High Desert Museum Creations of Spirit Bend Oregon

LitWatch: For the love of books

February brings us the love poems of Pablo Neruda, a celebration of Black History Month, and numerous virtual readings.


February marks Valentine’s Day, occurring around the same time as Lupercalia, the pagan festival of fertility dedicated to the Roman god Faunus. For devout Christians, the Feast of Valentine honors two Christian martyrs known as Saint Valentine. While many legends and folk tales surround Valentine’s Day, its common celebration involves pairing up and exchanging gifts, cards, chocolates, and sweet nothings with your loved ones.

Whether you’re spending the day with your significant other, your family, or solo, there’s no better excuse to read Pablo Neruda than during this season of love. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, Neruda is one of the best-known Chilean poets, celebrated for his surrealist poetry, political manifestos, and his exquisitely passionate depictions of desire, distance, and love.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.
                           — Pablo Neruda, from Sonnet XVII in 100 Love Sonnets

February also marks Black History Month, honoring “the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation” (NPR). Established in February to correspond  with the birthdays of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, Black History Month is an important designation formally recognized in 1982.

In honor of Black History Month, I put together a short, incomplete list of must-read books written by important Black authors and activists, featuring generational stories, histories, legacies, and accounts of the struggles faced by Black individuals in America. Whether you’ve already read them or have yet to pick them up, these books are imperative literary pieces to be read and revisited time and again. In alphabetical order:

Langston Hughes, photograph by Jack Delano, 1942.
Langston Hughes. Photo by: Jack Delano, 1942

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Kumukanda by Kayombo Chingonyi
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Jazz by Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

For children 6 and younger, Multnomah County Library’s It’s Black Storytime! Live brings Black history education to little ones with readings by librarians over a virtual platform. This is a great way to work on reading, watching, and listening skills while helping to educate children about the importance of Black History Month.

Week 1: February 1-7

It’s Black Storytime! Live: Black History Month
Presented by Multnomah County Library
Wednesday, Feb. 2
5:15 to 5:45 pm, presented virtually

Children up to 6 years old can join Multnomah County Library’s It’s Black Storytime! Live to hear librarians read over a virtual platform, encouraging the development of language and literacy skills in preparation for kindergarten. This is a great way to work on reading, watching, and listening skills while helping to educate children about the importance of Black History Month.

Laura Coates in Conversation with Soledad O’Brien
Presented by Powell’s Books
Monday, Feb. 7
5 pm, via ZOOM

Originally a prosecutor with the Department of Justice, Laura Coates came to the realization that  “the pursuit of justice creates injustice.” In Just Pursuit (Simon & Schuster), Coates writes about  witnessing first-hand the abuse of power and injustice toward women, mothers, and brown and Black individuals, as well as the striking differences in the ways communities of color are policed. In a series of courtroom scenes, Coates describes the divide between judicial idealism and the “reality of working within the parameters of our flawed legal system.” She will be joined by philanthropist, author, and journalist Soledad O’Brien for a virtual conversation.

Week 2: February 2-14

chuck klosterman
Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman
Presented by Powell’s Books
Tuesday, Feb. 8
5 pm, via ZOOM

Whether you love the vibe of the ‘90s or can’t stand its pop culture, flared jeans, grunge rock, or the Beanie Baby craze, one thing is evident: The decade shaped the trajectory of American culture. In Chuck Klosterman’s The Nineties (Penguin Press), he discusses everything ‘90s from the fanatic Oprah following, music, politics, and television to the evolution in American class and the economic changes that followed. 

Profile Theatre How To Make An American Son Imago Theatre Portland Oregon

One Page Wednesday
Presented by Literary Arts
Wednesday, Feb. 9
6:30-8 pm, via ZOOM

Hosted by Jessica Meza-Torres, One Page Wednesday invites writers to share one page of in-progress work in front of a virtual audience. Reading is encouraged, but attendees also are  welcome to join just to hear the work of others in the community. This month’s featured reader will be Amy Baskin, Pushcart Prize nominee, Oregon Literary Arts Fellow, and author of Hysterical Cake (Dancing Girl Press, 2021).

Author Series: The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo
Presented by Mittleman Jewish Community Center
Thursday, Feb. 10
6:30 pm, hosted virtually
$5, advance registration required

Mittleman Jewish Community Center presents Cindy Rizzo reading virtually from her June 2021 release, The Papercutter (Bella Books). In a fictional United States that has separated into two main governing political parties, Orthodox Jewish teenager Judith Braverman is both a gifted papercutter crafter and a soul-seer. Yearning for freedom from her oppressive government, she embeds codes into her art in hopes of helping liberate her community, in turn propelling herself into adventure, danger, and ultimatums.

oregon author Dennis Britten
Dennis Britten

Livestream Reading: Dennis Britten
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Thursday, Feb. 10
7-8 pm, via ZOOM

Oregon author Dennis Britten will join local authors and performance artists Beth Kahlen, Bill Wuertz, Kevin Lay, and Ginna BB Gordon for a virtual reading from his new release, Men Shake Hands: A Creative Reminiscence (Maderlson Works). A child of divorce in post-war 1940s Multnomah, Britten struggles with being different from other adolescent boys in his community. With an affinity for the arts rather than sports and other male-designated activities, he relocates to New York City, later recounting his compelling and sometimes heart-wrenching life story through this work.

Week 3: February 15-21

Alejandro Zambra in Conversation with Megan McDowell and Daniel Alarcón
Presented by Powell’s Books
Thursday, Feb. 17
5 pm, via ZOOM

Writers Alejandro Zambra, Megan McDowell, and Daniel Alarcón will discuss Zambra’s newest book, Chilean Poet (Viking), in which a young poet named Gonzalo and his first love reunite through an encounter at a Santiago nightclub. A story of love, loss, and family intertwined with the tales of living Chilean poets, Chilean Poet invites the reader into a profound world of relatable personal stories.

Week 4: February 22-28

Livestream Reading: Ann Stinson with Louise Wagenknecht
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Tuesday, Feb. 22
7-8 pm, via ZOOM

Portland-based author Ann Stinson will read from her newest book, The Ground at My Feet: Sustaining a Family and a Forest (Oregon State University Press), a memoir about grief, loss, logging, land ownership, and the forests of Southwest Washington. She will talk with Louise Wagenknecht, Idaho author of Shadows on the Klamath: A Woman in the Woods (Oregon State University Press).

Kit Mayquist in Conversation with Hannah Whitten
Presented by Powell’s Books
Thursday, Feb. 24
5 pm, via ZOOM

Accompanied by Hannah Whitten, author of For the Wolf, Kit Mayquist will read from her debut novel Tripping Arcadia (Dutton). Described as an “atmospheric modern Gothic with all the splendor of The Great Gatsby, Tripping Arcadia follows the life of medical school dropout Lena and her transition to working for a powerful Boston family. Upon learning the family’s dark secrets and realizing their part in the disgrace of Lena’s own family, she vows to take revenge as she descends into a hedonistic world of her own.

University of Oregon professor and poet, Garrett Hongo
Garrett Hongo

Garrett Hongo in Conversation with Luis Alberto Urrea
Presented by Powell’s Books
Monday, Feb. 28
5 pm, via ZOOM

Garrett Hongo’s love for turntables started in his Los Angeles home with his father’s 1960s Empire 398. Fast-forward to the CD-age when music lover Hongo seeks out amps and speakers to enhance each album’s best notes. In The Perfect Sound: A Memoir in Stereo (Pantheon), the University of Oregon professor recounts the music of his life, chronicling the surf rock of his childhood in Hawaii, his time as an adolescent listening to Joni Mitchell, hearing Billy Joel and John Coltrane on the radio as a young adult, and other musical memories that make up his personal audio history.


Submit your literary events, workshops, readings, and book releases to the Oregon ArtsWatch LitWatch Monthly calendar. Send your event information, press materials, interview requests, and book review inquiries to Amy Leona Havin at amyleonahavin@gmail.com.

Amy Leona Havin is a writer, choreographer, and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, and is the Artistic Director of Portland-based multi-media dance company The Holding Project. Her works can be read in Humana Obscura, San Diego Poetry Annual, The Dust Magazine, The Chronicle, Mountain Bluebird Magazine, and others, and she has been shortlisted for the Bridport International Writing Competition Prize in Poetry. Havin’s artistic process is rooted in classical and somatic movement practices, non-fiction writing, and honoring the landscape of the natural world.

Blueprint Choirs Gala and Grand Concert Lloyd Center Portland Oregon
Hallie Ford Museum of Art Willamette University Tom Prochaska Music for Ghosts Salem Oregon
Portland State University College of the Arts
Cascadia Composers A Ligeti Odyssey The Old Madeleine Church Portland Oregon
Lincoln County Historical Society Pacific Maritime Heritage Center The Curious World of Seaweed Newport Oregon
Portland Playhouse The sounds of Afrolitical Movement Portland Oregon
Oregon Bach Festival Musical Wanderlust Eugene Oregon
High Desert Museum Creations of Spirit Bend Oregon
Triangle Productions The Inheritance Part 2 Portland Oregon
Profile Theatre How To Make An American Son Imago Theatre Portland Oregon
Portland Piano International Alexander Korsantia Portland Oregon
Portland Revels Rancho Trinidad Portland Oregon
Maryhill Museum of Art Columbia Gorge Washington
Oregon Bach Festival Musical Wanderlust Eugene Oregon
Northwest Dance Project Stravinsky Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
Oregon Cultural Trust tax credit donate
We do this work for you.

Give to our GROW FUND.