Who’s talking? Eight unticketed speakers to check out at Festival of Books

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books makes its in-person return this weekend. With over 550 authors, artists and celebrities in attendance, here are eight free, unticketed speakers to check out around campus.

Argelia Atilano

The voice of “El Show de y Argelia” on K-LOVE 107.5 FM, Argelia Atilano introduces Latina leaders to younger audiences. Atilano, inspired by her two daughters, wrote “Grandes Dreamers” to celebrate 12 women who paved the way for Latinx youth to find opportunities in fields such as sports, journalism, politics and the arts. In collaboration with her alma maters, Atilano created a scholarship fund to support Latina graduates from Garfield High School accepted to Loyola Marymount University. Learn more about Atilano’s mission at 12 p.m. Sunday at the L.A. Times En Español Stage.

Reginald Dwayne Betts

After being sentenced to nine years in prison at age 16, Reginald Dwayne Betts grew to become an award-winning writer and Yale Law School graduate. His experiences allowed him to have a unique perspective on the criminal justice system and more specifically, its failures. Dwayne Betts currently has three published collections of poetry: “Bastards of the Reagan Era,” “Shahid Reads His Own Palm” and “Felon.” As a renowned speaker, he discusses the intersection between literature and advocacy. Hear this 2021 MacArthur fellow read from “Felon” at 2:20 p.m. Saturday on the Poetry Stage. 

John Cho

A pioneer for Korean Americans in the film and television industry, John Cho’s several awards and nominations attest to his admirable career. Cho will present his recent book, “TROUBLEMAKER,” which released March 2022. The middle grade book explores the Los Angeles Riots unfold following the acquittal of the police officers responsible for beating Rodney King — all from the eyes of a young Korean American boy. Hear from Cho and fan out over his incredible on-screen performances at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the YA Stage’s presentation on “Middle Grade Fiction: Coming of Age in a Fractured World.”

Sayantani DasGupta

Columbia University narrative medicine professor Sayantani DasGupta centers Bengali folktales in her critically acclaimed series, “Kingdom Beyond” and “Kiranmala,” the latter receiving the E.B. White Read Aloud Honor Book, Bank Street Best Book of the Year and Booklist Best Middle Grade Novel of the 21st Century recognitions for its debut, “The Serpent’s Secret.” DasGupta is also recognized for working with her mother, activist Shamita Das Dasgupta, on scholarly feminist works. Wrap up your Festival of Books panel viewing by tuning in to DasGupta’s 3 p.m. talk, “Young Adult Fiction: Classic Tales Re-spun” at the YA stage. 

Amanda Gorman

Los Angeles native Amanda Gorman’s work lies at the intersection between poetry and activism. Known for her award-winning works addressing issues such as Black identity, feminism and climate change, she became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history in 2021 by reading her original poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Ever since, she has toured the nation to great acclaim as a leading young voice in poetry. Gorman’s conversation with Natalie J. Graham, Orange County’s first-ever poet laureate — presented by the L.A. Times Book Club — will take place Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on the L.A. Times Main Stage.

Anna Journey

Anna Journey, an assistant professor of English at USC, takes on her interests in dark stories and fairy tales through poetry. She has a fascination with her mother’s childhood stories about living on the grounds of a mental asylum with her father, a psychiatrist. Journey’s poems and essays have appeared in publications such as The American Poetry Review, The New Yorker and The Los Angeles Review of Books. So far, she has written four books of poems including “The Atheist Wore Goat Silk” and “Vulgar Remedies.” A reading with Journey from her most recent book “The Judas Ear” will take place Saturday at 3:40 p.m. on the Poetry Stage.

Laura Miera

Art therapist and educator Laura Miera has been working to empower Los Angeles residents for decades through her literary and visual arts. She began her work as a family literacy teacher at preschools and libraries, and has most recently served as an author in collaboration with Homeboy Industries, an L.A. service organization dedicated to connecting gang members with rehabilitation resources. Miera’s work has earned her numerous awards, including Homeboy Industries’ 2021 “Artist in Community” honor, and has inspired the organizations Hope Has An Address and Kinship Has A Cafe. Hear Miera in conversation with Katie Yamasaki, author of “Dad Bakes,” at 1 p.m. Saturday at the children’s stage.

George J. Sanchez

A graduate from Harvard and Stanford, George J. Sanchez focuses on race, gender, ethnicity, labor and immigration throughout history to the present day. Now, he teaches at USC as a professor of American studies & ethnicity and history. Sanchez is currently working on a historical study on ethnic interactions in Boyle Heights, the East Los Angeles neighborhood to which his parents emigrated from Mexico. His new book examines the evolution of the neighborhood in regard to the movement and behavior of different immigrant groups. Join Sanchez at 2 p.m. Saturday as he reads “Boyle Heights: How a Los Angeles Neighborhood Became the Future of American Democracy” on the USC Friends and Neighbors Stage.