BRYAN ALLEN FIERRO READS FROM HIS COLLECTION OF STORIES DODGER BLUE WILL FILL YOUR SOUL

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on January 2nd, 2017

Dodger Blue Will Fill Your Soul (University of Arizona Press)

Two brothers bury a statue of Saint Jude for their grieving nana. A Griffith Park astronomer makes his own discovery at an East L.A. wedding. A young man springs his Cherokee-obsessed grandfather from the confines of senility. The common thread? Each is weaving their way through the challenging field of play that is living and loving in Los Angeles.

In Dodger Blue Will Fill Your Soul, Bryan Allen Fierro brings to life the people and places that form the fragile heart of the East Los Angeles community. In the title story, a father’s love of Dodger baseball is matched only by the disconnect he must bridge with his young son. In another story, a young widower remembers his wedding day with his father-in- law. The boys and men in this collection challenge masculine stereotypes, while the girls and women defy gender roles. Hope and faith in their own community defines the characters, and propels them toward an awareness of their own personal responsibility to themselves and to their families, even as they eschew those closest to them in pursuit of a different future.

Dodger Blue Will Fill Your Soul is a tour de force—the first collection of an authentic new voice examining community with humor, hope, and brutal honesty. 

Praise for Dodger Blue Will Fill Your Soul

“Beautifully written and charged with vitality”—Kirkus Reviews

“Bryan Allen Fierro is the real deal. This stunning collection is the harbinger of a bright-shining writing career beginning its run. Highly recommended.”—Luis Alberto Urrea

“Bryan Fierro writes with startling insight and a gifted comic’s instincts about love, family ties, desire, masculinity, poverty, and privilege. His voice is affecting and sincere, alternately elegiac and contemplative, edgy and ironic. These are powerful, memorable stories from a writer who I am certain has many more books to offer us.”—Christine Sneed

"With great charge, Fierro writes the lives of those waiting for their genuine longings to be unearthed and brought to light. Whether funny or nervy or surprisingly affectionate, these stories hit pay dirt every time.”—Manuel Muñoz

“Fierro displays the prowess of a master storyteller. A powerful and evocative debut.”—Don Rearden

Bryan Allen Fierro holds an MFA from Pacific University in Oregon. He grew up in Los Angeles and now splits his time between L.A. and Anchorage, Alaska, where he works as a firefighter and paramedic. Fierro is the recipient of the Poets and Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award in Fiction.

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NGŨGĨ WA THIONG’O DISCUSSES HIS NEW MEMOIR BIRTH OF A DREAM WEAVER

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on January 2nd, 2017

Birth of a Dream Weaver (New Press)

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s powerful new memoir, Birth of a Dream Weaver, chronicles the period in early 1960s East Africa when he found his voice as a writer and an activist.  Against the vivid backdrop of late-colonial Africa, Ngũgĩ details—with an immediacy both shocking and beautiful—the experience of coming of age in a homeland wounded by white settlerdom. 

A herdsboy and a child laborer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s spent his childhood in Kenya until the end of high school. Then, encouraged by his mother, he traveled to Uganda for university. Crossing into Uganda by train, Ngũgĩ is struck by the difference between British-dominated Kenya and the relative independence of Uganda, brought home with him the “incredible sight of black people who did not walk as if they were strangers in their city.” At the Universtiy of Makerere, Ngũgĩ comes to political consciousness as colonial Kenya crumbles and the aftermath of the Mau Mau rebellion, one of the most violent episodes in global history, is felt. 

The perfect entry-point for anyone new to Ngũgĩ’s work, Birth of a Dream Weaver is a rare glimpse into the seminal years of one of the world’s great writers.

Praise for Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s work:

"In his crowded career and his eventful life, Ngũgĩ has enacted, for all to see, the paradigmatic trials and quandaries of a contemporary African writer, caught in sometimes implacable political, social, racial, and linguistic currents."--John Updike, "The New Yorker" 

"Ngũgĩ has dedicated his life to describing, satirising and destabilising the corridors of power. Still living in exile and writing primarily in Gikuyu, Ngũgĩ continues to spin captivating tales."--The Guardian 

"Ngũgĩ has flown over the entire African continent and sniffed out all of the foul stenches rising high into the air: complacency toward despotism, repression of women and ethnic minorities, widespread corruption andundergirding all of thesea neocolonial system in which today's lending banks and multinationals have supplanted yesterday's European overlords."--The New York Times Book Review

One of the leading African writers and scholars at work today, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was born in Limuru, Kenya, in 1938. He is the author of A Grain of Wheat; Weep Not, Child; Petals of Blood; and Birth of a Dream Weaver (The New Press). He is currently distinguished professor in the School of Humanities and the director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine. He has been nominated for the Man Booker International Prize.

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TEDDY WAYNE READS FROM HIS LATEST NOVEL LONER

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on January 1st, 2017

Loner (Simon & Schuster)

From the award-winning author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, a propulsive novel about a meek Harvard freshman who becomes dangerously infatuated with a classmate.

 David Federman has never felt appreciated. An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, the withdrawn, mild-mannered freshman arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by a new tribe of high-achieving peers. But, initially, his social prospects seem unlikely to change, sentencing him to a lifetime of anonymity. Then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells. Struck by her beauty, wit, and sophisticated Manhattan upbringing, David falls feverishly in love. Determined to win her attention and an invite into her glamorous world, he begins compromising his moral standards for this one, great shot at happiness. But both Veronica and David, it turns out, are not exactly as they seem. 

Loner turns the traditional campus novel on its head as it explores gender politics and class. It is a stunning and timely literary achievement from one of the rising stars of American fiction.

Praise for Loner

“Like a novel of manners distorted by a twisted funhouse mirror, Teddy Wayne’s Loner moves with wit and stealth and merciless deliberation towards increasingly brutal psychic terrain. Reading it, I found myself amused and then—with creeping force—afraid, repulsed, and ultimately unwilling to put it down." —Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams and The Gin Closet

 “Teddy Wayne perfectly conjures the mind of a keenly observant, socially ambitious, and utterly heartless college student. Yet no matter what outlandish things David does, I couldn't help but root for him--until the book's gut-punch ending." —Adelle Waldman, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil. A regular contributor to The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and McSweeney's, he is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship. He has taught at Columbia University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Yale Writers' Conference. He lives in New York. 

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CHRISTOPHER DEWAN READS FROM HIS NEW COLLECTION HOOPTY TIME MACHINES

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on January 1st, 2017

Hoopty Time Machines: fairy tales for grown ups (Atticus Books)

Who Knew Godzilla Had a Poetic Side?

Hoopty Time Machines. It’s fun to say, isn’t it? Fanciful. Downright playful. Go ahead, try it. Say it out loud. Let it tumble off your tongue:

“Hoopty Time Machines.”

Just mouthing the words takes you to another time, a time when everything still seems possible, a time when you can stay up late with a flashlight under your sheets and disappear into the adventures of a good book.

Christopher DeWan’s Hoopty Time Machines: fairy tales for grown ups is a permission slip to adventure, an escape from the staid, workaday world, a passport to wistful, fabulist places, each one filled with peculiar dreams and wild awakenings. The stories include fairy tale heroines, introspective superheroes, and a whole menagerie of myths and monsters, but at their heart, each one is deeply human, and at least a little bit heartbreaking.

DeWan’s debut collection is “one of the most anticipated small press books of 2016” (John Madera, Big Other) and is coming in September from Atticus Books.

Praise for Hoopty Time Machines:
“Funny, sharp, playful zingers of stories that reach right out to grab a reader."– Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
 
"Hoopty Time Machines is much like a bag of M&M's, in that it's nearly impossible, once you've opened it, not to consume it down to the last morsel, and fast. It is less like a bag of M&M's in that you never know what you'll find beneath the candy coating: a peanut or an amphetamine, a rosary bead or a thumbtack."– Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination
 
"Reading the book is like staring into a spiderwebbed mirror, the perfect vessel by which to understand our fractured, absurdist world. There are hints of Barthelme, Vonnegut, and Calvino to be found here, but make no mistake: DeWan is something gloriously new."– Nathan Ballingrud, author of North American Lake Monsters
 
"An absolute delight from the first page to the last: it's like that scene in Singin' in the Rain, only with ideas instead of puddles."– Ben Loory, author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day
 
“That rare story collection that is both a total blast to read and a complete philosophical package. These abrupt, funny, vigorous stories—involving urban legends, minotaurs, little mermaids, chupacabras, and changelings—contain in their brevity vast depth and import. These are stories to read, reread, and perennially enjoy."– Sharma Shields, author of The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac

Christopher DeWan has published more than forty short stories in journals including Hobart, Necessary Fiction, Passages North, and wigleaf. His collection of domestic fabulism, Hoopty Time Machines, is one of the "most anticipated small press books of 2016."

Christopher has had TV projects with the Chernin Group and Indomitable Entertainment and collaborated on transmedia properties for Bad Robot, Paramount, Universal, and the Walt Disney Company. His screenwriting has been recognized by CineStory, Final Draft, the PAGE Awards, and Slamdance, and he is recipient of a fellowship from the International Screenwriters' Association (ISA). He teaches with Writing Workshops Los Angeles and the California State Summer School for the Arts, where he is currently chair of creative writing.

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TIM MURPHY READS FROM HIS NOVEL CHRISTODORA WITH DARCY COSPER

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on November 28th, 2016

Christodora (Grove/Atlantic)

In Christodora, Tim Murphy follows the lives of a diverse cast of characters who reside in and around an iconic apartment building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. Constructed in the 1920s, the Christodora has stood through New York City’s various cultural shifts, from the AIDS epidemic to the Tompkins Square Riots of the 1980s, from the destructive effect of hard drugs to the gentrification of a beloved Manhattan neighborhood. Murphy moves kaleidoscopically through these times and into New York City in the not-too- distant future in this poignant portrait of sex, drugs, art, and activism in this ever-changing city.

On Avenue B in the East Village, the Christodora is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions and parents to a young adopted son, Mateo. Their neighbor, Hector, a PuertoRican gay man once celebrated for his work as an AIDS activist, is now a lonely addict who becomes connected to Milly and Jared’s lives in ways none of them can anticipate. Meanwhile, Mateo grows to see the opportunity for both self-realization and oblivion that New York offers. As the junkies and protestors of the 1980s give way to the hipsters of the 2000s and they, in turn, to the wealthy residents of the crowded, glass-towered city of the 2020s, enormous changes rock the personal lives of Milly and Jared and the constellation of people around them, even as ghosts of the past cast a shadow on their future.

A novel of great scope and ambition, Christodora is a closely-observed panoramic novel that powerfully evokes the danger, chaos, and wonder of New York City, as well as the strange and moving ways in which its dwellers’ can intersect.

Praise for Christodora

“[A] vivid account of the AIDS crisis and its aftermath . . . Murphy has written The Bonfire of the Vanities for the age of AIDS, using the same reportorial skills as Tom Wolfe to re-create the changing decades, complete with a pitch-perfect deployment of period detail. Skipping back and forth in time over 40 years, and projecting itself into the near future, the novel achieves a powerful evocation of the plague years.”—Publishers Weekly

“An ambitious social novel informed by an extended perspective on the HIV/AIDS epidemic . . . In his debut novel, Murphy wants to bring [Larry] Kramer’s vision into the 21st century, though he goes about it with more artistry and less polemic . . . The author is expert at inhabiting a variety of mindsets . . . A poignant . . .exploration of a health crisis that hasn’t yet ended.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Murphy, who has long reported on HIV/AIDS, LGBT issues, pop culture, travel, and the arts for a wide range of publications, here travels through New York City from the AIDS-scarred 1980s to the hipster-dominated 2000s to the wealth-drenched 2020s, all by focusing on a single East Village building.”—Library Journal

“An intimate portrait of a bohemian family, Christodora is also a capacious historical novel that vividly recreates the lost world of downtown Manhattan in the eighties—a nuanced portrait of an era in which artists were unwitting agents of gentrification and the bright dawn of gay liberation was brutally interrupted by the AIDS epidemic.”—Jay McInerney  

“A moving portrait of New York in the time of AIDS, Tim Murphy’s honest and insightful writing gives Christodora a particular vibrancy that causes the characters to leap, whole, into the reader’s imagination. This spectacular novel is an important addition to literature that captures New York in all its glory and despair.”—Candace Bushnell

“An exuberant, ambitious, funny, gorgeously written epic, Tim Murphy’s Christodora not only makes us privy to the most intimate secrets and dreams of a group of unforgettable diverse characters, this brilliant tale also sweeps us up into the spirit of our age, from the AIDS crisis to now and even into the future, so that we can see and feel the devastating effects of time as it changes us forever.”—James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods

Tim Murphy has dedicated the last twenty years to reporting on HIV/AIDS. He’s written on the subject for Out, Advocate, and New York Magazine, where his cover story on the new HIV-prevention pill regimen PrEP was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Magazine Journalism. He also covers LGBT issues, arts, pop culture, travel, and fashion for publications including the New York Times and Conde Nast Traveler.

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MARISA SILVER DISCUSSES HER NEW NOVEL LITTLE NOTHING, WITH SARAH SHUN-LIEN BYNUM

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on November 28th, 2016

In an unnamed country at the beginning of the last century, a child called Pavla is born to peasant parents. Her arrival, fervently anticipated and conceived in part by gypsy tonics and archaic prescriptions, stuns her parents and brings outrage and scorn from her community. Pavla has been born a dwarf, beautiful in face, but as the years pass, she grows no farther than the edge of her crib. When her parents turn to the treatments of a local charlatan, his terrifying cure opens the floodgates of persecution for Pavla.
Little Nothing unfolds across a lifetime of unimaginable, magical transformation in and out of human form, as an outcast girl becomes a hunted woman whose ultimate survival depends on the most startling transfiguration of them all. Woven throughout is the journey of Danilo, the young man entranced by Pavla, obsessed only with protecting her. Part allegory about the shifting nature of being, part subversive fairy tale of love in all its uncanny guises, Little Nothing spans the beginning of a new century, the disintegration of ancient superstitions, and the adoption of industry and invention. With a cast of remarkable characters, a wholly original story, and extraordinary, page-turning prose, Marisa Silver delivers a novel of sheer electricity.
Praise for Little Nothing
“Silver has created a gorgeously rendered, imaginative, magical yarn.” —Booklist
“Pavla serves to remind readers of the moral of the story, that a good soul can find transcendence in the face of unbearable odds. And in Danilo readers will recognize their own longing for transcendence and meaning as he transforms himself through pain and sorrow into a man of courage and ingenuity." —Publishers Weekly
“In Little Nothing, the wizardly Marisa Silver conjures a pitch-dark tale with empathy and humor. An emotionally suspenseful allegory, the novel reveals how the world's expectations can torque a woman's identity and leave a ferocious ache behind. The novel twisted me up inside. I loved it.” —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies, a National Book Award Finalist
"Little Nothing is a magnificent something, an inventive, unexpected story that seamlessly blends fable and folklore into the lives of characters who remain heart-wrenchingly real. That Silver wrestles with nearly unanswerable questions – What does it mean to occupy a body? What does it mean to be human? How transformative is love? – and still produces an exhilarating page-turner is a testament to her biting, beautiful prose. In addition to being a joy to read, this book challenged and changed me, and I can’t imagine what else anyone would want from a work of art." —Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest
Marisa Silver is the author of the novel Mary Coin, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Southern California Independent Bookseller’s Award. She is also the author of The God of War (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist); No Direction Home; and two story collections, Alone with You and Babe in Paradise (a New York Times Notable Book and Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year). Silver’s fiction has won the O. Henry Award and been included in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and other anthologies. She lives in Los Angeles.
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is the author of two novels, Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award, and Madeleine Is Sleeping, a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including the New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tin House, the Georgia Review, and the Best American Short Stories 2004 and 2009. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship, she was named one of “20 Under 40” fiction writers by the New Yorker. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

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ZAN ROMANOFF READS FROM HER DEBUT NOVEL A SONG TO TAKE THE WORLD APART

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on November 28th, 2016

A Song to Take the World Apart (Knopf)

Hanging out with Chris was supposed to make Lorelei’s life normal. He’s cooler, he’s older, and he’s in a band, which means he can teach her about the music that was forbidden in her house growing up. Her grandmother told her when she was little that she was never allowed to sing, but listening to someone else do it is probably harmless—right?

The more she listens, though, the more keenly she can feel her own voice locked up in her throat, and how she longs to use it. And as she starts exploring the power her grandmother never wanted her to discover, influencing Chris and everyone around her, the foundations of Lorelei’s life start to crumble. There’s a reason the women in her family never want to talk about what their voices can do.

And a reason Lorelei can’t seem to stop herself from singing anyway.

Praise for A Song to Take the World Apart

"Zan Romanoff has created a hypnotic, lush coming of age story about what it means to have a voice.”—Emily Gould, author of Friendship

"Family secrets, first love, and the elemental, raw power of music are all on display in Zan Romanoff's gorgeous novel. A Song To Take the World Apartgives us a heroine who's as fierce as she is vulnerable, and a story that's as page-turning as it is profound. An enchanting and beautiful debut." —Edan Lepucki, New York Times bestselling author of California

"Zan Romanoff’s music-saturated debut will snare readers with its melodic, pop-punk hooks and elegant riffs on growing up, falling in love, and letting go." —Sarah McCarry, author of All Our Pretty Songs
 
"With its dark sexiness, moody LA atmosphere, and fresh take on age-old legends, A Song to Take the World Apart will lure readers into its grip and keep them there.”—Bennett Madison, author of September Girls

Zan Romanoff was born and raised in Los Angeles, fifteen miles (at least an hour in traffic) from the ocean. She received a BA in literature from Yale, then returned to LA, where she lives in an apartment that never has quite enough shelves for all of her books. Her work has appeared in publications that range from the Paris Review to the Toast and the Atlantic. This is her first novel. Visit her at zanromanoff.tumblr.com and follow her on Twitter @zanopticon.

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FORREST STUART DISCUSSES HIS NEW BOOK DOWN, OUT AND UNDER ARREST

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on November 8th, 2016

Down, Out and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row (University of Chicago Press)

In his first year working in Los Angeles’s Skid Row, Forrest Stuart was stopped on the street by police fourteen times. Usually for doing little more than standing there.

Juliette, a woman he met during that time, has been stopped by police well over one hundred times, arrested upward of sixty times, and has given up more than a year of her life serving week-long jail sentences. Her most common crime? Simply sitting on the sidewalk—an arrestable offense in LA.

Why? What purpose did those arrests serve, for society or for Juliette? How did we reach a point where we’ve cut support for our poorest citizens, yet are spending ever more on policing and prisons? That’s the complicated, maddening story that Stuart tells in Down, Out and Under Arrest, a close-up look at the hows and whys of policing poverty in the contemporary United States. What emerges from Stuart’s years of fieldwork—not only with Skid Row residents, but with the police charged with managing them—is a tragedy built on mistakes and misplaced priorities more than on heroes and villains. He reveals a situation where a lot of people on both sides of this issue are genuinely trying to do the right thing, yet often come up short. Sometimes, in ways that do serious harm.

At a time when distrust between police and the residents of disadvantaged  neighborhoods has never been higher, Stuart’s book helps us see where we’ve gone wrong, and what steps we could take to begin to change the lives of our poorest citizens—and ultimately our society itself—for the better.

Praise for Down, Out and Under Arrest 

"An intimate, multifaceted portrait of the police, residents and activists in their own voices. Down, Out, and Under Arrest adds new insights and much-needed complexity to the current debates on policing in the poorest urban areas of the U.S. It is a vivid and insightful five-year study of Los Angeles’s Skid Row that contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about policing and the urban poor."--Shelf Awareness

“Stuart’s extraordinary field work in LA’s Skid Row sheds new light on the regulation of the urban poor in the twenty-first century. This is urban ethnography at its best.”--Mitchell Duneier, author of Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea

Down, Out, and Under Arrest is a trenchant ethnographic account of how big city police harass and ‘manage’ some of the most desperate people of the urban environment, but equally important, how these impoverished denizens—including residents of SRO hotels, skid row, and homeless settlements—wisely manage the police in their everyday lives, powerfully revealing the enormous human toll of the ‘neoliberal state.’ This is a timely work of importance that deserves to be read by a wide audience.”--Elijah Anderson, author of Code of the Street

“Stuart’s Down, Out, and Under Arrest describes a segment of reality that is virtually unknown to Americans—how policing is reshaping the experiences of extreme urban poverty. The challenges of everyday life in Skid Row are revealed in sharp relief in his compelling narrative. Indeed, Stuart’s insightful account, based on years of field research, is replete with original findings. This well written book is a must-read not only for students and scholars of urban poverty, but for the general public as well.” William Julius Wilson, author of The Truly Disadvantaged

Forrest Stuart is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago.

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ZENOBIA NEIL READS FROM HER DEBUT NOVEL PSYCHE UNBOUND

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on November 8th, 2016

Psyche Unbound (Tule Publishing)

The celebrated beauty of Roman princess Psyche has enraged Venus, the Goddess of Love and Beauty. As punishment, Psyche is left naked on the beach to be sacrificed to a monster. When Cupid, the God of Love, swoops her up and flies her to the monster’s palace, Psyche mistakenly wraps her legs around his waist, looks into his eyes, and falls in love.
 
Blindfolded and tied to a bed, Psyche awaits the monster, vowing to be brave as she faces death. Yet when the monster arrives, he marries her  on the condition she never see his face. As she grows to love her shadow husband, she can’t stop thinking about the God of Love.  Consumed by curiosity, Psyche breaks her promise by lighting a lamp. Awaking in a rage, and furious with her betrayal, her husband banishes her from the palace.
 
Psyche begs Venus for another chance at love. Unmoved, Venus demands Psyche perform three impossible tasks. If Psyche succeeds, her husband will return. If she fails, she will be condemned to death.
 
Can Psyche satisfy Venus and win back her true love?

Join us for an evening of classic Roman treats and wine!

Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. A lifelong lover of Greco-Roman mythology, she writes about the ancient world and Greek god erotica. An English teacher by day, Zenobia spends her time imagining interesting people and putting them in terrible situations. She lives with her husband, two children, and dog in an overpriced hipster neighborhood of Los Angeles. Psyche Unbound is her first book. Zenobia would love to hear what your favorite Greek myth is. Visit her at ZenobiaNeil.com

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WILLIAM LUVAAS LAUNCHES HIS NEW NOVEL BENEATH THE COYOTE HILLS

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on November 7th, 2016

Beneath the Coyote Hills (Spuyten Duyvil Press)

Please join us this afternoon for the official launch of local author William Luvaas's exciting new novel Beneath the Coyote Hills!

“They say you never get more than you can handle. So how do we explain suicide, then, or divorce, or crimes of passion, or parents who murder their children, or fall to pieces after having them? How do we explain people like me?”

So begins the story of Tommy Aristophanos, a luckless man, homeless freegan, fiction writer, and epileptic, who lives alone in an olive grove outside the town of Hamlet in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains in the Southern California desert. Tommy survives on his wits and society’s leavings, while the main character of his novel, Voltaire Cambridge Hoffstatter (Volt), is successful in all he undertakes. Their lives unexpectedly intertwine when Volt emerges from the pages of Tommy’s novel to harass him. 

Volt believes character is fate, while Tommy’s many reversals and fickle spells teach him that we control far less than we imagine. In the final showdown between the two, we are left wondering who is the true Pygmalion–Tommy or Volt? 

A master of timing and entertaining dialogue, William Luvaas peoples Tommy’s world with characters that are as outrageous as they are real: Tommy’s depressed mother who never gets out of bed; Crash, a tattooed, motorcycle-riding Jesus freak; Berkeley Don, hairy, kurta-wearing Buddha of the high desert; and changeling Lizard Man who haunts Tommy in his spells, as he takes readers on an unforgettable ride into the illusory world of success and failure and of reality itself. Where do we draw the line between reality and fantasy? To what extent do we write our own destiny, to what extent is it written for us? 

Part satire, part picaresque romp, part speculative adventure, Beneath The Coyote Hills unfolds as a multi-layered allegory that will stay with readers long after the last page.

Praise for William Luvaas

“Beneath the Coyote Hills has cost me a sleepless night that I can scarcely afford, and has left me cold with awe at the unwavering skill and subtlety of the narrative. The sheer scope of the author's imagination, and the almost impossibly delicate poetic weight of his prose, has made the discovery of William Luvaas' writing one of the genuine joys of my reading-year. He is a remarkable writer, comfortably among the finest at work in America today, and this novel is a towering and maybe career-defining achievement, art of the highest order.”–Billy O'Callaghan, Irish Book Award-winning author of The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind

“Luvaas weaves elements of other genres into the narrative, such as slipstream and poetry and even the sci-fi trope of a boy and his dog, revealing this work in the final analysis as a complex bricolage, a marvelous literary stew which illustrates perfectly how the artist ‘shapes the beautiful and the useful out of the dump heap of human life.’”–Clare MacQueen, Publisher of KYSO Flash and editor at Serving House Journal

“Heat, flies, wind and even ghosts form the eerie landscape of Luvaas’s extraordinary collection about love, hope and the stubborn resistance of humans even in the face of doom. Jaw-droppingly brilliant and downright transcendent.”–Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

“While comparisons to Cormac McCarthy’s powerful The Road novel seem inevitable, William Luvaas’s brilliant new collection of short stories, Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle, is a wildly inventive and epic comedy of prophetic visions, and a masterpiece of fiction for our own modern times.”–Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post “Book of the Year”

“The Style and mixture of voices used throughout these ten tightly linked offerings suggests Flannery O’Connor’s eccentrics channeling the apocalyptic visions of Cormac McCarthy.”–Duff Brenna, Los Angeles Review of Books

"In his second novel, Luvaas skillfully peels away the layers of deception in the Tillotson family to reveal three generations of trauma and abuse. A surreal and frightening air prevails, as guilt, aggression and madness escalate in this powerful evocation of family members coming to grips with their crimes against one another."–Publishers Weekly

"A mother drowning in alcohol drags her whole family down in William Luvaas’s powerful novel."–New York Times Book Review

"The Seductions of Natalie Bach is one of the best works of fiction about that pregnant decade [the sixties], comparable to Marge Piercy’s Small Changes and Lisa Alther’s Kinflicks. Luvaas recaptures the excitement of coming of age against a background of assassination, political activism, sexual experimentation, intellectual arrogance and generational conflict."–Newsday

William Luvaas has published two novels, The Seductions of Natalie BachGoing Under, and two story collections, A Working Man’s Apocrypha and most recently, Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle, which was a Huffington Post’s Book of the Year and a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

William Luvaas’s essays, articles and short stories have appeared in many publications, including The American Fiction AnthologyAntioch ReviewConfrontation, EpiphanyGlimmer TrainGrain MagNorth American ReviewShort StoryStand MagThe SunTexas ReviewThe Village Voice and The Washington Post Book World. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Fiction and has taught creative writing at San Diego State University, The Univ. of California, Riverside and The Writer’s Voice in New York, and The UCLA Writing Program.

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GINA FRANGELLO READS FROM HER NEW BOOK EVERY KIND OF WANTING WITH MEREDITH MARAN

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on November 7th, 2016

Every Kind of Wanting (Counterpoint)

Every Kind of Wanting explores the complex intersection of three unique families and their bustling efforts to have a "Community Baby." Miguel could not be more different from his partner Chad, a happy-go-lucky real estate mogul from Chicago's wealthy North Shore. When Chad's sister, Gretchen offers the couple an egg, their search for a surrogate leads them to Miguel's old friend Emily, happily married to an eccentric Irish playwright, Nick, with whom she is raising two boys. Into this web falls Miguel's sister Lina, a former addict and stripper, who begins a passionate affair with Nick while deciphering the mysteries of her past. 
But every action these couples make has unforeseen consequences. As Lina faces her long-hidden demons, and the fragile friendships between Miguel and Chad and Nick and Emily begin to fray as the baby's birth draws near, a shocking turn of eventsand the secret Lina's been hiding threaten to break them apart forever. 

By turns funny, dark and sexy, Every Kind of Wanting strips bare the layers of the American family today. Tackling issues such as assimilation, the legacy of secrets, the morality of desire, and ultimately who "owns" love, the characters across all ethnicities, nationalities, and sexualities are blisteringly alive.

Praise for Every Kind of Wanting

"Who really owns a baby or another person's heart? Is it the community of people who love and want a child? The woman whose eggs are responsible? Or the surrogate who carries the fetus? Frangello's scorching, funny, and deeply moving novel is a brilliant fusion of deep secrets, stunning lies, the murky past and the uncertain future, all couched around the very human cost of desire. So fearless and ambitious, the pages practically ignite."--Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You 

"Desire is at the heart of Frangello's work, and whether we can survive it is central to this raw, wonderful, and unmistakably contemporary novel. This is the future that our conservative forebears were scared of, in all its messy, hopeful glory."--J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times bestselling author of Kitchen of the Great Midwest

Gina Frangello is the author of the Target Emerging Authors selection A Life in Men, which was a book club selection for NYLON magazine, The Rumpus, and The Nervous Breakdown. She is also the author of two other books of fiction: Slut Lullabies, a Foreword Magazine Best Book of the Year finalist, and My Sister’s Continent. She is the founder of Other Voices Books, has served as the Sunday editor for The Rumpus, the fiction editor for The Nervous Breakdown, executive editor for Other Voices magazine, and the faculty editor for TriQuarterly Online. She can be found at www.ginafrangello.com.

Photo by Blair Holmes

The author of a dozen nonfiction books and an acclaimed novel, Meredith Maran is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the MacDowell Fellows West. She writes features, essays, and book reviews for People, Salon, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Real Simple, Mother Jones, Good Housekeeping, and other publications. She lives in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

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AFFINITY KONAR READS FROM HER NOVEL MISCHLING

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on November 7th, 2016

Mischling (Lee Boudreaux Books)

Mischling is indeed a paradox. The intangible magic of Konar’s novel is this: While it is set against a backdrop of one of the most horrific episodes in human history, it is lyrical, poetic, and filled with hope. It is a story about the pervasiveness of nightmares and the staggering power of dreams. About how, despite the most banal of evils, one can find the ability to see the world anew. It is a story about losing, but more than that it is a story about finding.

There’s an alchemy to Konar’s language: it is sonorous and beautiful, full of tender, affecting moments, yet it doesn’t spare the reader the dark realities playing out on the page. One of the book’s most striking passages comes early on, when Pearl recalls the girls’ arrival at Auschwitz: “I realized that Stasha and I would have to divide the responsibilities of living between us. Such divisions had always come naturally to us, and so there, in the early-morning dark, we divvied up the necessities: Stasha would take the funny, the future, the bad. I would take the sad, the good, the past.” We are compelled to follow these resilient, imaginative little girls through this treacherous, painful new world, as they work to comfort themselves for as long as they can with a private language and the games of their childhood. But the longer they remain at Auschwitz, the harder it becomes to battle the impending dangers and the growing burdens of guilt and pain. And when Pearl disappears, Stasha has to cling fiercely to the hope that she will one day find her sister again.

Konar derived many aspects of the novel from the testimony of survivors who were part of the horrific “Zoo” where Nazi scientist Josef Mengele experimented on hundreds of sets of twins. It’s a story that has remained largely untold, and that holds strong personal connections for Konar, who is of Polish-Jewish ancestry. She grew up captivated by her grandfather’s many stories of serving in the US Army during WWII. At the same time, doctors were huge figures in her life because her younger brother suffered from seizures. Mengele became a source of fascination. At sixteen, Konar read Lucette Lagnado’s Children of the Flames, the watershed book about Auschwitz’s “Angel of Death” and the children he tormented. She was haunted by the story but also found it wondrous that some of the twins from Mengele’s Zoo were able to grow up, clinging to each other yet going on to lead full, meaningful lives. Many of the characters in the book are based on real figures—Pearl and Stasha were inspired by several sets of twins but most closely by Eva Mozes Kor and Miriam Mozes Zeiger. Other characters were inspired by: Zvi Spiegel, who led thirty-five children back to Hungary after the war; Irma Grese, the female SS guard known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”; and Gisella Perl, the Jewish doctor who helped care for hundreds of prisoners. Konar, who spent over a decade giving voice to these unforgettable characters, drew from the vivid testimony of survivors. She says that she regrets not being able to touch on every character she wanted to write about, but that she holds close those who are  at the novel’s center. For Konar, Pearl and Stasha’s bond, “with all its unbreakability and longing,” remains the driving force of the book. Despite the pain they encounter, she says she was always writing toward the final line in the book: “Let’s try to love the world again.”

Praise for Mischling

Mischling is a paradox. It’s a beautiful novel about the most odious of crimes, it’s a deeply researched act of remembrance that somehow carries the lightness of a fairy tale, and it’s a coming-of-age story about children who aren’t allowed to come of age. If your soul can survive the journey, you’ll be rewarded by one of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year.”—Anthony Doerr, author of New York Times bestseller All The Light We Cannot See

“[A] painfully startling debut.” —Library Journal (Pre-pub Alert)

“Affinity Konar’s Mischling is a tale of courage, courageously told—spare and beautiful, riveting and heartrending. Half of me wanted to linger over every page, the other half insisted I race ahead. It’s a case of extraordinary storytelling from first page to transcendent last.”—David Wroblewski, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

“Affinity Konar is an astonishing and fearless writer whose great gift to us is this book. With incantatory magic, she marches through the most nightmarish of landscapes, swinging her light.”—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia

“Affinity Konar’s Mischling is a piercing novel written with chin-up virtuoso. The prose is dazzling, and the story of this twin is moving and searing, and as powerful as the best mythic stories of the masters of old.”—Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen

“Konar has woven a masterful and poignant account of a pair of twin sisters who cannot be separated, even by the cruelest hand of fate. Her prose is mystical and delicately poetic, and she uses her manifold gifts to tell a deeply engaging story of fortitude and triumph. Bravo.”—Lucette Lagnado, author of Children of the Flames and The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit

“Affinity Konar has invented a language. It’s sonorous, brilliant....like Samuel Beckett, this is literature for the superhuman: reading it makes us greater than we are.” —Lydia Millet, author of Sweet Lamb of Heaven

Affinity Konar was raised in California. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. 

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YVONNE PUIG READS FROM HER DEBUT NOVEL A WIFE OF NOBLE CHARACTER

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on September 21st, 2016

A Wife of Noble Character (Henry Holt & Company)

Imagine Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart transported from the Gilded Age to present-day Houston. Her world would have less taffeta, more beer. Her search for love would take her to Texas-big parties, not velvet parlors. And the hush-hush small talk of New York’s drawing rooms would be replaced with Lone Star straight talk. This is the reimagined setting writer Yvonne Georgina Puig has created in her debut novel, A Wife of Noble Character, inspired by Wharton’s The House of Mirth. This sparkling novel shifts from Houston to Paris and back while Puig rekindles the perennial conversation on self-worth when it comes to women and marriage, as apt (and fraught) today as it was then. 

Vivienne Cally, heiress to the once-mighty Cally Petroleum fortune, is wealthy only in name, and has been raised to marry a wealthy and respectable man to maintain the extravagant lifestyle she’s accustomed to. The problem is finding the right one. There’s Preston Duffin, a rising architect who lacks financial means. There’s Bucky Lawler, who is not lacking for money, but comes packaged with his good-ole-boy and deep Christian beliefs—hardly progressive. Vivienne’s best friends, Waverly and Karlie, juggle being supportive with gossiping, and they don’t understand why their friend won’t settle down. What’s a girl to do? As Vivienne strikes out to set herself on a career path while finding love, she hits bumps in the road that take her to the depths of humiliation, and she is faced with choices and soul searching about what is most important in life.

Colorful and cinematic, Puig’s first novel—a true comedy of manners—is true to Houston, where she grew up like her characters. This year, she is one of three participants in the Edith Wharton Writer-in-Residence Program at the Mount, where writers spend two weeks living and working in Wharton’s home in Lenox, MA. 

Praise for A Wife of Noble Character

"Satire, social commentary, and Texas: just a few of the riches you'll find in A Wife of Noble Character. Inspired by Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, this sharply drawn novel about Houston's oil-money elite strikes a beautiful balance—rollicking at times while deeply felt at others. It's a comedy of manners about what it's like to be wealthy in name only." ― ELLE.com

"A fresh, funny look at what it means to be an adult in the 21st century and a juicy Texan comedy of manners, at its heart, A Wife of Noble Character is a good old fashioned love story." ― Sarah Bird, author ofAbove the East China Sea

A Wife of Noble Character is a wildly unique creation: A social novel that is simultaneously classic and utterly modern. I found it sharply insightful, lyrically written, and often laugh-out-loud funny; and could barely put it down until the last page. Puig is a talented satirist and a breathtakingly astute observer of character." ― Janelle Brown, author ofAll We Ever Wanted Was Everything

Yvonne Georgina Puig's fiction and essays have appeared in SalonVariety,Los Angeles Magazine, and The Texas Observer, among others. She holds a Masters in Professional Writing from USC. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband.

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DANA JOHNSON READS FROM HER NEW SHORT STORY COLLECTION IN THE NOT QUITE DARK

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on September 21st, 2016

In the Not Quite Dark (Counterpoint Press)

Following her prize-winning collection Break Any Woman DownDana Johnsonreturns with a collection of bold stories set mostly in downtown Los Angeles that examine large issues like love, class, race and how they influence and define our most intimate moments.

In "The Liberace Museum," a mixed-race couple leave the South toward the destination of Vegas, crossing miles of road and history to the promised land of consumption; in "Rogues," a young man on break from college lands in his brother's Inland Empire neighborhood during a rash of unexplained robberies; in "She Deserves Everything She Gets", a woman listens to the strict advice given to her spoiled niece about going away to college, reflecting on her own experience and the night she lost her best friend; and in the collection's title story, a man setting down roots in downtown L.A. is haunted by the specter of both gentrification and a young female tourist, whose body was found in the water tower of a neighboring building. 

With deep insight into character, intimate relationships, and the modern search for personal freedom, In the Not Quite Dark is powerful new work that feels both urgent and timeless.

Praise for In the Not Quite Dark

“In her brilliant collection, Dana Johnson presents a vision of America that is singular, utterly original, and necessary. These are superb stories grappling with the complexities of love and the way it winds through gender and race and class in our nation right now. Johnson is expert at exploring how the world tries to separate us —and how her characters find urgent ways to connect. These are stories radiant with beauty and compassion and clear-sighted, uncompromising wisdom." —Karen E. Bender, author of National Book Award finalist Refund

“Newer than tomorrow, the stories in In the Not Quite Dark illuminate the travails of contemporary life faced with aspects of gentrification—social, economic, racial, even sexual. Johnson is the poet of the uneasy place between rising and falling, the pressures of status and humiliation, the precarious moral footing we are all navigating now. A sharp edged portrait of Los Angeles, and ourselves.” —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander andPaint it Black

“Johnson’s (Elsewhere, California) superb short story collection features well-drawn characters, vivid descriptions of Los Angeles, and nuanced reflections on money, race, and family. The stories stand alone, but they share preoccupations, and sometimes settings… This is essential reading for Angelenos, Californians, and anyone interested in masterly, morally engaged storytelling.”—Starred Publishers Weekly
 
“An insightful collection of stories that paint diverse portraits of present-day Los Angeles… the themes of race, perspective, and history carry through. Eleven poignant stories that look to the past to portray the present.” —Kirkus
 
"Set against backdrops of gritty neighborhoods, Johnson’s arresting story collection explores the boundaries of identity, relationships, and race…Emotions sneak up in many of Johnson’s 11 stories, and her characters have no choice but to deal with what hits them." —Booklist
 
“There is an exquisite tension in each of the stories in Dana Johnson’s remarkable collection — couples who look past each other instead of into each other, women who try to negotiate upward mobility, wanting what you can’t have and having what you don’t want. Johnson has, truly, written an unforgettable collection. She is both a storyteller and an exacting observer of the beautiful ugly truths of Los Angeles, class, race, being alive.” —Roxane Gay, bestselling author of An Untamed State and Bad Feminist
 
“With deep insight into character, intimate relationships, and the modern search for personal freedom, In the Not Quite Dark is powerful new work that feels both urgent and timeless.” —Chicago Review of Books
 
“In her new collection, In the Not Quite Dark, [Johnson] offers 11 electrifying stories filled with tension and truth about present-day Los Angeles. “My mother died telling me what to do,” her narrator begins in “No Blaming the Harvard Boys,” a story about a young black student at a midwestern writers’ workshop navigating the caste system at a tumultuous party at her professor’s house. “She Deserves Everything She Gets” builds around the tension between the lessons parents teach young women about protecting themselves against rape and the dangers they don’t foresee. Johnson’s vision is razor sharp, her voice unmistakable.” –Lit Hub
 
“In her brilliant collection, Dana Johnson presents a vision of America that is singular, utterly original, and necessary. These are superb stories grappling with the complexities of love and the way it winds through gender and race and class in our nation right now. Johnson is expert at exploring how the world tries to separate us —and how her characters find urgent ways to connect. These are stories radiant with beauty and compassion and clear-sighted, uncompromising wisdom." —Karen E. Bender, author of National Book Award finalist Refund
 
“Newer than tomorrow, the stories in In the Not Quite Dark illuminate the travails of contemporary life faced with aspects of gentrification—social, economic, racial, even sexual. Johnson is the poet of the uneasy place between rising and falling, the pressures of status and humiliation, the precarious moral footing we are all navigating now. A sharp edged portrait of Los Angeles, and ourselves.” —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander andPaint it Black
 
“What a gift to have a new collection of hard-to-shake stories from the inimitable Dana Johnson. She writes about the contradictions of our contemporary moment with an honesty that is gimlet-eyed, rueful, and often wickedly funny. But along with implacable honesty there are also deep reserves of generosity in these stories, each one taking our hearts to places we don’t see coming and can’t readily forget.” —Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, author of PEN/Faulkner Award finalist Ms. Hempel Chronicles
 
“In these haunting and beautiful stories, Dana Johnson conjures a definitive portrait of contemporary Los Angeles. Her native eye is infallible, and her voice reigns over the city with grace, wit, and total authority.” —Jim Gavin, author of Middle Men

Dana Johnson is the author of Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O'Conor Award for Short Fiction, and the novel Elsewhere, California. Both books were nominees for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California. Learn more atwww.danajohnsonauthor.com. 

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EVAN KINDLEY DISCUSSES HIS NEW BOOK QUESTIONNAIRE WITH ROSTEN WOO

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores, books by skylightbooks on September 16th, 2016

Questionnaire (Bloomsbury)

Questionnaires are everywhere: we fill them out at doctors' offices and at job interviews, to express ourselves and to advance knowledge, to find love and to kill time. But where did they come from, and why have they proliferated? Evan Kindley's Questionnaire investigates the history of “the form as form,” from the Victorian confession album to the BuzzFeed quiz. By asking questions about the questions we ask ourselves, Kindley uncovers surprising connections between literature and science, psychology and business, and journalism and surveillance.

Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things, published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.

Praise for Questionnaire

"A marvelous book that gathers an unexpected array of materials under the heading of the questionnaire: from IQ tests to the early days of marriage counseling, from data-mining Facebook quizzes to Scientology's rigged personality tests. Playful, smart and rich with dizzying connections, Evan Kindley's Questionnaire is no less than a secret history of how we became a nation of oversharers." - Hua Hsu, author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific; Contributor for The New Yorker;  Associate Professor of English, at Vassar College

Evan Kindley is a senior editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and a visiting instructor at Claremont McKenna College. His writing has appeared in the New Republic, Bookforum, n+1, the London Review of Books, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications.

Rosten Woo is an artist, designer, writer, and educator living in Los Angeles. He makes things that help people understand complex systems, re-orient themselves to places, and participate in group decision-making.

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