It was a packed Saturday night at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles, where hardcovers and paperbacks lined the precariously tall shelves of the warehouse-like shop. The setting was abuzz with energy and conversation, and the air was filled with a sense of excitement.
At the center of the bottom floor, several rows of foldable chairs were set up facing a maroon couch — the latter dominated on an elevated stage. Three women occupied the first row: Michelle Tea (author of Black Wave), Tara Jepsen (author of Like a Dog), and Kait Heacock (author of Siblings and Other Disappointments). Shortly after introducing themselves, Tea rose from her seat to begin her reading of Black Wave.
“This book is weird, and I’m reading from a weirder part of it because I’ve read from it a lot lately, and I wanted to read from a part that I haven’t read from,” Tea said. “The thing you need to know is that the world is ending, and this funny thing has started to happen which is that people are having dreams about the people that they would have fallen in love with if the world [wasn’t] ending.”
Black Wave follows the storyline of a female protagonist named Michelle, who worked in a bookstore in 1999. The excerpt Tea read from depicted Michelle as she cynically faced the reality of bookstore shoplifters and encountered Ashley, her 13-year-old lover from one of her dreams in real life.
Following Tea was Jepsen, who, along with being an author (Like a Dog was her debut novel) also was an extra on the TV series Transparent. She also wrote and acted in the web series Rods and Cones.
“I’m going to read from the first couple of pages of my book, Like a Dog, and it’s about my relationship with my brother,” Jepsen said. “But it’s all in fabricated circumstances.”
Like a Dog centers around Paloma, a skateboarder, who struggled to find her place between temporary, low-paying jobs. The novel focused on Paloma’s tumultuous interactions with her brother Peter, an irresponsible drug addict. Though the book spanned serious topics such as drug addiction, mental health, self-harm and job insecurity, the excerpt was filled with light-hearted humor and self-deprecating jokes.
After Jepsen finished her reading, Heacock entered the stage to give the final reading of the night. Unlike Tea and Jepsen’s books, Heacock’s book, Siblings and Other Disappointments, was not a novel but was rather a collection of short stories.
“This book is really the map of my childhood,” Heacock said. “It’s really a love letter to the sh-tty hometown that I’m from — Yakima, Washington. It’s about family, and it’s about the myriad ways that they disappoint us and we disappoint them.”
The story Heacock read from was also the title of the book, Siblings and Other Disappointments. The plot follows adult siblings Elizabeth and Ray as they reflect upon their lives and relations to the house they were currently living in, the house they grew up in. This story was based on Heacock’s own brother, who passed away three years ago while Heacock was editing this story.
The end of Heacock’s reading marked the end of the feminist book event, and the three authors were able to mingle with one another as well as with the audience and fans.