Renya Grande The Distance Between Us

The California Book Club’s Next Selection

And now on to the next book! The California Book Club continues on November 19 with Reyna Grande and her celebrated memoir The Distance Between Us, which chronicles her journey from Mexico in 1985 at age nine.

“It’s a classic memoir of coming to America, and its costs, and to some degree the upsides of it,” says John Freeman, the book club’s host. “And it’s a journey that has been dangerously and unfairly stigmatized by everyone up to the president of the United States, which is unconscionable.” Freeman adds that the book is “really beautiful, and parts of it are even funny.” Published in 2012, The Distance Between Us was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. To register for the California Book Club for free, go here.

A Virtual Litquake

Litquake, the annual Bay Area literary festival, is in full swing this year despite the pandemic. Yes, events are virtual, and the traditional Lit Crawl won’t take over the streets of San Francisco’s Mission district. But the closing night will include online events broadcast from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Wellington, New Zealand. A full Litquake schedule is here.

Festival of Books Celebrates 25 Years

The Los Angeles Times has also forged ahead with its Festival of Books, Stories & Ideas. Now in its 25th year, the event—all virtual this time around—began on October 18 and runs through November 13. Its 25 gatherings will feature, among others, Attica Locke, Marlon James, Kevin Kwan, and Marilynne Robinson.

An L.A. Bookstore Appeals to Patrons

Another independent bookstore needs your help. Chevalier’s Books, a shop that has served Larchmont Village in Los Angeles for 80 years, has found a prospective new home down the street—after its landlord didn’t renew the store’s lease. According to the Los Angeles Times, however, rent at the new space will be double the previous rent. “There will also be significant moving and design costs,” Chevalier’s owners wrote on the store’s website, listing a variety of ways patrons can offset costs. “It will be a huge financial undertaking for us, made even more daunting by the uncertainty that Covid-19 poses for our business and everybody’s lives.”

In recent weeks, Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena and Diesel in Brentwood have also appealed to patrons for help.

On the Nose

Harold McGee, the San Francisco writer who has long explored the science of cooking, has a new book out this week that focuses on just one sense: smell. Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells shares the latest science on smell as well as many of McGee’s personal anecdotes. And yes: he writes about both good and bad odors.

Picturing California

The Transamerica Pyramid, that iconic San Francisco tower, stands on a spot that was once occupied by an affordable home for writers and artists and many other creative types. Among those who lived in the apartments of the Montgomery Block, at 628 Montgomery Street, were Mark Twain, Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, Bret Harte, and Frank Norris. Built in 1853, it also went by another name: the Monkey Block.

Read previous week’s California Book Club newsletter.

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The Distance Between Us

Grande puts a human face on the fraught issue of immigration in her acclaimed memoir. At age nine, Grande leaves …

Devil in a Blue Dress

Mosley’s celebrated 1990 novel introduces readers to Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, a World War II veteran who turns to detective work …

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

How the gold rush hasn’t been the subject of better novels is a question worth putting to West Coast literature. …


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