Book Club: Writing Through the Pain of Mass Killings



Hello and welcome to the LA Times Book Club newsletter.

Amanda Gorman reads a poem on stage at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 23.

(David Livingston/Getty Images)

As the latest school massacre erupted in Texas, poet Amanda Gorman began writing.

The schools are scared to death.

The truth is that an education under the desks,

Lowered by bullets;

That dive when we ask

where our children

will live

& How? ‘Or’ What

& if

Gorman’s ongoing poem went viral on social media this week as the nation struggled to capture the horror of 19 children and two teachers gunned down in their classroom – just days after the shooting at a Buffalo, NY market , and in a church in Laguna Woods.

The 24-year-old poet from Los Angeles didn’t stop at words. Gorman, the nation’s youngest inaugural poet and author of our April book club, also used its platform to take actionraising funds on Instagram for the Everytown for Gun Safety campaign.

“The truth is a nation is under arms,” ​​she tweeted.

Times columnist and author Steve Lopez also begged readers: Don’t look away this time.

“Think of those innocent kids in Texas and keep them in mind,” writes Lopez. “May they rest in peace and may we stand up in their name.”

so much sorrow

Journalist Anita Chabria spoke with the historian and the author Ibram X. Kendi about his new book, “How to Raise an Anti-Racist,” two days after the May 14 shootings in Buffalo.

A young white supremacist, prosecutors say, meticulously planned to kill as many black people as possible while shopping on a Saturday afternoon. Ten people died and three others were hospitalized.

Chabria notes that the 18-year-old accused of the carnage left behind a manifesto that singled out not just black people, but also intermarriage — and their children — as something to be eliminated.

“Few of us were shocked, but for me, the mother of two mixed-race girls, the Buffalo shooting and Kendi’s book collided in painful and deeply personal ways that I never expected. “, she writes.

Kendi told Chabria that he wished he “didn’t feel so pressured” to write this book – “that it wasn’t necessary”.

But even recent events had not shaken Kendi’s belief that parents could create safe environments and better outcomes for their children.

“That’s the very reason why the fundamental argument of the book is that raising a child to be anti-racist is protecting that child,” Kendi said. “There are so many white children who are indoctrinated into racist ideas, then hurt other people, kill other people, when they reach adulthood – just like you have many children of color who think that there is something wrong with them, or are the victims of those who believe in racist ideas.

Kendi will be join our next book club night, June 22 in Los Angeles at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, to discuss “How to Raise an Anti-Racist.”

The book is aimed at parents, teachers and other caregivers and addresses questions such as: How do we talk to children about race and racism? How to teach children to be anti-racist? How do children of different ages experience race?

A close up of a smiling man in a button up shirt and suit jacket.

The author Ibram X. Kendi is the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University.

(Steven Senne/Associated Press)

travel writing

Thursday, the authors Pico Iyer, Maggie Shipstead and Michelle Tea and editor Colleen Kinder joins book club readers to discuss and read passages from “Letter to a Stranger: Essays to Those Who Haunt Us”.

Iyer, Shipstead and Tea are among 65 writers who have written essays about unforgettable encounters that changed their lives in unexpected ways. The stories are short but so powerful. In just a few pages, they transport us to destinations far and near.

The evening’s guest interviewer, Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds, took us on a fascinating journey that covered essays from the collection, as well as recent adventures around the world and new books from Iyer, Shipstead and Tea. Look now.

Last week, Reynolds wrote about California’s 101 Best Experiences, one of the most read stories on the Los Angeles Times website. The response, he says, reflects how eager many people are to start traveling again this summer.

Four portraits: three women and a man.

LA Times Book Club authors for May, left to right, Colleen Kinder, Maggie Shipstead, Michelle Tea and Pico Iyer.

(Owen Murray | Maggie Shipstead | Jenny Westerhoff | Brigitte Lacombe)

Q&A: Pico Iyer

The latest newsletter from the book club featured interviews with “Letter to a Stranger” contributors Shipstead, Tea and Kinder.

And now we hear of travel writer Iyerwho has written 15 books, including two about his adopted home, “Autumn Light” and “A Beginner’s Guide to Japan.”

Your next adventure: Just got back from Zanzibar… and next week I’m heading to London and New York (both of which I haven’t seen, thanks to the pandemic, for over two years). But to be honest, my greatest adventures always take place at my desk.

The last book that kept you up at night: “Oh William!” by the impeccable and incomparable Elizabeth Strout. To me she is the wisest and truest writer in our language today, a perfect successor to Alice Munro and William Trevor. And suddenly, in her 60s, she produces new works almost every year, all radically different from each other but still appealing to the same clarity, depth and singularly subtle understanding of the human heart. Nobody knows more about everything than we can hope or claim to know. If I had more space, I’d start bragging about Lauren Groff’s sultry and visionary new novel “Matrix” and Frances Wilson’s wild and brilliant DH Lawrence biography “Burning Man,” both of which have me sent into a kind of delirium of joy.

The authors who influenced you the most: In the chronicle of the world, the British lineage of Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene and John le Carré; in self-examination and our dialogue with the heavens, the great American lineage of Emerson, Thoreau, Melville and Emily Dickinson.

Something you have discovered about yourself since the pandemic: I like to go anywhere. The view from my window is beautiful, most of my transportation is internal, and I never want to take my neighborhood for granted again.

What’s not on your resume (it says a lot about you): I’ve spent 31 years now staying with a group of Benedictine monks in Big SurCalifornia, and I consider it the happiest and pretty much the most useful and rewarding thing I’ve ever done, other than getting married and raising a family.

Your next project: I have a book at the end of this year – “The half-known life– which investigates the idea of ​​paradise as it unfolds in various places of conflict (from Iran and North Korea to Jerusalem and Kashmir and Sri Lanka and inside Australia). More deeply, I – and she – try to explore and open up uncertainty, death and hope, perhaps the central themes of our pandemic years. Even more exciting (for me, at least), I am already immersed in the next book, finally recounting in detail all that I have discovered and transformed during my 31 years with my mates at the monastery.

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