Watch the 2015 Miami Book Fair Live

City Lights has a handful of events this year at the 2015 Miami Book Fair including four events with City Lights authors and our own panel discussing our 60th anniversary as a publisher. All events are free unless otherwise noted.

Friday, November 20

10AM – “Author Kate Schatz”
Kate Schatz discusses Rad American Women A-Z.

Saturday, November 21

11:30AM – “History Is Rad”
Kate Schatz appears on a panel with Brad Meltzer (author of I Am Helen Keller) and Eric Morse (author of What Is Punk?)

1:30PM – “City Lights Publishers at 60”
City Lights publisher/executive director Elaine Katzenberger, City Lights Bookstore head buyer Paul Yamazaki, and New Directions president Barbara Epler celebrate the past, present, and future of City Lights Publishers. The conversation is moderated by Los Angeles Times book critic David Ulin.

4:00PM – “Global Environmental Challenges: New Nonfiction”
Roy Scranton appears on a panel with Philip Warburg (author of Harness the Sun) and Wen Stephenson (author of What We’re Fighting for Now is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice).

Sunday, November 22

3:30PM – “Two Poets Laureate: A Reading and Conversation”
Current U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera in conversation with former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan.

Tickets for this event are available here.

In collaboration with PBS News, the Book Fair is being streamed live. Watch below all weekend long!


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Tim Wise’s Under the Affluence and Fighting the Culture of Cruelty

87286100109850L“As much as we might hope such vitriol would find little fertile ground in which to take root, the evidence suggests hostility to the poor is easily internalized in a culture where such contempt is so common.”

Tim Wise is one of America’s most prolific public intellectuals. His critically acclaimed books, high-profile media interviews, and year-round speaking schedule have established him as an invaluable voice in any discussion on issues of race and multicultural democracy. In Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America, his fourth book with City Lights, Wise’s arguments about a culture of cruelty are intended to empower his readers and call them to action in an attempt to put to death the arising notion that the poor are to blame for their own situations.

Tim Wise sat down with Tavis Smiley recently to discuss some of the issues that are brought up in Under the Affluence, like the glamorization of the elite class, the continual growth of “white anxiety” as a result of affirmative action and other multicultural reformations, the concept that the racial and economic “other” has become intertwined, and much more.

“Don’t misunderstand: a certain degree of inequality between persons is to be expected. We all have different talents and interests, after all; some can sing, some cannot; some are artists, some are not; some simply work harder than others. But the extremes between rich and poor to which we are being exposed today are unlike anything that can be written off to the normal distribution of abilities. It is not the simple fact of inequalities that concerns us, but the extremity of the gap, the shape of those disparities, and their increasing impermeability that should give us pause. There is nothing normal or acceptable about those things, however much we may allow for a reasonable range of talents and rewards based upon them.”

In a second interview about the book on The Laura Flanders Show, Wise elaborates on the necessity for transparency in his role as an activist, especially in recognizing his own advantages with regard to race, gender, sexuality, and the like. He states that in belonging to so many positions of advantage, he and others like him should use these productively to draw others in and empower more voices.

“What motivates most of the world’s population must be something else, something more meaningful, having to do with survival and love and caring for their children and protecting them from the dangers that exist around every turn. Or for artists, musicians, poets, and even parents, for that matter: is it the promise of money and material riches that motivates such persons? You’d best hope not.”

Tim Wise argues that far from any culture of poverty, it is the culture of predatory affluence that deserves the blame for America’s simmering economic and social crises. He documents the increasing contempt for the nation’s poor, and reveals the forces at work to create and perpetuate it. With clarity, passion and eloquence, he demonstrates how America’s myth of personal entitlement based on merit is inextricably linked to pernicious racial bigotry, and he points the way to greater compassion, fairness, and economic justice.

You can find Under the Affluence at, as part of our Open Media Series, or ask for it at your local independent bookseller. Tim is very active on Twitter and Facebook and has a massive touring schedule where he delivers speeches and talks across the U.S. His essays, appearances, and more are documented on his official site.

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Q & A with Roy Scranton

RoyScranton1LoQ & A with Roy Scranton

Author of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization

What inspired you to write this book?

Like most people, I’d been vaguely aware of global warming for a long time, but also like most people, I was too busy with my own life to spend much time looking into it. But in 2013, I got the chance to spend six weeks at the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell thinking about the Anthropocene, and once I really started looking into what scientists were saying about global warming, I had a kind of existential crisis.

What blew me away most were reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Bank, the Department of Defense, and NASA: restrained, careful, mainstream government and policy documents that were forecasting catastrophic climate change that promised the end of human civilization as we know it. I was like—holy shit. How do I make sense of this? I just spent four years in the army and seven years in school trying to climb into the middle class so I could have a peaceful, normal life, and now it’s the end of the world? The shock was tremendous, and the only way through it for me was to go back to Plato and Hannah Arendt and Spinoza and Zen Buddhism, to go back to the philosophical resources that had helped me make sense of my experience as a soldier in Iraq. This book is an outgrowth of my own personal struggle to live a meaningful life at the end of civilization.

There’s so much uncertainty in the debates around climate change. How can you be so certain about such a complex topic?

A lot of the uncertainty around climate change is politically and economically motivated, driven by right-wing and corporate propaganda. The science behind global warming is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, and people have been testing and refining it for over a hundred years. If you put carbon in the atmosphere, then you heat the planet and acidify the oceans, with tremendous consequences for the climate, the biosphere, and human civilization. While it’s impossible to predict specific local effects and difficult to know how quickly things will fall apart, prudent estimates see business as usual leading to massive shocks to critical global infrastructure and widespread calamity. If you smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, never exercise, and eat only French fries and ice cream, you don’t need to know the exact hour you’re going to have a heart attack to know that you’re dramatically shortening your life span.

What do you mean by “learning to die”? And what’s the “Anthropocene”?

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Rad Women Read Rad American Women A-Z: Shanthi Sekaran Reads “B Is for Billie Jean King”

Author Shanthi Sekharan came to the publishing offices to read about Billie Jean King, one of the best tennis players of all time with 39 Grand Slam titles. In this reading, however, Shanthi emphasizes that Billie Jean King was so much more than her athletic prowess: King stood up for LGBTQ and women’s rights throughout her life, even when it could have hurt her career as a professional athlete.

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 Stahl and published by City Lights/Sister Spit.

Shanthi Sekaran was born and raised in California, and now splits her time between Berkeley and London. A graduate of UC Berkeley and the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, she was first published in Best New American Voices 2004 (Harcourt). Her first novel, The Prayer Room, was released in July 2009 by MacAdam/Cage, and will soon be available in India from Harper Collins. Her forthcoming book is Lucky Boy from Penguin.

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“Commotion, Make Noise”: Getting a Psychic Reading from Karen Finley

My morning at City Lights started as usual: I answered my emails, checked the papers in my box, and looked over the list of tasks I was supposed to finish by the end of the day. Halfway through my regular routine, someone in the office announced, “Oh, by the way, Karen Finley will be downstairs at noon, if you want her to read your psychic energy and put it on a bookmark.”

After two years of being an intern here, this didn’t surprise me. It was just another day at City Lights.

For those of you who are less in the know about Karen Finley–as, I have to admit, I was a few months ago–she’s an acclaimed performance artist who shocked the art world during the ‘80s and ’90s, performing pieces that often dealt with graphic depictions of sexuality, abuse, and violence. She was one of the NEA Four, performance artists who were granted money from the NEA that was later revoked due to the perceived “obscene” subject matter of their projects. She’s written eight books, recorded multiple albums, and had an exhibit at the New Museum in New York called Sext Me if You Can, where spectators were asked to privately sext Finley so that she could turn the pictures into public art. When you think of famous, innovative pieces of performance art, Karen Finley was probably part of it or influenced the works in some way.

City Lights just published an expanded edition of one of her most famous books, Shock Treatment, to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The book is a collection of poetic monologues that are full of rage and criticism about the AIDS era during the late 80’s/early ’90s.

We were lucky enough to have her in the bookstore to do some psychic readings and sign books not too long ago, which is part of a larger ongoing project for Finley. In a previous event earlier this year at the 2015 Book Expo America in New York City, she sat down to paint watercolors that represented the aura of the people who approached her table.

Karen Finley Psychic 1 Karen Finley Psychic 2This is how it works: Karen Finley can feel your psychic energy and intuit your past, present and future from the aura you exude. When the person sits down, Finley will begin to paint without a word, then write phrases that come to mind after she finishes. Afterwards, she’ll explain how these abstract concepts relate to your life.

Karen FInley Psychic 3When someone at City Lights explained this all to me, I was pretty skeptical. Psychic energy? Auras? I didn’t really believe Karen Finley could figure out my “essence” from a 15-minute sit down. When Karen came up to the offices before the event, my skepticism deepened. Karen seemed, well, normal and pretty down to earth. I couldn’t imagine her reading “my fortune.”

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Rad Women Read Rad American Women A-Z: Jennifer Maerz Reads “C Is for Carol Burnett”

As 7×7 reported last year: we want to be friends with Jennifer Maerz. The former editor-in-chief of The Bold Italic and freelance writer came to our offices to read about Carol Burnett, who helped pave the way for all the funny, smart women in Hollywood we know and love today.

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 Stahl and published by City Lights/Sister Spit.

Jennifer Maerz is a San Francisco writer and digital media strategy consultant. She’s the former Editor-in-Chief of The Bold Italic, and her arts and culture writing has appeared in Refinery29, the San Francisco Chronicle,, KQED, and Vice. She lives a short bike ride from the beach and believes San Francisco has the best sand dunes in the world.

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City Lights Bookstore Bestsellers for October 2015



1. City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology: 60th Anniversary Edition, edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (City Lights)


2. Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Liveright)

writing across

3. Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl (City Lights/Sister Spit)

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5 Questions with Edward Hirsch, Author of Gabriel: A Poem

gabrielToday we are honored to welcome the poet Edward Hirsch to City Lights Bookstore. He’ll be reading from his new work, Gabriel: A Poem, published by Knopf.

Event: Wednesday, November 4, 7:00PM at City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.

About the Book: Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award. Never has there been a book of poems quite like Gabriel, in which a short life, a bewildering death, and the unanswerable sorrow of a father come together in such a sustained elegy. This unabashed sequence speaks directly from Hirsch’s heart to our own, without sentimentality. From its opening lines—”The funeral director opened the coffin / And there he was alone / From the waist up”—Hirsch’s account is poignantly direct and open to the strange vicissitudes and tricks of grief. In propulsive three-line stanzas, he tells the story of how a once unstoppable child, who suffered from various developmental disorders, turned into an irreverent young adult, funny, rebellious, impulsive. Hirsch mixes his tale of Gabriel with the stories of other poets through the centuries who have also lost children, and expresses his feelings through theirs. His landmark poem enters the broad stream of human grief and raises in us the strange hope, even consolation, that we find in the writer’s act of witnessing and transformation. It will be read and reread.

“Part tribute; part existential howl; part intellectual investigation of our most primal emotions; part novella-like, buoyant, unsentimental romp through the life of Hirsch’s ‘wild spirit, beloved son…’”–The New York Times Book Review

About the Author: Edward Hirsch is the acclaimed author of numerous books of poetry including: For the Sleepwalkers, Wild Gratitude, The Night Parade, Earthly Measures, On Love, Lay Back the Darkness, Special Orders, and The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems. He is also the author of five prose books, including A Poet’s Glossary, Poet’s Choice, How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, Theodore Roethke’s Selected Poems, The Making Of A Sonnet: A Norton Anthology. He also edits the series “The Writer’s World” for Trinity University Press. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a Pablo Neruda Presidential Medal of Honor, the Prix de Rome, and an Academy of Arts and Letters Award. In 2008, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He is currently president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

edward hirsch

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Edward Hirsh: I remember coming to City Lights on my first visit to California in the late Sixties. I was in college, writing my fledgling poems, and I lingered for hours in the poetry section, which overwhelmed me. I found some writers in translation I’d never heard of, and walked out with an armload of poets from Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, who later had a terrific influence on me. It made me think of City Lights not as a Beat haven, but as an outpost of Eastern European intellectuals.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

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Rad Women Read Rad American Women A-Z: MariNaomi Reads “M Is for Maya Lin”

This week we got to hang out with the very cool, very funny artist and graphic novelist MariNaomi at City Lights for our Rad Women Read from Rad American Women A-Z series. Watch to find out how Maya Lin came to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a college student, as well as the similarities between Lin’s artistic process and MariNaomi’s.

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 Stahl and published by City Lights/Sister Spit.

MariNaomi is the author and illustrator of the SPACE Prize-winning graphic memoir Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial, 2011), the Eisner-nominated Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories (2D Cloud/Uncivilized Books, 2014), the upcoming Turning Japanese (2D Cloud, 2016), and her self-published Estrus Comics (1998 to 2009). Her work has appeared in over sixty print anthologies, and has been featured on numerous websites, such as The Rumpus, The Weeklings, Los Angeles Review of Books, Midnight Breakfast, Truth-out, XOJane, BuzzFeed and more. Mari’s work on The Rumpus won a SPACE Prize and an honorable mention in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics 2013.

MariNaomi’s artwork has been featured in such venues as the De Young Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco’s Asian American Museum and the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. In 2011, Mari toured with the literary roadshow known as Sister Spit, which is now an imprint of City Lights Publishers. She is also the creator and curator of the Cartoonists of Color Database and the LGBTQ Cartoonists Database.

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5 Questions with Hal Niedzviecki, Author of Trees on Mars

trees on marsWe start another big week of author events at City Lights Bookstore this fall with our friend Hal Niedzviecki, whose new book is Trees On Mars: Our Obsession with the Future, published by Seven Stories Press.

Event: Tuesday, November 3, 7:00PM at City Lights Bookstore. 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco.

About the Book: What is it like to live in a society utterly focused on what is going to happen next? In Trees on Mars: Our Obsession with the Future, cultural critic and indie entrepreneur Hal Niedzviecki asks how and when we started believing we could and should “create the future,” arguing that the short-term purview of innovation is not always as effective as we think it is. On the contrary, it’s often damaging. “Innovation” may be the most overused and fetishized term of the past five years. Tech bloggers livecast the launch of the latest Kindle, crowds form serpentine lines outside of Apple stores on the eve of new iPhone releases, stock markets surge and recede on rumors of what Intel and Microsoft have in the pipeline, and, on college campuses across the country, universities offer master’s degrees in Future Studies. . . .

Trees on Mars will introduce readers to futurist consultants who preach the need for constant change, to a fourth-generation New Jersey dairy farmer grappling with the increasing complexities of a once-bucolic industry, to a group of Stanford undergraduates pulling all-nighters in an effort to produce the next must-have app, to a Michigan teacher struggling to integrate mandatory iPad use into her third-grade curriculum, and to a recently laid off auto worker being sent to state-sponsored retraining. Through these characters and others, Niedzviecki shows how future-obsession and future-anxiety are affecting real people.

“Hal Niedzviecki’s urgent, eye-opening Trees on Mars exposes our mania for the future as exactly what it is: an ideology as narrow and dangerous as any we’ve known from history. Read this book and be the first on your block to recall the rebel thrill of living in the present.”—J.B. MacKinnon, author of The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be

About Hal Niedzviecki: Hal Niedzviecki is a writer, speaker and teacher. His work is known for challenging preconceptions and confronting readers with the offenses of everyday life. He writes and thinks about the effects of mass media, pop culture and consumer technology on individual life and society. He is the author of books of nonfiction and fiction, most recently the collection of short stories Look Down, This is Where it Must Have Happened (City Lights Books) and the nonfiction books Trees On Mars: Our Obsession with the Future (Seven Stories Press) and The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors (City Lights Books). The Peep Diaries was made into a television documentary entitled Peep Culture produced for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Niedzviecki is the current fiction editor and the founder of Broken Pencil, the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts.  He edited the magazine from 1995 to 2002. Hal’s writing has appeared in newspapers, periodicals and journals across the world including The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Playboy, the Utne Reader, The Globe and Mail, The National Post,  The Walrus and Geist. Niedzviecki is committed to exploring the human condition through provocative fiction and non-fiction that charts the media saturated terrain of ever shifting multiple identities at the heart of our fragmenting age.

hal nied

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Hal Niedzviecki: The first time I was at City Lights I was browsing when out of nowhere this giant tour bus pulled up. All of these German tourists piled out of the bus chanting FER-LIN-GHETTI, FER-LIN-GHETTI, FER-LIN-GHETTI. Only at City Lights.

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