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LitWatch November: Portland Book Festival, Walt Curtis tribute, ‘LaMoosh’ children’s book

The Nov. 4 festival lineup includes Viet Thanh Nguyen, Michael Lewis, Roz Chast, Gregory Gourdet, Mitchell S. Jackson, Luis Alberto Urrea, Alice Winn, Jonathan Lethem, Patrick deWitt, Lydia Kiesling, and so much more.


Book lovers will find plenty of what feeds their souls as November begins, when the Portland Book Festival brings more than 100 authors and presenters to downtown Portland on Saturday, Nov. 4. The event, presented by Literary Arts, includes work in genres ranging from children’s and young adult books to graphic novels, fiction, short stories, nonfiction, memoirs, poetry — even cookbooks. The festival will feature two headlining authors at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, pop-ups built around art in the Portland Art Museum, food carts, writing classes, a book fair, and the Friday Night Book Market.

Cover to Cover

The book festival gears up with Cover to Cover, a weeklong city-wide series of readings Oct. 30 through Nov. 5 at venues including Portland Mercado, Up Up Books, Rose City Book Pub, Honey Latte Cafe, and Willamette Writers Writing Center. Readings include the appearance Nov. 1 by David Biespiel, poet,  memoirist, and Oregon Book Award winner, at Powell’s City of Books to launch his first novel, A Self-Portrait in the Year of the High Commission on Love. Biespiel’s 13th book tells the story of an 18-year-old named Jon “Duke” Wain who grows up in a historic Jewish neighborhood in Texas. Chronicling the tensions among ambition, faith, and daily life, Biespiel looks at choices and consequences.

Special Events

Michael Lewis and Viet Thanh Nguyen are this year’s featured authors; attendance at their talks requires purchase of a ticket in addition to the festival pass. Lewis is a bestselling author, financial journalist, Bloomberg View columnist, and a Vanity Fair contributing editor. His nonfiction books include The Big Short, Moneyball, and The Blind Side. His new release, Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon, chronicles the roller-coaster career and fall of cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. He will be interviewed by Literary Arts director Andrew Proctor at noon Saturday in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Earlier that morning, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winner and Vietnam-born author of The Committed and The Sympathizer, will be joined in conversation with Tommy Orange, author of There There. The 10 a.m. event, also at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, will feature Nguyen discussing his new work, A Man of Two Faces. Utilizing “sardonic wit and incisive analysis,” his book gives a personal interpretation of living in between two cultures: Vietnamese and American.

More featured authors

Other festival highlights include New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, to be interviewed by Dave Miller, host of OPB Radio’s Think Out Loud, at 10 a.m. in Portland’5 Newmark Theatre, discussing her new graphic work, I Must Be Dreaming.

Gregory Gourdet, celebrated Portland chef, award-winning author of Everyone’s Table: Global Recipes for Modern Health, and two-time Bravo Top Chef finalist, will moderate an event titled Eat Your Vegetables. Gourdet was named “Chef of the Year” by both Eater Portland and the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and opened restaurant Kann after 10 years of running the kitchen at Portland’s Departure Restaurant + Lounge. At 10 a.m. in Portland’5 Winningstad Theatre, he will be talking about the importance of plant-based cooking and eating with Aaron Adams and Liz Crain, co-authors of Fermenter, and Hetty Lui McKinnon, author of Tenderheart.

For fans of basketball, fashion, and books, Mitchell S. Jackson, Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Award winner, will talk about his new release Fly: The Big Book of Basketball Fashion. Jackson writes about the history and metamorphosis of basketball fashion, starting with the NBA’s inception in 1949, and taking into consideration the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the birth of R&B, hip hop, and rap; and the Michael Jordan era of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Jackson will be joined by Santi Elijah Holley to discuss his book, The Shakurs and the Nation They Created, with moderator Prakruti Bhatt, arts and culture reporter at OPB, at 10:15 a.m. in The Old Church.


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After hearing Jackson, festival-goers can hurry over to First Congregational United Church of Christ at 11:45 a.m. to hear Luis Alberto Urrea read from his new release, Good Night, Irene. Rooted in history, this novel tells the story of Irene Woodward, who leaves her abusive fiance in 1943 to become a Red Cross nurse in Europe. She becomes part of an elite group of women called the Donut Dollies who provide services for soldiers on the front line. He will appear with Alice Winn, whose debut novel, In Memoriam, is about two young men who fall in love during World War I. OPB’s Geoff Norcross will moderate.

A fine way to wrap up the day would be to hear Jonathan Lethem, bestselling author and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, at 5 p.m. in Portland’5 Newmark Theatre. He will appear with ,, host of OPB Radio’s Think Out Loud, to discuss Lethem’s new Brooklyn Crime Novel, which explores themes of time, remorse, the creation of story and narrative, memory, victims and criminals. Author Colum McCann calls it “a blistering book,” “a love story,” and “social commentary.”

An alternative festival day-ender is the appearance by Portland-based author Patrick deWitt, author of French Exit, with Lydia Kiesling, nonfiction writer and author of The Golden State. They will be joined by moderator Daniel Nieh, Portland-area writer and translator, 5 p.m. in the Portland Art Museum’s Miller Gallery to talk about deWitt’s The Librarianist and Kiesling’s Mobility.

How to get tickets

General admission wristbands are $15 when purchased online and $25 on the day of the event. Youth 17 and under are admitted free. Other tickets and passes range from $5 Arts for All Passes, with the presentation of a valid SNAP card, to all-access Umbrella Passes for $100. Visit the Portland’5 ticket link for details and to get festival passes.

The rest of the literary month looks like this:

Week 1: Nov. 1-7

Walt Curtis, in a 1997 gelatin silver print by Marian Wood Kolisch (American, 1920-2008). Bequest of Marian Wood Kolisch, ©Portland Art Museum, 2009.30.14

Walt Curtis Celebration of Life
Presented by Leanne Grabel and Mother Foucault’s Bookshop
3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5
Pacific Crest Community School
116 N.E. 29th St., Portland


Oregon Cultural Trust

Join community artists and authors to honor the life of Walt Curtis, who died Aug. 25 at the age of 82. Curtis was known as the unofficial Poet Laureate of Portland and a fixture of the local poetry-reciting club scene in the 1970s and ’80s, and his novel, Mala Noche, inspired the film by Gus Van Sant. The celebration of his life will feature readings by community members, a potluck, and an open mic.

The Naked Room: A Synthesis of the Life of a Poet & Psychotherapist with Discussant Frances Payne Adler
Presented by Willa Schneberg and Havurah Shalom
7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7
Havurah Shalom
825 N.W. 18th Ave., Portland

Portland poet and psychotherapist Willa Schneberg will read from her new poetry collection, The Naked Room, featuring pieces she calls “poems of the unconscious, the dreamscape, the despondent, the unmoored and the mortal.” The reading will be followed by a Q&A session with Portland area writer and poet Frances Payne Adler. Schneberg also will lead a free Nov. 14 workshop at Havurah Shalom, in which participants will read and discuss poetry by Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, Hannah Bloch, Edward Hirsch, Yehuda Amichai, and Ross Gay. Advance registration is recommended.

Week 2: Nov. 8-14

Warm Springs tribal elder Linda Meanus reads from her children’s book Nov. 9 in Portland.

Linda Meanus Reading: My Name is LaMoosh
Presented by Multnomah County Library
1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9
Mamook Tokatee
4160 N.E. 42nd Ave., Portland

Linda Meanus, elder, author, and member of the Warm Springs Tribe, will read from her children’s book, My Name is LaMoosh, during an event presented by Multnomah County Library and The Library Foundation through support from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Fund. Raised by her grandparents, including Chief Tommy Thompson, a well-known tribal activist and advocate for Celilo Falls, Meanus grew up with the sacred teachings of her tribe and culture and continues to be active in pow-wows.

Jedidiah Jenkins in Conversation with Cheryl Strayed
Presented by Powell’s Books
7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W. Burnside St., Portland


All Classical Radio James Depreist

When his mother turns 70, Jedidiah Jenkins is reminded of her mortality and sets out to take a trip with her despite their ideological differences. Writer Suleika Jaouad calls the result, Mother, Nature: A 5,000-Mile Journey to Discover if a Mother and Son Can Survive Their Differences, an “exquisitely written and completely compelling” story. Jenkins is a New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur who began his career with the nonprofit Invisible Children. He will be joined at Powell’s by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild.

Week 3: Nov. 15-21

Kirk Johnson in Conversation with Theo Downes-Le Guin
Presented by Powell’s Books
7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W. Burnside St., Portland

Author and award-winning journalist Kirl Johnson, co-author with the late writer and former Oregon State University professor Julie Green, who died in 2021, will discuss their new release First Meal with Theo Downes-Le Guin, writer and trustee of the Ursula K. Le Guin Literary Trust. First Meal is about people leaving the prison system — including those wrongfully accused — and what they chose to eat on their first day outside prison. The book aims to bring people together through a mix of grief and awareness.

Rosie McGee will recount her long, strange journey photographing the Grateful Dead on Nov. 18 in Eugene.

Grateful Dead Day with Photo Presentation & Book Signing by Rosie McGee
Presented by Tsunami Books
2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18
Tsunami Books
2585 Willamette St., Eugene

Calling all Deadheads — join Rosie McGee, Grateful Dead photographer and author — on Grateful Dead Day for the release of My Grateful Dead Photos: 1966-1991. This colorful coffee-table book features photographs of Jerry Garcia and the rest of the band from 1966 through 1991 and celebrates McGee’s iconic images. McGee will show photos, tell stories, and sign book copies.

Week 4: Nov. 25-30


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Author Event: Jeff Wyman Meet and Greet, Signing, and Impromptu Reading
Presented by Tsunami Books
2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25
Tsunami Books
2585 Willamette St., Eugene

Jeff Wyman, teacher, poet, musician, and songwriter based in Eugene, will be at Tsunami Books for a reading and meet and greet to promote his new poetry collection, 100 More Sonnets for Our Time. With a goal of writing more sonnets than William Shakespeare, who wrote 154 of them, Wyman began his sonnet collection in 2020. After the reading, he will answer questions and sign book copies.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Amy Leona Havin is a poet, essayist, and arts journalist based in Portland, Oregon. She writes about language arts, dance, and film for Oregon ArtsWatch and is a staff writer with The Oregonian/OregonLive. Her work has been published in San Diego Poetry Annual, HereIn Arts Journal, Humana Obscura, The Chronicle, and others. She has been an artist-in-residence at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Archipelago Gallery, and Art/Lab, and was shortlisted for the Bridport International Creative Writing Prize in poetry. Havin holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts and is the Artistic Director of Portland-based dance performance company, The Holding Project.


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