The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books takes place April 20–21 and features myriad USC Dornsife authors. (Image source: Los Angeles Times.)

Faculty and alumni featured at 2024 LA Times Festival of Books

The nation’s largest book festival descends once again on Troy, featuring USC Dornsife scholars and graduates.
ByJai Battle

Book worms, prepare your tote bags. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is returning to USC’s University Park Campus on April 20 and 21. The fair features more than 200 conversations and performances along with book signings, cooking demos, poetry readings, bilingual programming and children’s entertainment.

Faculty and alumni from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences will present on topics such as love and friendship, the immigrant experience and the 2024 election.

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

Saturday, April 20

10:30 a.m.

Religion in the Public Sphere (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Diane Winston, Varun Soni, Duncan Ryūken Williams, Sherman Jackson

Location: Wallis Annenberg Hall

Description: Award-winning scholars on Islam, Christianity and Buddhism will discuss the role of religion in public settings and spaces and the relationships between religion and culture, politics, and identity.


The Never-Ending Plague: Guns in America (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Celeste Fremon ’70, Cameron McWhirter, Ieva Jusionyte, Zusha Elinson

Location: Hancock Foundation, Newman Recital Hall

Description: It’s difficult to think of a more charged or necessary topic in American discourse than gun control. These authors focus on the inception and eventual ubiquity of the AR-15, a lethal handheld icon of the current century, and also give us a rare, intimate look into the world of firearms trafficking, urging us to understand the effects of American gun laws not only at home, but abroad.


Writing in Public (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Hari Kunzru, David L. Ulin, Maggie Nelson

Description: Join us for a cross-genre investigation into artists and art-making with two writers at the top of their game. Maggie Nelson’s chronological essays show the writing, thinking, reading and conversing that occupied her while writing her most well-known books. Likewise, Hari Kunzru’s novel moves back and forth through time, delivering an extraordinary portrait of an artist as he reunites with his past and confronts the world he once loved and left behind.



The 2024 Election: Politics, Media, and Culture (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Manuel Pastor, Brett Carter, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, Roberto Suro, Erin Baggott Carter

Location: Wallis Annenberg Hall Presented by USC

Description: Experts on electoral politics, political strategy, economic development and immigration will have a wide-ranging discussion on the 2024 election and the systems that influence and inform voter beliefs and engagement.


1:30 p.m.

Love & Friendship: Miranda July & Maggie Nelson in Conversation with Jessica Ferri, in partnership with USC Arts Now (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Maggie Nelson, Miranda July, Jessica Ferri

Location: Town and Gown

Description: Maggie Nelson, professor of English, and Miranda July have produced some of the most memorable, incisive, funny and devastating works of art in the past few decades. Often focusing on the experience of inhabiting a human body in contemporary society — whether it’s physically, emotionally, socially or spiritually — they are masterful translators of the complexities of human experience.


Stories of Resistance and Protest (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Wolf Gruner, Hajar Yazdiha, Susan H. Komei, Allisa V. Richardson

Location: Wallis Annenberg Hall

Description: A diverse panel of experts will shed light on how individuals and communities have stood against oppression and persecution during World War II, the civil rights movement and today’s struggles for social justice.

Sunday, April 21

10:30 a.m.

Arts & Culture: A Conversation on the Immigrant Experience, presented by The Pulitzer Prizes (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Marjorie Miller, Sanaz Toosi, Hector Tobar

Location: Hancock Foundation, Newman Recital Hall

Description: A memoir of refugeehood and colonization, fatherhood and identity; a group of Iranian students learning English and exploring the link between language, personality and relationships; and a definitive and personal exploration of what it means to be Latino in the United States.

Description: Join us for a cross-genre conversation with Pulitzer Prize winners as they discuss the creation and process of their work and what it means to them — both personally and professionally — to win a Pulitzer.


The Latino Experience: Layered Stories from the Past & Present (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Natalia Molina, Marie Arana, Jason De Leon, Fidel Martinez

Location: Taper Hall 201

Description: Latinos are the fastest-growing minority in America and still one of the most misunderstood. These writers cover a wide range of topics, from family-run restaurants and neighborhood communities to international relations and immigration, inviting you to see America through the eyes of the grandmother matriarch who gave fellow immigrants a literal seat at the table, a “coyote” who fell in love and tried to leave smuggling behind, and the rich array of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Salvadorans and more who call this country home.



Placemaking and the Politics of Land (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Joan Flores-Villalobos, William Deverell, Julia Ornelas-Higdon, Alexander Robinson

Location: Wallis Annenberg Hall

Description: From California’s wine country to the Panama Canal to Owen’s Lake and the LA River, this provocative panel will explore placemaking and the land that we share, looking at issues related to labor, race, gender, sustainability, and more.


1:35 p.m.

Viet Thanh Nguyen and Minnie Phan, author and illustrator of Simone

Speakers: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Minnie Phan

Location: Children’s Stage


2 p.m.

The Royal “We”: Magic Schools and Royal Societies in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

Speakers: Cecil Castellucci, Dan Santat, Stuart Gibbs, Melissa de la Cruz, Lisa Yee ’81

Location: Taper Hall 101

Description: An elite team of crime-fighting underdogs, an encanto defending her rightful place on the throne, a genius teenage CIA recruit who finds herself on the run: these kids are breaking down barriers in elite schools, royal societies, and other privileged corners meant to keep people out.


3 p.m.

Screen Time: Television, Society, and Identify (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Karen Tongson, Anthony Sparks, Tara Lyn McPherson, David Craig

Location: Wallis Annenberg Hall

Description: Authors and creators will discuss the role of TV in society historically and today, including connections to politics, queer spectatorship and representations of race, class and gender.


Creating New Futures through the Arts (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Jonathan Leal, Annenette Miae Kim, Brettany Shannon, Ben Caldwell, Robeson Taj Frazier

Location: Wallis Annenberg Hall

Description: Authors, artists and activists will share how film, music, public art and other art practices can help build communities and imagine new futures.


3:30 p.m.

Women and Bodies: Science Meets Sociology (Tickets Required)

Speakers: M.G. Lord, Cat Bohannon, Susannah Breslin, Jen Gunter Dr.

Location: Hoffman Hall, Edison Auditorium

Description: These writers share thought-provoking research and personal experience on everything from the role of female bodies in human evolution to the gaps in medical knowledge about female reproductive systems and a 30+ year lab experiment about human personalities, and how all of this plays into the dolls we make to represent women. Though their stories differ, these writers are all experts in one extremely difficult field: being a woman.


Looking Back to See Forward: Contemporary Historical Fiction (Tickets Required)

Speakers: Melissa Ann Chadburn ’23, Nguyen Phan Que Mai, Crystal Hana Kim, Sasha Vasilyuk, Myriam J. A. Chancy

Location: Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre

Description: Historical fiction paints a new picture of familiar stories, allowing us to witness history from the perspectives of characters we’d never get to meet otherwise. The relationships, struggles, joys and tragedies in these novels, despite being set in specific time periods and countries, ring true to the same experiences in contemporary life, especially when it seems like so much of history is currently in the midst of repeating itself.