5 Questions with Stephanie Sauer, Author of The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force

royal chicanoWe are always very excited to host events such as the one happening on Thursday, June 23rd at City Lights Books. Stephanie Sauer is in town to present her book The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force, published by University of Texas Press.

She is joined by Ella Maria Diaz, who also wrote the introduction to the book. This event is co-presented by the San Francisco Art Institute and University of Texas Press. Stephanie answered our 5 questions. More about her, and her answers, below.

But first, to set the mood, check out the video Stephanie made for the event at City Lights.

Event: Thursday, June 23 at 7PM. 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.

About The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force: Employing a creative mix of real and fictive events, objects, and people that subverts assumptions about the archiving and display of historical artifacts, this innovative book both documents and evokes an arts collective that played a significant role in the Chicano movement.

How do you write a history of a group that has been written out of history? In The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force, world-famous archaeologist La Stef and the clandestine Con Sapos Archaeological Collective track down the “facts” about the elusive RCAF, the Rebel Chicano Art Front that, through an understandable mix-up with the Royal Canadian Air Force, became the Royal Chicano Air Force.

La Stef and her fellow archaeologists document the plight and locura que cura of the RCAF, a group renowned for its fleet of adobe airplanes, ongoing subversive performance stance, and key role as poster makers for the United Farm Workers Union during the height of the Chicano civil rights movement. As the Con Sapos team uncovers tensions between fact and fiction in historical consciousness and public memory, they abandon didactic instruction and strive instead to offer a historiography in which various cultural paradigms already intersect seamlessly and on equal ground. That they often fail to navigate the blurred lines between “objective” Western archival sciences and Indigenous/Chicana/o cosmologies reflects the very human predicament of documenting the histories of complicated New Worlds everywhere. Uniquely blending art history, oral history, cultural studies, and anthropology, The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force suspends historical realities and leaps through epochs and between conversations with various historical figures, both dead and alive, to offer readers an intimate experience of RCAF history.

stephanie sAbout Stephanie Sauer: Stephanie Sauer is an interdisciplinary artist and the author of The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force. Her writing and artist books have appeared in Verse Daily, So to Speak, Alimentum, Alehouse Press, Boom: A Journal of California, Lady’s Comics, and Plastique Press. She is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, a So to Speak Hybrid Book Award, two Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission grants, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fellowship in Writing, judged by Elizabeth Alexander. Her visual works have been exhibited at the De Young Museum, New York City’s Center for Book Arts, and Fábrica Behring, and are held in the permanent collections of the National Library of Baghdad, Chicago Cultural Center, and various universities. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is the founding editor of Copilot Press and co-founding editor of A Bolha Editora, an in-translation press with headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. She teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Ella Diaz, assistant professor of English (ENGL) and Latino studies (LSP).About Ella Maria Diaz: Ella Maria Diaz is Assistant Professor of English and Latino Studies at Cornell University and the author of Flying Under the Radar with the Royal Chicano Air Force (University of Texas Press, forthcoming 2017). She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, teaching several courses at William and Mary and developing the College’s first Chicana Literature course in spring 2005. Her research pertains to the interdependence of Chicano/a and U.S. Latino/a literary and visual cultures.  She was a Lecturer in The School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute between 2006 until 2012. Diaz has published through Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, U.C. Santa Barbara’s ImaginArte, and in Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Stephanie Sauer: The Poetry Room. All I remember is the Poetry Room, that it held all of my favorites. That I stayed there all afternoon. That I didn’t want to leave. That I didn’t have enough money, but bought a book of poems by Adrienne Rich on credit anyway. That I glued the receipt into my notebook.

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Rad Women Read Rad American Women A-Z : Cosmic Amanda Reads “Q Is for ‘Queen Bessie’ Coleman”

Next up on Rad Women read Rad American Women A-Z is amazing local DJ Cosmic Amanda! In this video, Amanda reads the entry for “Queen Bessie” Coleman–she explains how Bessie overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to become a pilot by hard work and ignoring the people who told her no.

This is the next installment in the video series from City Lights where we ask women we admire to read their favorite entry of our New York Times-bestselling children’s book, Rad American Women A-Zand answer some questions about what it means to be a rad woman today. The book is authored by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahland published by City Lights/Sister Spit.

Cosmic Amanda is a DJ and founder of BFF.fm, a San Francisco-based community radio station run by a volunteer staff of music nerds who love independent music and are hell-bent on delivering radio programming that doesn’t suck. Voted “Best Radio Station” in San Francisco three times in SF Weekly’s annual Reader’s Poll, their mission is to support emerging and underground artists and bring the Bay Area music scene to the world through the magic of Internet radio.

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Homage to Bill Berkson

By Garrett Caples

bill with expect
Bill Berkson, 2015

With much sadness I note the death of poet, critic, professor, lecturer, and friend to City Lights Bill Berkson (1939-2016), from a heart attack on June 16. Bill was perhaps best known for his association with the New York School of poets and painters, having published his first collection, Saturday Night (1961), in John Bernard Myers’ legendary Tibor de Nagy poetry series. He was particularly known for his friendship with Frank O’Hara, who dedicated two major poems to him, “For the Chinese New Year and for Bill Berkson,” published by City Lights in Lunch Poems (Pocket Poets No. 19, 1964), and the tour de force “Biotherm,” which Wayne Koestenbaum has called O’Hara’s “very greatest poem.” His friendship with O’Hara cast a long shadow that took him a while to outdistance, and I feel like only in the new millennium did Bill’s reputation finally catch up to his own industry and achievement.

bill berkson and frank
Bill Berkson (right) with Frank O’Hara, 1960.

At the same time, the past 15 years saw an extraordinary flowering of his poetry, accounting for more than half of his present output in terms of books and culminating in his most recent volume Expect Delays (Coffee House, 2014). During this period, he harvested the fruit of his labor as art critic and literary commentator with a trio of compilations, The Sweet Singer of Modernism & Other Art Writings 1985-2003 (Qua Books, 2004), Sudden Address: Selected Lectures 1981-2006 (Cuneiform Press, 2007), and For the Ordinary Artist: Short Reviews, Interviews, Occasional Pieces & More (BlazeVox, 2010). No doubt retirement from his longtime professorship at the San Francisco Art Institute had something to do with this newfound attention to his own affairs, for in addition to teaching art and writing, Bill had routinely been a generous promoter of other people’s work, and not solely through his little magazine and small press Big Sky.

(Below is a video of Bill reading from Expect Delays at the San Francisco Public Library in 2015 [footage by Evan Karp].)

I first met Bill, in passing, in the late ’90s but we didn’t connect. Later, in the mid-oughts, he nearly died from emphysema, but managed to bounce back from the precipice with a double-lung transplant, and only then did I get to know him. In 2009, I was editing a volume of poems by Cedar Sigo for the new City Lights Spotlight series. Back then Cedar lived in a tiny semi-detached cottage with a front-yard in SF’s Mission District and threw the greatest parties, and as I was entering the front gate, Bill was exiting the front door. We paused to compare notes. I was astonished at how this 70-year-old man was a sincere admirer of the under-35 Sigo, displaying a level of curiosity and understanding I’d already felt the difficulty of sustaining myself as I merely neared 40. Bill made it seem like a matter of course. At the time, I was also working out a cover for Kevin Killian’s Impossible Princess (City Lights, 2009) with Colter Jacobsen, and Bill’s remarks on Colter’s genius as an artist were so illuminating, so in line with what I felt but so much better thought-out, I was deeply impressed, even as Bill had taken me seriously, for my own appreciation of Colter and Cedar.

Later I had the good fortune to work on a project with Bill for City Lights, his introduction to our 2013 relaunch of Poems Retrieved by Frank O’Hara, previously printed by New American Poetry editor Donald Allen’s Grey Fox Press. This was the beginning of our friendship, generally conducted over lunch, where we’d handle whatever business we had at hand and then I’d spend the rest of the time picking his brain for advice about editing and publishing. Still later, he proved to be a tremendous help, in an informal capacity, as I worked to piece together the biographical facts for the introduction to Incidents of Travel in Poetry: New and Selected Poems (City Lights, 2016) by Bill’s fellow second-generation New York School poet Frank Lima. I remember Bill taking the trouble to write to me from New York to introduce me to Tim Keane, whose uncle Bob Corless had been Lima’s roommate in his first apartment. I was struck by the fact that my own project was still on Bill’s mind in the midst of his own business—his expertise was considerate and thoughtful—and Tim proved to be a great source of information about a particularly obscure era of Lima’s life.

Bill's most recent book, Invisible Oligarchs.
Bill’s most recent book, Invisible Oligarchs.

I can’t say I knew Bill well, and I know I was by no means the only recipient of his generosity in poetic and artistic matters, so I look forward to hearing other reminiscences about this extraordinary man. I feel lucky to have known him at all. The last time we had lunch together, at the end of May, he was praising the poetry of a young woman named Lyric Hunter, whose chapbook Swallower (2014) was published by Ugly Duckling Presse, which also just published Bill last book, Invisible Oligarchs: Russia Notebook, January-June 2006 & After (2016). That was Bill through and through, still curious and receptive after a lifetime of glamorous soldiering through the fields of art and poetry.

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Live from Ralph Nader’s “Breaking Through Power” Event in D.C.

By Greg Ruggiero


Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending Ralph Nader’s 4-day gathering on the importance of mounting a civic insurgency to bring corporate power under greater public control.

Staged in Washington D.C.’s historic Constitution Hall, Nader brought together an impressive array of artists, intellectuals, activists, attorneys, whistleblowers, and progressive media makers.

As Nader named the event after our forthcoming book with him, Breaking Through Power, I couldn’t resist but accept the invitation to attend and present advance copies of the book to conference goers.

Among the highlights was Patti Smith talking about Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Thomas Paine and William Blake. She told us that long before Ralph ran for President of the United States, her Dad would write his name in on his election ballot. Here is some video I took of her reading Whitman’s homage to New York, “Mannahatta,” as well as more shots of Ralph at the conference.

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5 Questions with Ben Ehrenreich, Author of The Way to the Spring

the way to the springOn Thursday, June 16th at City Lights, we welcome City Lights author and award-winning journalist Ben Ehrenreich back to City Lights Bookstore. He’ll be discussing his brand new book, The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (published by Penguin Press). He answered our 5 questions. More about him, and his answers, below.

This event is presented by the Jewish Voice for Peace Bay Area, Middle East Children’s Alliance, City Lights, and Penguin Press.

Event: Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 7PM. 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.

About The Way to the Spring: Over the past three years, American writer Ben Ehrenreich has been traveling to and living in the West Bank, staying with Palestinian families in its largest cities and its smallest villages. Along the way he has written major stories for American outlets, including a remarkable New York Times Magazine cover story. Now comes the powerful new work that has always been his ultimate goal, The Way to the Spring.

We are familiar with brave journalists who travel to bleak or war-torn places on a mission to listen and understand, to gather the stories of people suffering from extremes of oppression and want: Katherine Boo, Ryszard Kapuściński, Ted Conover, and Philip Gourevitch among them. Palestine is, by any measure, whatever one’s politics, one such place. Ruled by the Israeli military, set upon and harassed constantly by Israeli settlers who admit unapologetically to wanting to drive them from the land, forced to negotiate an ever more elaborate and more suffocating series of fences, checkpoints, and barriers that have sundered home from field, home from home, this is a population whose living conditions are unique, and indeed hard to imagine. In a great act of bravery, empathy and understanding, Ben Ehrenreich, by placing us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians and telling their story with surpassing literary power and grace, makes it impossible for us to turn away.

“Ben Ehrenreich’s rendition of the Palestinian experience is powerful, deep and heartbreaking, so much closer to the ground than the Middle East reporting we usually see. I wish there were more writers as brave.”—Adam Hochschild

ben eAbout Ben Ehrenreich: Ben Ehrenreich is the author of two novels, Ether (published by City Lights) and The Suitors. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. A recipient of the National Magazine Award, Ehrenreich lives in Los Angeles.


City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Ben Ehrenreich: I am happy to say I’ve been to City Lights many times. Long before I ever dreamed of reading there, or of publishing a book with City Lights, I used to make sure to visit whenever I was in San Francisco. I would invariably leave loaded down with novels—some that I’d come looking for, most of them happy accidents. I can’t think of too many places that I’d rather be.

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City Lights at the Bay Area Book Festival

bay book fest lacuna

The 2nd annual Bay Area Book Festival (or as we call it, BABF) is on June 4 & 5, Saturday and Sunday in downtown Berkeley. Last year was a pretty spectacular event and this year seems even better. City Lights Publishers will have a booth on “Radical Row” (on Allston between Milvia & Shattuck) alongside our friends at AK Press, Counterpoint/Soft Skull, Last Gasp, Moe’s Books, Small Press Distribution, PM Press, ZYZZYVA, and many others. Come and hang out with us.

We’ll have all of our new publications on sale for 30% off, as well as tote bags, bookmarks, and bumper stickers. Go here for the list of great authors participating, here for the festival map, and keep your eye on the BABF Twitter account for updates.

There are also a handful of City Lights authors taking part in panel discussions and performances at the book fair. Here are the ones you’ll need to check out.


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1. Thursday, June 2 at 7:30PM – SOLD OUT

Location: San Francisco Chronicle Stage at the Freight & Salvage

Event: “An Evening with Saul Williams”

Who: Saul Williams, Chinaka Hodge, Black Spirituals

Details: Feature presenter Saul Williams has shared his music and spoken word performances in over 30 countries, with invitations from world-class venues such as the White House, the Sydney Opera House, Lincoln Center, The Louvre, The Getty Center, and Queen Elizabeth Hall. At Berkeley’s own San Francisco Chronicle Stage at the Freight & Salvage, hack into Williams’ mind as he navigates “poetry as design,” performing selections from two dynamic new works: US(a.) and Martyr Loser King. Also featured in performance are avant-garde explorative jazz musicians, Black Spirituals, and Oakland based poet, screenwriter, curator, and educator, Chinaka Hodge.

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Rad Women Read Rad American Women A-Z : Destiny Muhammad Reads “H Is for Hazel Scott”

After a brief hiatus, we’re back with another episode of Rad Women Read Rad American Women A-Z’! This week, we welcomed Oakland-based jazz harpist Destiny Muhammad to our offices to read about Hazel Scott, an icon of jazz that also stood for justice. Destiny shares why it’s important to stand up for what you believe in early in life and to be “unapologetically rad” even if that means losing some friends in the process.

This is the next installment in the video series from City Lights where we ask women we admire to read their favorite entry of our New York Times-bestselling children’s book, Rad American Women A-Zand answer some questions about what it means to be a rad woman today. The book is authored by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahland published by City Lights/Sister Spit.

Destiny Muhammad is a performing artist/singer-songwriter on harp. Her genre ‘Celtic to Coltrane’ is cool and eclectic with a feel of Jazz & storytelling to round out the sonic experience. Destiny has opened for The Oakland East Bay Symphony, shared the stage with Jazz Masters Azar Lawrence, Marcus Shelby, Omar Sosa, John Santos and co-starred in Def Jam Poetry Winner Ise Lyfe’s Hip Hop Play Pistols & Prayers to name a few. She has also headlined for the “Women in Jazz” Concert series in San Francisco. Destiny is expanding her musical ideals with her project(s) S.O.N.G/ Strings of a Nubian Groove Nubian string ensemble, The Destiny Muhammad Project, & The Richard Howell Quintet (RHQ). Destiny is Governor Emeritus and Educational Chair Emeritus of the Recording Academy, San Francisco Chapter, Jazz Heritage Center of San Francisco Jazz Ambassador and an ASCAP Songwriter Awardee.


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5 Questions with Margaret Guroff, author of The Mechanical Horse

mechanical horseOn Tuesday, April 17, City Lights and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition are proud to present an evening with Margaret Guroff. Guroff will celebrate her new book, The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life from University of Texas Press. Anna Gore of the SF Bicycle Coalition will present an opening statement.

Margaret answered our 5 questions. More about her, and her answers, below.

Event: Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00PM. 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133

About The Mechanical Horse: With cities across the country adding miles of bike lanes and building bike-share stations, bicycling is enjoying a new surge of popularity in America. It seems that every generation or two, Americans rediscover the freedom of movement, convenience, and relative affordability of the bicycle. The earliest two-wheeler, the draisine, arrived in Philadelphia in 1819 and astonished onlookers with the possibility of propelling themselves “like lightning.” Two centuries later, the bicycle is still the fastest way to cover ground on gridlocked city streets.

Filled with lively stories, The Mechanical Horse reveals how the bicycle transformed American life. As bicycling caught on in the nineteenth century, many of the country’s rough, rutted roads were paved for the first time, laying a foundation for the interstate highway system. Cyclists were among the first to see the possibilities of self-directed, long-distance travel, and some of them (including a fellow named Henry Ford) went on to develop the automobile. Women shed their cumbersome Victorian dresses—as well as their restricted gender roles—so they could ride. And doctors recognized that aerobic exercise actually benefits the body, which helped to modernize medicine. Margaret Guroff demonstrates that the bicycle’s story is really the story of a more mobile America—one in which physical mobility has opened wider horizons of thought and new opportunities for people in all avenues of life.

“Fascinating . . . Guroff does an admirable job reminding us of the bicycle’s lasting influence . . . [Her] book provides a colorful and helpful map of where we’ve been, and where we all might go from here.” —The Wall Street Journal


About Margaret Guroff: Margaret Guroff is a magazine editor. She is also the editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick, an online annotation of Herman Melville’s classic novel. She teaches writing at the Johns Hopkins University.

About Anna Gore: Anne Gore is Membership Manager of the SF Bicycle Coalition. She joined the staff in August of 2012 and has been in her position since June of 2013. Before moving to San Francisco, she was an active transportation advocate in her home state of Georgia and earned her Master’s of Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. As a resident of the Inner Sunset, you might catch her commuting to work on the wiggle or biking around Golden Gate Park (often with her dog in tow) on the weekends.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Margaret Guroff: My husband brought me there during our first San Francisco trip–he is a huge fan of the store from his younger days and wanted me to see it. I remember checking out the poetry selection to make sure Howard Nemerov was well represented. And we got T-shirts! The full tourist experience, I’m afraid.

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5 Questions with Viet Thanh Nguyen (Part 2!), Author of Nothing Ever Dies

nothing ever diesPulitzer-Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen is our first-ever return guest for 5 questions! Last time, he was in town promoting his acclaimed novel, The Sympathizer. Since his visit, the book has won numerous awards including the Pulitzer.

This week on Wednesday, May 4, he will be discussing his new book of nonfiction at City Lights Bookstore, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, (published by Harvard University Press). with the one and only Maxine Hong Kingston. This event is not to be missed. More about Viet, and his answers, below.

Event: Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 7PM. 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133

About Nothing Ever Dies: All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. From the author of the bestselling novel The Sympathizer comes a searching exploration of the conflict Americans call the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War—a conflict that lives on in the collective memory of both nations.

From a kaleidoscope of cultural forms—novels, memoirs, cemeteries, monuments, films, photography, museum exhibits, video games, souvenirs, and more—Nothing Ever Dies brings a comprehensive vision of the war into sharp focus. At stake are ethical questions about how the war should be remembered by participants that include not only Americans and Vietnamese but also Laotians, Cambodians, South Koreans, and Southeast Asian Americans. Too often, memorials valorize the experience of one’s own people above all else, honoring their sacrifices while demonizing the “enemy”—or, most often, ignoring combatants and civilians on the other side altogether. Visiting sites across the United States, Southeast Asia, and Korea, Viet Thanh Nguyen provides penetrating interpretations of the way memories of the war help to enable future wars or struggle to prevent them.

Drawing from this war, Nguyen offers a lesson for all wars by calling on us to recognize not only our shared humanity but our ever-present inhumanity. This is the only path to reconciliation with our foes, and with ourselves. Without reconciliation, war’s truth will be impossible to remember, and war’s trauma impossible to forget.

viet new pic

About Viet Thanh Nguyen: Viet Thanh Nguyen is an associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002) and the novel The Sympathizer, from Grove/Atlantic (2015). The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, the Carnegie Medal for  Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Fiction from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. It is also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, an Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. The novel made it to over thirty book-of-the-year lists, including The Guardian, The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com, Slate.com, and The Washington Post.

About Maxine Hong Kingston is a Chinese American author and Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a BA in English in 1962. Kingston has written three novels and several works of non-fiction about the experiences of Chinese immigrants living in the United States.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Viet Thanh Nguyen: Sitting in the green room, a.k.a. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s office,
waiting for the reading to start. Writers’ rooms are always mysterious places, at least to other writers and to readers. I wondered if I was sitting in a seat where some great work had been written, and hoped some of the magic would rub off on me.

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5 Questions with Ali Eteraz, Author of Native Believer

NativeBelieverVery excited to welcome Ali Eteraz, who is at City Lights on Tuesday, May 3 celebrating his new book, Native Believer: A Novel, published by Akashic. He’ll be discussing the book with writer/journalist Vanessa Hua. Ali took the time to answer our 5 questions. More about him, and his answers, below.

About Native Believer: Ali Eteraz’s much-anticipated debut novel is the story of M., a supportive husband, adventureless dandy, lapsed believer, and second-generation immigrant who wants nothing more than to host parties and bring children into the world as full-fledged Americans. As M.’s world gradually fragments around him—a wife with a chronic illness; a best-friend stricken with grief; a boss jeopardizing a respectable career—M. spins out into the pulsating underbelly of Philadelphia, where he encounters others grappling with fallout from the War on Terror. Among the pornographers and converts to Islam, punks, and wrestlers, M. confronts his existential degradation and the life of a second-class citizen. 

“Eteraz’s narrative is witty and unpredictable . . . and the darkly comic ending is pleasingly macabre. As for M., in this identity-obsessed dandy, Eteraz has created a perfect protagonist for the times. A provocative and very funny exploration of Muslim identity in America today.”
Kirkus Reviews

“In bitingly funny prose, first novelist Eteraz sums up the pain and contradictions of an American not wanting to be categorized; the ending is a bang-up surprise.”
Library Journal, Top Spring Indies Fiction Selection

About Ali Eteraz: Ali Eteraz is based at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. He is the author of the coming-of-age memoir Children of Dust (HarperCollins) and the surrealist short story collection Falsipedies & Fibsiennes (Guernica Ed.). Eteraz’s short fiction has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, storySouth, and Crossborder, and his nonfiction has been highlighted by NPR, The New York Times, and the Guardian. Recently, Eteraz received the 3 Quarks Daily Arts & Literature Prize judged by Mohsin Hamid, and served as a consultant to the artist Jenny Holzer on a permanent art installation in Qatar. Eteraz has lived in the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Alabama. Native Believer is his debut novel.

Photo by Charles Mujie

About Vanessa Hua: Vanessa Hua is an award-winning writer and journalist. For nearly two decades, she has been writing about Asia and the diaspora. She received a 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for Fiction, and is a past Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, FRONTLINE/World, Washington Post, Guernica, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. A former staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, she has filed stories from China, South Korea, Panama, Burma and Ecuador. Deceit and Other Possibilities, her debut story collection, will be published this fall (Willow Books).


City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Ali Eteraz: I have been to City Lights a few times. Most recently was for a reading featuring the poet Shailja Patel, whose Migritude collection has been a huge hit among my friends. I have also wandered into the store at other times and gotten lost in the Existentialism section. It is also possible that I came in already-existentialist and simply stared at a stack of books and thought I was reading existentialism. One thing I have never done is to stop by the store solely to go to the bathroom. You’re welcome.

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