LitWatch November: Portland Book Festival, ‘Book Fest In Your Living Room’, Hanukkah, and community

The new month brings book festivals aplenty and other events offering virtual and in-person talks, workshops, and author readings, from Louise Erdrich to Eric Kimmel.

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There’s nothing like the sun as the year dies,
Kind as it can be, this world being made so,
To stones and men and beasts and birds and flies,
To all things that it touches except snow,
Whether on mountain side or street of town.
The south wall warms me: November has begun,
Yet never shone the sun as fair as now
While the sweet last-left damsons from the bough
With spangles of the morning’s storm drop down
Because the starling shakes it, whistling what
Once swallows sang…

—Excerpt from There’s Nothing Like the Sun by Edward Thomas

On days when the November sun is gracing Portland with its warm glow, we are reminded of the beauty that poet Edward Thomas describes in his 1915 poem. On days dreary and darkened with rain and wind, however, we have the solace of this month’s many literary event offerings to keep us warm and occupied.

This November marks the long-awaited Literary Arts Portland Book Festival, a hybrid event occurring virtually November 8-12 and in-person on Saturday, November 13, at the Portland Art Museum, Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, and the Literary Arts downtown location. Featuring Oregon artists, New York Times-acclaimed authors, writing workshops, events in collaboration with The Archive Project, travel writing for teens, children’s storytime, a tribute to Portland legend Ursula K. Le Guin, food writing discussions, poetry, an afternoon with some of the current National Book Awards longlisters, and more, this year’s full lineup has something for pretty much everyone.

Image courtesy of the Literary Arts website

Oregon’s Mittleman Jewish Community Center offers another kind of book festival this month, the Book Fest In Your Living Room. Featuring author of The Dressmakers of Auschwitz Lucy Adlington, Squirrel Hill’s Mark Oppenheimer, and Portland Book Festival author of Our Country Friends Gary Shteyngart, the Book Fest In Your Living Room aims to make stories of community, resilience, repair, and Jewish life accessible to all from the comfort of your home. To learn more, visit the Mittleman Jewish Community Center events webpage.

Without further ado, a few selected events featuring some of our favorite Oregon institutions including Mother Foucault’s and Tsunami Books.

Week 1: November 1-7
Image courtesy of Powell’s Books

Kathryn Kolbert & Julie F. Kay in Conversation with Dr. Jennifer Lincoln
Presented by Powell’s Books
Tuesday, November 2
5 p.m. via ZOOM
Free

Authors and legal professionals Kathryn Kolbert and Julie F. Fay will be in conversation with Dr. Jennifer Lincoln about their book Controlling Women: What We Must Do Now to Save Reproductive Freedom (Hachette), a look into the “moving accounts of women and health care providers at the heart of nearly five decades of legal battles.” Kolbert and Fay will speak on the importance of preserving a woman’s right to choose as determined by Roe v. Wade, especially in an age where increasing numbers of states are enacting abortion bans.

Sponsor

A Surrealist Poetry Reading and Art Show
Presented by Mother Foucault’s Bookshop
Thursday, November 4
6:30-8 p.m., in-person
Mother Foucault’s Bookshop
523 S.E. Morrison St., Portland
Masks and proof of vaccination required for entry
Free

Poet and artist Zachary Schomburg will be joined by poets Jon Boisvert and Dan Wiencek along with artist Rachel Mulder for A Surrealist Poetry Reading and Art Show. Schomburg is the author of six books of poems and the publisher of independent press Octopus Books. Boisvert, originally from Wisconsin, studied poetry at Oregon State University before relocating to Portland. Born and raised in Illinois, Wiencek is a travel writer who has been published in New Ohio Review and The Timberline Review. Residing in Portland, Mulder, who lives in Portland, writes work that gains inspiration from nature. Together, these artists promise a night of surrealist creativity.

Lucy Adlington: The Dressmakers of Auschwitz
Presented by Mittleman Jewish Community Center Book Fest In Your Living Room & Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta in partnership with the National JCC Literary Consortium
Sunday, November 7
Noon PST (3 p.m. EST) via ZOOM
Free; optional $24 book purchase

Author and historian Lucy Adlington will be joined by Adina Jocelyn Langer, curator of Kennesaw State University’s Museum of History and Holocaust Education, to discuss her book The Dressmakers of Auschwitz (Harper). A book chronicling the experiences of the Jewish women and girls chosen as seamstresses in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during World War II, The Dressmakers of Auschwitz draws upon interviews with the camp’s last living seamstresses to uncover “remarkable experiences within the context of Nazi policies for plunder and exploitation,” further uncovering the horrors and crimes against humanity committed by the Third Reich.

Mark Oppenheimer: Squirrel Hill

Presented by Mittleman Jewish Community Center Book Fest In Your Living Room & Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta in partnership with the National JCC Literary Consortium
Sunday, November 7
4:30 p.m. PST (7:30pm EST) via ZOOM
$11 member/community ticket, $36 free entry with book purchase

On October 27, 2018, a gunman walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, one of the city’s oldest multi-generational synagogues, and murdered 11 Jewish worshipers. In Squirrel Hill, Mark Oppenheimer’s newest novel, the author portrays not the heinous crime, but the beauty, spirit, and history of the community that suffered immeasurable loss. With optimism and hope, Oppenheimer details what can be done to continue down the road of healing as a country. Join Oppenheimer for a virtual author talk and audience Q&A session, including a reading from the book.

Week 2: November 8-14

Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic: Igor Brezhnev
Presented by Christopher Luna, Morgan Paige, and Art At The Cave
Thursday, November 11
7-8 p.m. via ZOOM and in-person
Art At The Cave
108 E. Evergreen Blvd, Vancouver, Wash.
Free

This month’s Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic features Igor Brezhnev, poet, book designer, curator of Wordlights, and founder of Lightship Press. Brezhnev will read from his newest collection, night lights, which contains 363 poems written daily from January 18, 2019 to January 14, 2020. He is also the author of dearest void (2016) and america is a dry cookie and other love stories (2018). Email katecrackernuts@comcast.net by no later than midnight November 10 to indicate your interest in participating in the open mic portion of the event.

Louise Erdrich outside her bookstore, Birchbark Books, in Minneapolis, on May 5, 2016. Photograph courtesy of Ackerman + Gruber

The Sentence: Louise Erdrich & Trevino Brings Plenty at Portland Book Festival
Presented by Literary Arts
Saturday, November 13
1-2 p.m., in-person
Newmark Theatre
1111 S.W. Broadway, Portland
Masks and proof of vaccination required for entry
$0-$44 sliding scale festival pass

Louise Erdrich — headliner of this year’s Portland Book Festival, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Winner — will be joined by Trevino Brings Plenty and presented via live stream for an in-person audience at the Newmark Theatre. Erdrich will discuss her newest novel, The Sentence, which considers what the living owe the dead. Beginning on All Souls’ Day 2019 and ending on All Souls’ Day 2020, this mysterious ghost story promises to take readers on an emotional narrative journey.

Week 3: November 15-21

Gary Shteyngart: Our Country Friends

Presented by Mittleman Jewish Community Center Book Fest In Your Living Room & Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta in partnership with the National JCC Literary Consortium
Thursday, November 18
5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST) via ZOOM
$11 member/community ticket, $36 free entry with book purchase

Gary Shteyngart, author of “Our Country Friends.”

Also taking part in the Portland Book Festival, Gary Shteyngart, whom The New York Times has referred to as “one of his generation’s most original writers,” will read from his newest book, Our Country Friends (Penguin Random House). A tale of friendship, betrayal, honesty, and love, it follows the lives of eight friends who gather to shelter through the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Winner of the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, Shteyngart’s second novel, Absurdistan, was also named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. The author will be joined in conversation by New York Times bestselling author Nathan Englander.

Week 4: November 22-30
The Three Latkes by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Feronia Parker-Thomas

Hanukkah Story Time with Eric Kimmell
Presented by Green Bean Books
Sunday, November 28
4 p.m. via ZOOM
Free

Hanukkah comes early this year (Sunday, November 28!), and what better way to celebrate with your children than a festive virtual storytime? This family-friendly edition of the Green Bean Books PJ Library storytime presents children’s book author Eric Kimmel, author of Shield of the Maccabees, reading from his newest holiday picture book, The Three Latkes. In this story, three festive potato latkes all think they are the better tasting of the bunch. A run-in with the family cat teaches them a humorous lesson.

The Nature of Gratitude Hosted by Eric Alan and Tom Titus
Presented by Tsunami Books
Sunday, November 28
3-5 p.m., in-person
Masks required for entry
2585 Willamette St., Eugene
Free; donations accepted

If you live in Eugene or are planning a trip there toward the end of the month, don’t miss the fifth Nature of Gratitude celebration presented by Eugene favorite Tsunami Books with hosts Eric Alan and Tom Titus. Featuring emcee Joe Moll, musicians Halie Loren and Daniel Gallo, and poet Jorah LaFleur, this donation-based fundraiser event is one of the first for Tsunami since it shuttered for the pandemic. Come for the gratitude and optimistic perspectives on community … stay for the literature, the books, and the art.


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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. 

About the author

Amy Leona Havin is a poet, choreographer, filmmaker, and writer from Rehovot, Israel, currently based in Portland, Oregon, by way of San Diego, California. She has trained in Tel Aviv under Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company studying Gaga Movement Language and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. Havin is the founder and artistic director of the Portland-based dance company The Holding Project with which she received a Disjecta Contemporary Art Center 2016 Artistic Residency. Her films have been showcased internationally in Israel, Greece, Mexico, Austria, and France, receiving awards from Mexico City Videodance International, Portland Dance Film Fest, Thessaloniki Cinedance, and more. Havin is the founder and host of the occasional reading series It’s Rhubarb, and her literary works can be read in publications such as The Dust Magazine, Unchaste Anthology, When She Rises, and Gravity According to Birds. With a process rooted in the duality of her upbringing, Havin weaves together a collectively introspective body of work, honoring both heritage and the natural world.

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