Many rising writers of color to speak at Festival of Books

The highly anticipated Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will bring a number of esteemed writers and performers to the USC campus, such as Arianna Huffington, Taye Diggs and Janet Fitch. However, the Festival of Books will also feature many writers of color in the beginning of their careers.

Opera fans will swoon for Korean-American author Alexander Chee’s first novel The Queen of the Night, which was published in early February by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The book, which chronicles the harrowing life and memories of fictional operatic soprano Lilliet Berne, has garnered rave reviews, being called “A multi-stranded, thoroughly researched epic” by The Atlantic and an “extravagant five-act grand opera of a novel…” by the Wall Street Journal. Chee will participate in the conversation “Fiction: History on the Page” on Saturday in the Norris Theater at 11:30 a.m.

USC Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity, Viet Thanh Nguyen, wrote the novel The Sympathizer, published by Grove Press. The book has received much attention since its release in April 2015, with The New Yorker referring to the novel’s best moments as “painful, hilarious exposures of white tone-deafness.” In addition to becoming a national bestseller, Nguyen’s debut novel has won the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and was a finalist for the 2016 PEN/Faulkner Award. Nguyen will appear in the discussions “Fiction: The Underbelly” on Saturday in Hoffman Hall at 12 p.m. as well as “Past and Present: The Echoes of War,” moderated by Los Angeles Times editor Jim Newton, Saturday at the Hancock Foundation at 4:30 p.m.

Poet Robin Coste Lewis, a Provost’s Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies at USC, is another featured speaker at this year’s festival. Her debut book of poetry Voyage of the Sable Venus, which won the 2015 National Book Award for Poetry, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in September 2015. The book was hailed by Claudia Rankine as a work that “reframes the black figure, most specifically the black female, by pointing out the borders of black beauty, black happiness, and black resilience in our canonical visual culture.” Lewis has also had her poetry published in The Massachusetts Review, The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, Transition and VIDA. She will appear in the talk “Race, Justice, and Poetry” moderated by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism professor Taj Frazier on Sunday in Wallis Annenberg Hall at 1:30 p.m.

Iranian writer Parnaz Foroutan made her literary debut with The Girl from the Garden in August 2015. The novel has been hailed as a “lush debut” by Willamette Week, as well as “a powerful and moving novel about the devastating choices women face when their worth is tied to their wombs but not themselves” by journalist and political activist Gloria Steinem. Foroutan will appear in the talk “Fiction: The Ties That Bind” with Elizabeth Marro and Karen Olsson on Sunday in Hoffman Hall at 3:30 p.m.

In addition to the writers mentioned above, many other budding authors and poets will appear in person at the Festival of Books. A full schedule of talks and discussions can be found online.