WEST HOLLYWOOD—The city is inviting community members to celebrate literature and local authors with its 2022 WeHo Reads literary series. The series will be presented live online on the city’s WeHo Arts YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/wehoarts and is produced by BookSwell, LLC.
Featured authors and poets of the WeHo Reads 2022 season include:
- Ryka Aoki, author of the new science fiction novel Light from Uncommon Stars who was honored by the California State Senate for her work with Trans/Giving, a performance series for trans and genderqueer individuals;
- Patrick Nathan, a Lambda Literary Award finalist and author of the nonfiction book Image Control and debut novel Some Hell;
- Lynell George, whose book A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky delved into the creative life of cherished local author Octavia Butler;
- Lynne Thompson, current City of Los Angeles Poet Laureate, whose book of poetry, Fretwork, won the Marsh Hawk Press poetry prize; and
- Cassandra Lane, whose memoir, We Are Bridges, won the 2020 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize.
These and other poets and authors will embark on a journey of healing and creativity in the midst of sorrow. The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating a reckoning with injustice that has animated the literary scene for decades, and is highlighting the importance of creative work in shaping our ability to live through difficult times.
This year’s theme for WeHo Reads is Road to Joy. The Road to Joy will invite guest poets and authors to discuss how they create joy in their writing and in their lives and invite readers to participate and find their own paths to healing and contentment with moments of guided meditation, art appreciation, writing prompts, a photography contest, and other creative projects.
There will also be a special October 2022 event featuring a selection of poets from the Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship Program. These poets laureates were selected by the Academy to receive a $50,000 award to help support creative work and community engagement projects, and several of them will gather to share about the projects they created.
WeHo Reads 2022 launches on January 25, at 6 p.m. with poets and writers sharing songs, poems, and reflections on healing and hope. Shonda Buchanan will open the event with a song and discuss her memoir Black Indian, which explores her family’s legacy of being African Americans with American Indian roots and how they dealt with not just society’s ostracizing, the consequences of this dual inheritance. Peter J. Harris will discuss the Black Man of Happiness Project’s See You campaign, which excavates historical photos of Black men “emanating a sense of joy.”
Imani Tolliver will recount her intersectional and sacred journey as a Black queer woman and share excerpts from her memoir-in-verse Runaway. Tolliver worked with the justice system and its intersection with the arts for more than a decade.
The online event will take place on WeHo Arts YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/wehoarts. Members of the public can RSVP and be sent a direct link to view the event by visiting the WeHo Reads webpage on the City’s website at www.weho.org/wehoreads.
Additional WeHo Reads 2022 series events will follow:
- WeHo Reads: Justice and Resilience | A Journey in Poetry on Wednesday, February 16 at 6 p.m.
Los Angeles Poet Laureate Lynne Thompson will lead a conversation with Orange County’s first Poet Laureate, Natalie J. Graham, alongside poet Lester Graves Lennon. This discussion and literary reading will focus on incorporating history into poetry and the struggle for justice and peace. Camari Carter Hawkins will lead the audience through guided journaling prompts.
- WeHo Reads: How We Gather | A Celebration of Women Who Submit’s New Anthology Gathering on Wednesday, March 16, at 6 p.m.
In response to Safer at Home Orders in March 2020, Women Who Submit (WWS) began weekly, virtual Saturday check-ins where members shared space for creativity and self-care. Over the months members wrote together, cried together, and danced together.
WWS exists to empower members’ efforts to share their writing with the world, this unprecedented time brought in new needs beyond staying accountable and productive. The theme for their second anthology, Gathering, which captures the essence of this collaborative online space from the creation of the editorial team to the stories, poems, essays, and plays published in its pages. Joining the event will be Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera, Noriko Nakada, Flint, and more. A moment of healing at the start of the event will be led by Thea Pueschel.
- WeHo Reads: Trans | Future | Poetics on Wednesday, April 6, at 6 p.m.
For National Poetry Month, this event will bring together two established and two emerging trans poets in a reading and dialogue about the future and the intersections of science fiction and poetry, activism and language. Curated and hosted by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace, readers include Ryka Aoki, LA-based poet and author of the new sci-fi novel Light from Uncommon Stars, Harry Josephine Giles, Scottish poet and author of Deep Wheel Orcadia, in conversation with young poets and organizers Simba the Poet (Nashville) and Ava Dadvand (from Los Angeles, currently writing and studying at Yale).
- WeHo Reads: Explorations Beyond Borders on Wednesday, May 4, at 6 p.m.
This event brings together poets and authors with an international perspective on joy, justice, resilience, and healing. Sehba Sarwar, author of Black Wings, is a transnational writer, workshop leader, artist, and community activist tackling gender, displacement, and border issues. Teresa Mei Chuc is a poet, editor, and teacher whose heritage, history, and writing transcend decolonization. She served as 2018-2020 Altadena Poet Laureate and is the author of Invisible Light and Keeper of the Winds. Lisbeth Coiman is a bilingual writer, educator, cultural commentator, and rezandera (a person who has the duty to pray for the dead during funeral rituals) from Venezuela whose collection Uprising/Alzamiento was released in 2021. Myriam J. A. Chancy is a Haitian-Canadian/American writer born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and subsequently raised there and in Canada and whose novel What Storm, What Thunder was released in 2021.
- WeHo Reads: Pride & Joy in the Matrix on Tuesday, June 7 at 6 p.m.
Patrick Nathan examines the culture of fascistic images that pervade the online media landscape in his book Image Control. Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett uses short fiction, including his volume of short stories Dark Corners, to illuminate the ways we can be marginalized as well as how we can fight back and lose some virtue in the process. Alex McElroy writes about diet culture, masculinity, nonbinary identity, basketball, scammers, books, and body dysmorphia. Their debut novel, The Atmospherians, was published in 2021. They’ll discuss online spaces, the challenges of creating joy online—is it even possible?—and the role of critique and creativity in shifting culture. A moment of guided meditation and mindful writing will be led by Amy Spies, a writer and teacher in the film, television, and new media industries.
- WeHo Reads: Expansive Vistas and Hidden Corner on Tuesday, September 20 at 6 p.m.
Artists and writers explore concepts of places, how they’re made, and how we understand, remember, and memorialize them. Lynell George is a journalist and essayist based in Los Angeles, who tells the city’s story one sentence at a time. She will be in discussion with Marisela Norte, an American writer, poet, and artist living in Los Angeles and known for poetry that explores the unseen city. Together, they will explore hidden corners of Los Angeles and the poetry of the city in images and text.
- WeHo Reads: Poets Laureate Across America on Wednesday, October 5 at 6 p.m.
In 2020, the Academy of American Poets awarded more than $1 million to 23 poets laureate as part of a year-long Fellowship to support their creative and organizing work. One of these awards went to West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace who serves as this event’s host. This reading brings together a group of these Fellows from across the country in the aftermath of their Fellowships to share what they did, read their writing, and reflect on the state of poetry across the United States.
- WeHo Reads: Light in Our Hearts on Tuesday, November 15 at 6 p.m.
The culminating event in the series will bring together poets, writers, and artists who live and create at the intersection of joy and hope and reckoning with pain. Bridgette Bianca is a poet and educator from South Central Los Angeles. Her debut book of poetry, be/trouble, is a powerful love letter to oft-overlooked Los Angeles, one that offers as much danger as it does glamour and as much grit as beauty. Traci Kato-Kiriyama is a multi-disciplinary artist, writer/author, actor, arts educator & community organizer. Her recently published book from Writ Large Press, Navigating With(out) Instruments, is a collection of poetics, micro essays, and notes to self (and other)—a journey of several years, navigating through death moments, past/present tensions of war and violence, trauma and ideation, excavation and memory. Cassandra Lane is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her first book, WE ARE BRIDGES: A Memoir, weaves personal and historical geographies, lineages, upbringings, and upheavals into a complete tapestry, validating her glorious existence as a Black mother. There will also be closing remarks from series opener Shonda Buchanan.
All events are free to attend and take place at 6 p.m. PST. For additional information about such events, visit www.weho.org/wehoreads.
WeHo Reads is the literary series which has presented authors of interest to the West Hollywood community since 2013. Past participants included: André Aciman, Andrew Rannells, Arlene and Alan Alda, Armistead Maupin, Bianca Del Rio, Bryan Fuller, Carrie Brownstein, Charles Phoenix, Charles Yu, Chris Kraus, Danez Smith, David Ulin, Eileen Myles, Eloise Klein Healy, Emma Donoghue, Erwin Chemerinsky, Henry Rollins, Jacob Tobia, James Sie, LeVar Burton, Lillian Faderman, Lorna Luft, Luis J. Rodriguez, Michael York, Michelle Visage, Myriam Gurba, Natalie Goldberg, Natasha Deón, Nina Revoyr, Patrisse Cullors, Patt Morrison, Randa Jarrar, Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco, Ryan Gosling, Sarah Silverman, Seymour Stein, Stephen Chbosky, Tananarive Due, and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.
BookSwell is a literary events and media production company dedicated to connecting readers and writers in Southern California and beyond. Through events, media, and partnerships, BookSwell makes the book scene easier to navigate, introduces readers to new writing, and weaves together digital and real-life literary experiences. It was founded in 2017 by Cody Sisco with a mission to amplify the voices of Black writers, Indigenous writers, and writers of color alongside LGBTQ+, female, nonbinary, and indie writers.
For more details about WeHo Reads contact Mike Che, Arts Coordinator, at (323) 848-6377 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing call TTY (323) 848-6496.