By Melanie Romero
With LibroMobile’s Literary Arts Festival just around the corner, it’s important to celebrate the books (and the authors behind their pages) that have entered the literary canon the past year. Four diverse artists, who will be participating in the celebration of this weekend’s festival, released their books into the world last year, and there’s no better time to support these local writers under the horizon of the upcoming event. Whether you’re passionate about knowing all there is about earthquake science or just want to gain insight on the anatomy of a resident artist, there’s a book for everyone and on everything.
Yago S. Cura, Librarians with Spines, Volume III
Librarians with Spines started as a way for librarians to combat racism, while fighting for intellectual freedom; however, as noted by the group, librarians will do anything to safeguard intellectual freedom, “yet have almost none themselves.” On their third volume of their self-titled book, Librarians with Spines, the organization aims to target a “librarian” community, composed of current and upcoming librarians, through five essays on “radical librarianship” and critical themes and topics that explores what it means to be the voice behind underserved and misrepresented communities. A BIPOC-driven anthology, this volume reiterates the rebellion and spirit of its past two volumes to further the series, but also rises above the white, orthodox practices behind antiquated librarianship to push forward inclusivity and identity. If you are a practicing librarian yourself or just a book lover in search of an intellectual, anti-racist read, this anthology deserves a space on your bookshelf.
Lori Polydoros, Quake Chasers: 15 Women Rocking Earthquake Science
Women rock! In a new epoch of breaking barriers, especially in the STEAM field, Lori Polydoros’s book, Quake Chasers: 15 Women Rocking Earthquake Science, drills into the lives of 15 diverse, though postmodern, female scientists specializing in earthquake science, and the eruptions created by their findings.
Part of the Women of Power series, a biography series that always profiles 15 women changing the world within their field and how their careers can empower others, this particular book examines powerful women – from Wendy Bohon (Earthquake Geology) and Lori Dengler (Tsunamis) to Carolina Edith Rojas (Volcanoes) and Jenny Nakai (Geophysicist) – and the bold moves they made in the laboratory, on the field, and within society. Although these women specialize in different fields within the same umbrella of earthquake science, their unity in creating their own aftershocks from their findings gives way for readers to learn a little bit more about these terrifying disasters through their work, all the while witnessing how these women crushed obstacles to reach new heights.
Kunthon Meas, Sunsets & Regrets: A Poetry Collection
Born in SanTana to immigrant parents escaping the terrors of Cambodian genocide, Kunthon Meas created stories in his childhood using a rudimentary software before migrating to comic book strips from loose-leaf notebook paper. Stemming from a drama class in high school, Kunthon became familiarized with open-mic nights, first through music and then poetry. These experiences motivated his decision to self-publish his first poetry book, Sunsets & Regrets, a collection that mediates between self-reflection and affirmations.
His poem, Welcome to the Simulation, notes: “Which hole are you going to be marginalized in?” And, it’s that line that wavers between Meas’s goal with his poetry book, one that stands the testament of time: to assimilate or to be marginalized?
Alan Nakagawa, A.I.R.Head: Anatomy of an Artist in Residence
Released back in December, Alan Nakagawa’s A.I.R.Head: Anatomy of an Artist in Residence is exactly its title: Nakagawa’s transcendency into artist-in-residence opportunities, from the Getty Villa and to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and the soul-searching in between to reach those positions as a Japanese American. Using multimedia of diary entries and sketches to name a few, this book illustrates the artist’s history and journey through his life and career, all the while alluding to his love for sound through sensory memory. His book takes the reader through time and space and permits the reader to transcend the words on the pages into a world of their own, one that sets its multi-existence in the streets of Los Angeles: Nakagawa’s childhood. Being his first book as a published author, it isn’t even his greatest accomplishment: just imagine his artistic capability to land nine artist-in-residences in the space of six years.
These recently published books are truly a look at the artists behind (and beyond) their work and genre; their accomplishments are also a celebration of their diversity and visibility and how their books reflect the community they are a part of. We, at LibroMobile, are thrilled to invite these writers into our bookshelves and to our upcoming literary festival, and we hope you’ll leave the event with their book in hand and a clearer understanding of this patchwork of artists that make us proud to be in community.
Melanie Romero is a trilingual writer born and raised in Orange, CA. It was during childhood weekend trips to Randy’s $1-a-book stall at the OC Market Place that she discovered a passion for reading and, eventually, writing. Today, she serves as Editor at Lil’ Libros and has written two children’s books, Amor de colores and J is for Janucá under the publisher. In her free time, she can be found indulging in challah and getting lost among the shelves of independent bookstores.
Starting February 2023, #OffThePage is featuring Melanie Romero as our monthly columnist. Our Arts & Culture column was initially founded by local journalist Gabriel San Román in May 2020. Since then we have collaboratively featured over 25 stories and paid nearly 10 contributors from our community. Pitch Melanie a story or email us for more information!