similar, which is as a Black American woman, realizing that I am both the outcome of sacrifices and horrors, but I’m also the vanguard of something new,” Deonn said. “I’m moving forward, having entered into the world in a new way that my ancestors never could have quite imagined.”

(Ethan Manafi/Daily Bruin staff)
A crowd of people walks through the festival. The two-day event featured live music, food trucks, author readings, book signings and panels from world-renowned authors. (Ethan Manafi/Daily Bruin staff)

This event allowed readers to delve beyond the pages and hear from their favorite authors in a new, direct format. A common theme throughout many author panels was how writers’ real experiences are interwoven into their works. For instance, Tahereh Mafi said her descriptive style of writing seen in the “Shatter Me” series is a result of growing up speaking Farsi, which she characterizes as a poetic language.

“I remember once, I bought a jacket and asked my mom, ‘What do you think?’” Mafi said. “And in Farsi, she said, ‘That jacket looks like it’s weeping on your body.’ She was trying to say she thought it was ugly. So I don’t know how to speak like a regular person. It’s just how I talk in my regular life.”

[Related: Second Take: Uncovering the washed-out, white-centered world of BookTok]

In addition to the multitude of free activities, there were also ticketed events that the community could enjoy, such as “Confronting LA’s Housing Crisis,” “Fiction: The Writing Life” and “Mystery/Thriller: The Accidental Detective.” Topics included all genres of writing as well as current events, literary awards and the pursuit of authorship. “Banned Books: Defending the Right to Read,” in particular, featured nonbinary author of “All Boys Aren’t Blue” George M. Johnson, who spoke openly on censorship and transphobia in schools.

“You know, there’s this interesting story about how, ‘Oh, these books are indoctrinating our youth.’” Johnson said. “And the problem with that is exactly what? Yes, it is indoctrinating them with resources and empathy and knowledge that other people exist outside of them. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Panel moderators then opened questions up to the audience at the end, allowing for intimate conversations between writers and readers. Book signings were open after most panels, which also allowed fans to interact with their favorite authors and celebrities. Concluding each event, speakers took the opportunity to advise their young readers. Angie Thomas, author of “The Hate U Give,” closed her conversation by encouraging the next generation to write from their lived experiences and read books that come from diverse perspectives.

“You know why they don’t want you reading books?” Thomas said. “It’s because they recognize your power. So that means you have power. That means you are some of the most powerful people in the world.”

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Kaycie Rippe
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