A man reads from a book in front of a podium with the Trojan Marching Band standing around him.

Former Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Luis J. Rodriguez reads his writing at the 2022 L.A. Times Festival of Books. (Photo: Gus Ruelas.)

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books returns to the USC campus

Books are the main attraction at this annual event, which draws thousands to the University Park Campus and includes panels with USC Dornsife scholars and alumni.
ByMargaret Crable

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the nation’s largest book fair, is back in action on the USC campus April 22–23. The event offers panel discussions, poetry readings, music and children’s entertainment.

USC Dornsife faculty and alumni will speak on several panels, discussing topics ranging from immigrant stories to mending America’s political divide.

The festival will also include an interview with Victoria Chang, recent winner of the 2023 Chowdhury Prize. The prize is awarded by the USC Dornsife Department of English in partnership with the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation and Kenyon College and The Kenyon Review.

For the full list of events, general information for attendees and to purchase tickets, visit the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books website.

USC Dornsife Schedule

Saturday, April 22

10:30 – 11:30 a.m. | Ronald Tutor Campus Center

Romance in the Big City

Speakers: Lauren Kung Jessen, Maureen Lee Lenker ’11 , Alexandria Bellefleur, Jasmine Guillory, Kate Spencer

These authors take us beyond “Sleepless in Seattle”’ to Charmed in Chicago and Novios in Nueva York. While the trope of the overworked big-city lawyer needing to move to her sleepy hometown to find love is a Hallmark favorite, this panel will focus on finding love in the big city.


10:30 – 11:15 a.m. | Mudd Hall 203 (Ask a Reporter)

Ask a Reporter: The First Five Years

Deputy Metro Editor Stephanie Chavez, reporter Jenny Gold and audience engagement editor Kate Sequeira ’21 talk with readers and answer questions about the Times’ new Early Childhood Initiative, which focuses on exploring critical issues affecting California’s youngest residents and their parents, care providers and educators and includes expanded coverage of children from birth to age 5.


10:40 – 11 a.m. | Poetry Stage

Douglas Manuel, reading from Trouble Funk


11:15 a.m. – Noon | Norris Theatre

What Fiction Has to Offer: Rachel Kushner and Otessa Moshfegh in Conversation with David L. Ulin

Speakers: Ottessa Moshfegh, David Ulin, Rachel Kushner

Award-winning authors Rachel Kushner and Ottessa Moshfegh discuss the importance of fiction and its role in society, how books can serve both as escape and education, and how writing has impacted their lives. Join these authors as they celebrate and dissect the artform of fiction writing.


11:20 – 11:40 a.m. | Poetry Stage

Mark Irwin, reading from Joyful Orphan


11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. | Ray Stark Family Theatre

Fiction: Tipping Points

Speakers: Shelley Read, Fiona McFarlane, Melissa Chadburn, Tracey Lien, Janelle Brown

The course of a person’s life can change in a fraction of a second, a truth the characters in these novels are each forced to learn in their own way. While one woman blames herself for the murder of her brother, another has a chance meeting with a young drifter, an entire community reels when a child goes missing during a dust storm, and one woman wakes up dead.


Noon – 1 p.m. | Wallis Annenberg Hall Presented by USC

Net Zero: California Climate Policy and The Future of Energy

Speakers: Genevieve Giuliano, Najmedin MeshkatiGale SinatraDonald Paul

California, the nation’s leader in clean energy and climate policies, has set an ambitious goal to achieve net-zero carbon pollution by 2045. But what will it take? How might the policies affect the availability, reliability and price of power consumption? This panel will address the political, technological, economic, human and societal factors that play into our energy system and explore what we must do to achieve our energy goals.


12:40 – 1:40 p.m. | YA Stage

Young Adult Fiction: There’s No Love Like Young Love

Speakers: Ella Cerón, Sarah Enni, Marie Lu, Maurene Goo, Amy Spalding

From magical curses and time traveling, to undercover missions and no-boy-drama pacts, the odds are stacked against these teens as they find themselves and find each other, falling in love under even the most unlikely circumstances.


1 – 1:30 p.m. | USC Friends and Neighbors Stage

You and USC: Navigating the College Admission Process

Moderater: Lizette Zarate ’22


1 – 2 p.m. | Ray Stark Family Theatre

Arts and Culture: The First Rule of Write Club Is …

Speakers: Steve Padilla ’82, Pico Iyer, Amy E Wallen, Jane Smiley

Some write to escape, some write to seek answers and some write because it is a way of life. These authors offer insight into how writing can change your life and how you can grow and build and explore your writing life. Join them as they discuss the highs and lows of producing the written word, and leave inspired to create.


1:30 – 2:30 p.m. | Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre

Climate Science: Love Your Mother (Earth)

Speakers: Leila Philip, Rosanna Xia, Jessica Hernandez, John Perlin, Juli Berwald

An Indigenous environmental scientist arguing against Western conservatism, a group of scientists racing to save the ocean’s coral reefs, a long look into the forests that forged early civilizations and what their loss means for our future, and a deep dive into the oversized impact beavers have had on American history, these books are a call to action to rescue a world ravaged by humanity.


1:30 – 2:30 p.m. | Wallis Annenberg Hall Presented by USC

Crossing Borders: Stories of Struggle, Survival, and Community

Speakers: Viet Thanh NguyenNatalia MolinaJoan Flores-Villalobos, Lan Duong

This discussion will explore a wide range of immigrant stories and experiences, including Vietnamese refugee girlhood, community-building for Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles and the role of Black migrant women’s labor in the construction of the Panama Canal.


1:30 – 1:35 p.m. | USC Friends and Neighbors Stage

Poetry Reading: ‘The Los Angeles Times’ and other works by Shandela Contreras


1:30 – 2:30 p.m. | Ronald Tutor Campus Center

Critical Thinking: Exploring the Boundaries Between Art and Society

Speakers: Claire Dederer, Geoff Dyer, Roxane Gay, Carolyn Kellogg

How does art shape our society? How do we interact with good art made by bad people? And how do art and the artist age together? These authors explore important conversations surrounding the impact of both art and artist on our world and how we can better understand, experience and appreciate the creativity that exists around us.


2 – 3 p.m. | YA Stage

Young Adult and Middle Grade Graphic Novel: Drawing the Story

Speakers: Jerry Craft, Gene Luen Yang, Jevon Phillips ’96, Cecil Castellucci

Graphic novels are the perfect intertwining of art and the written word, characters and their worlds drawn straight from the author’s mind onto the page where imagery, as much as narrative and dialogue, informs how a reader experiences the story. Join these authors and illustrators as they discuss the magic of the graphic novel.


2:30 – 3:30 p.m. | Ray Stark Family Theatre

Science and Health: Pushing the Boundaries

Speakers: Sabrina Imbler, Clifford Johnson, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Katharine Gammon

In the historically white, male dominated field of science, these authors have staked their claim and reminded the world that there are minority voices who are equally important in the ongoing discourse of scientific research. They offer glimpses into the depths of the sea and the far reaches of space, and they set out to make certain everyone, regardless of race, sexuality or class, has the opportunity to understand the wonders of the universe.


3 – 4 p.m. | Town and Gown

Dave Eggers, Author of The Eyes and the Impossible, in Conversation with David L. Ulin

Speakers: Dave Eggers, David Ulin

Ancient bison, a very fast dog and a mysterious new building being erected in an urban park by the sea, this is the story of one dog’s mission to run faster, see better and liberate those that he loves. Heartfelt and lyrical, The Eyes and the Impossible is a timeless story for readers of all ages.


4:30 – 5:30 p.m. | Town and Gown

T.C. Boyle, Author of Blue Skies: A Novel, in Conversation with Tom Curwen

Speakers: Tom Curwen ’93, T.C. Boyle

T.C. Boyle discusses his newest novel, a story of family drama and climate change, natural disasters and eco-warriors, and a budding social media star who finds herself spiraling through a series of events that threaten her very survival. Simultaneously satirical and prescient, this novel offers a glimpse into the dangerous relationship between humans and nature.


4:30 –- 5:30 p.m. | Wallis Annenberg Hall

Queer Bodies: Gender and Power in Art and Society

Speakers: Amelia Gwen Jones, madison moore, Karen TongsonChris Belcher

Academics, artists and authors will have a wide-ranging conversation exploring gender, sexuality, queerness and the body in art, culture, fashion and society. Topics will include an inside look at being a professional dominatrix, queer performance art and theory, and fabulousness as resistance.


4:40 – 5:40 p.m. | YA Stage

Young Adult Fiction: Sexuality, Friendship and Queer Romance

Speakers: Patrick Ness. Robbie Couch, James Sie, Adam Silvera, Tess Sharpe

Penny and Tate keep almost kissing; Ant is tangled in a mess of questions about friendship, masculinity and sex; Clark is stuck in an endless loop of Mondays until Beau arrives; and Orion and Valentino fall for each other just in time for one of them to die. These queer romances ask tough questions and explore the highs and lows of young love.

Sunday, April 23

10:30 – 11:30 a.m. | Wallis Annenberg Hall Presented by USC

Supporting Mental Health and Developing Resilience for Youth Today

Speakers: Quade French, Broderick Leaks, Cat MooreLinda Yaron Weston

Growing up has never been easy, and today’s children and young adults must also face modern anxieties stemming from the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, threat of mass shootings, pressures of social media, and the looming specter of climate change. Experts will discuss factors that are exacerbating the mental-health struggles of youth today and how we can better support their wellness and resilience


12:30 – 1:20 p.m. | Poetry Stage

Doing the Work: Talking with Chowdhury Prize Recipient Victoria Chang

Speakers: Viet Thanh Nguyen. Victoria Chang, David Ulin


1:30 – 2:30 p.m. | Wallis Annenberg Hall Presented by USC

Muslim Inclusion and Empowerment from Hollywood to Higher Ed

Speakers: Shafiqa Ahmadi, Hajar YazdihaMaytha Alhassen ’13, ’17Varun SoniEvelyn Alsultany

Since 9/11, Muslims have occupied America’s public and political spheres as threats to national security, as victims of hate crimes, as targets of torture and war, and as a community to be included in diversity initiatives. This insightful panel will explore Muslim inclusion and representation in a variety of contexts, including education, politics and the entertainment industry.


2:30 – 3:30 p.m. | Norris Theatre

Current Issues: Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice

Speakers: Celeste Fremon, David Ambroz, Jeff Hobbs, Emi Nietfeld

Children may be our future, but poverty, homelessness and the school-to-prison pipeline are all too often theirs. These books address the millions of children each year who struggle in a world that has no safety net for them, moving from foster home to foster home, stealing food to eat and winding up in juvenile detention, while society fixates on the resilience narrative rather than actual solutions.


3 – 4 p.m. | Wallis Annenberg Hall Presented by USC

Mending America: Overcoming Our Political and Cultural Divides

Speakers: Elizabeth Currid-Halkett. Robert Shrum, Geoffrey Cowan, Jeffery Jenkins

In light of the growing divisions among Americans, this panel will address the intersection of culture and politics in society, how we can better understand divisiveness, and where to find common ground.


3:30 – 4:30 p.m. | Ray Stark Family Theatre

Fiction: Writing California

Speakers: Margaret Wappler, Susan Straight ’82, Chelsea Bieker, Anna Dorn, María Amparo Escandón

See California in all of its glory and glamor, struggles and losses, and its myriad characters, from a family fighting to stay together, to the intertwining lives of native Californians. From the colliding lives of a millennial astrologer and her rage-fueled lesbian follower to a cast of characters seeking and sabotaging love, these stories are each vividly Californian.


Romance: Taking Pleasure in Pleasure

3:30 – 4:30 p.m. | Taper Hall 101

Speakers: Thien-Kim Lam, Kennedy Ryan, Maureen Lee Lenker ’11, Meryl Wilsner

Sex and romance can go hand in hand, but for too long, talking about sexual pleasure and gratification has been taboo. Even today, in the context of modern romance, sex can be a touchy subject. These authors tackle sex and sexuality head-on, with a positive, affirmative outlook.