Winter in Seattle is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. Luckily, February events at local bookstores and venues offer plenty of reading inspiration. As we head into year three of the pandemic, it can be easy to feel alienated from the rest of the world; so this month I was particularly drawn to books that emphasized our shared humanity.
COVID-19 has changed our lives in ways we never thought possible, and Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 reflects that. Jennifer Haupt collected essays, poems, and interviews from different writers on their experience of the pandemic, and the book went on to win the 2021 Washington State Book Award for General Nonfiction. If you’ve been feeling isolated in this latest surge, you might be comforted by listening to excerpts from the collection on February 2nd in a free virtual event from The Seattle Public Library.
Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown explores the issues of race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation by satirizing Hollywood tropes and Asian stereotypes. As a writer for Westworld and other shows on FX, AMC, Facebook Watch, and Adult Swim, Yu knows more than most about the inner workings of entertainment. His novel asks what roles we are expected to play and how we can break away from them. Yu will do a Q&A on February 15th at Benaroya Hall; the event will also be streamed online.
Tickets start at $10; you can purchase them here.
Ari Honarvar’s debute novel A Girl Called Rumi also asks how do we learn to belong. Honarvar draws on her personal background and experience of building bridges across war-torn and conflict-ridden borders as a journalist, visual artist, and speaker. The story’s protagonist, Kimia, is making sense of her childhood in Iran, as well as her mother’s choice run to California. This story touches on what is needed to heal personal, inter-generational, and national trauma. Honarvar will talk about her book in a free virtual event with Elliott Bay Book Company on February 16th.
Stopping climate change is one of humanity’s highest priorities, but Indigenous peoples continue to be undervalued and undermined as sources of knowledge on the matter, even though they are disproportionately affected by environmental disasters. If you want to educate yourself, you can listen to Jessica Hernandez’s (Ph.D.) book Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science in a free virtual event from Elliott Bay Book Company on February 18th. Hernandez offers Indigenous models of conservationism that are informed by case studies, personal stories, and family histories.
Fans of Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk, rejoice! She is back with a new novel, and it’s a 900-page door stopper! At the center of Tokarczuk’s new work is a real historic figure Jacob Frank, a Messianic religious leader of eighteenth century Europe. Frank’s mysterious and controversial story is perfect subject matter for Tokarczuk’s sweeping and eccentric writing style. She and her translator, Jennifer Croft, will virtually discuss The Books of Jacob with Rabih Alameddine on February 19th.
Fran Lebowitz’ essential readings Metropolitan Life and Social Studies is now available in The Fran Lebowitz Reader, and you can hear her speak in person on February 27th at Benaroya Hall. Lebowitz is known for her social commentary that is as acerbic as it is insightful. A devoted New Yorker, she has opinions to share on everything from urban living to personal pet peeves. This event will not be book-driven but it’s an invaluable chance to see a keen writer’s mind at work.
Tickets start at $33; you can purchase them here.