Litquake Journeys to the East Bay
It was the seventh day and the fifteenth year of the San Francisco reading series that features eight-hundred authors. Litquake, an annual nine day literary festival in October, hosted just one event in the East Bay entitled; Lit on the Lake: A Lakeside View of the World at Large. The writers covered everything from homicidal forests, wise guy memoirs, PMS advice, and frisky farm animals.
As the sky turned to dusk over the sparking Lake Merritt, Opal Palmer Adisa kicked off the reading. Adisa is a writer, cultural activist, professor and author of 14 books. She read from 4-Headed Woman, her latest poetry collection. In beautiful coupled brevity, Adisa touched on nervous break downs, PMS advice, and the hidden messages in the graffiti on women’s bathroom stalls. One of those messages was the diverse scribbling of the word pussy which made her women centered reading complete.
Novella Carpenter, the author of Farm City and professor at USF, had one of the most memorable readings. She opened with discussing the problems with goat breeding and then discussed her complicated relationship with her estranged father which more detail can be found in Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild. With great humor and interesting timing, Carpenter described her fear of procreating because her father was more akin Ted Kaczynski than she’d like to admit. As she read a scene about an ominous romp in the woods, the lights mysteriously cut out.
Poet and author, Joseph Di Prisco captivated the audience with his memoir Subway to California. Subway to California is Di Prisco’s story of growing up in an Italian family with a father who is on the run from the FBI, and the journey from Brooklyn to California. When he asked his father to fill in details of their history, his dad said, “What are ya doing? Writing a book?” Yes, indeed.
Heather Mackey, a ghostwriter for a former CIA officer and writer of the novel Dreamwood, read an excerpt from her YA novel about a twelve-year old girl who has to find her ghost hunting father through a forest with murderous vegetation. Mackey admitted that when she moved to California from the Southwest she was impressed and terrified of the redwood trees and growth.
The reading ended with Sri Lanka native, Nayomi Munaweera, who read from her award winning novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors. Island of a Thousand Mirrors is the haunting story of two women on opposite sides of the civil war in Sri Lanka. Munaweera read about the immigration of a family to America and the search for not feeling like outsiders in a place that valued sameness. The lessons they learned about how to talk (turn down the sing song quality of voice) what to shave (no hairy legs ), what to wear (handmade clothes are unacceptable go to clothing store), and what to eat (tomato and avocados, not avocados and condensed milk) was a significant mirror for the hypnotized audience.
Almost all of the featured writers mentioned that more Litquake events should take place in the East Bay, and the completely packed Gondola room at Lake Chalet offered evidence and validation of that desire from the community.
Kelechi Ubozoh holds a degree in journalism from SUNY Purchase and was the first student reporter to have an Op-Ed piece published in The New York Times.The Brooklyn native’s first spark of interest for the the mental health field ignited after spending six months interviewing the New York homeless for her undergraduate thesis. After working as a print reporter for The Amsterdam News and Hometown Media Group in New York. Kelechi is excited to combine her love of research, writing, and connecting with the community with being instrumental in ending mental health stigma in the community.
When Kelechi isn’t exploring Oakland treasures, she’s singing in karaoke bars under the alias Vegas Cherry.