Creative Commons A shelf full of books.
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The sun showed no mercy on the USC campus, but the multitudes of everyday people, authors and screaming children did not seem to mind as they weaved in and out of the white tents searching for just the right book.

Reina Esparza/Courier
People from all walks of life make their way through the campus, as the sun beams down on Saturday, April 22, 2017.

The LA Times Festival of Books has been running for 21 years, even in a city known for film and TV, the annual event thrives on the books and authors that have inspired or been a part of the entertainment industry.

The festival itself is a world of its own. Families, couples and singles alike trek across the university, with plenty of bright colored tote bags and t-shirts sprinkled throughout the crowd. The lemonade was flowing, as was the buzz of the readers from nearby stages.

One such stage was the Hoy stage, where I find young girls taking the microphone and sharing their wondrous words, poetry and prose with the large audience in front of them. They are apart of WriteGirl, a Los Angeles based nonprofit that mentors teen girls with creative writing, and have had readings at the festival for years now.

“We keep coming back and having workshops and have them share their work,” said WriteGirl curriculum director Kirsten Giles. “This festival is important to us because it gets our girls connected with the literary community here, and lets that community get to know them also.”

Turning back towards another courtyard filled with tents, a line starts to grow at one in particular. Looking closer, I realize it is the dog whisperer, Cesar Millan as he smiles and signs copies of his recent book as his adorable furry canine fans wait with their owners.

Celebrities turned authors are never in short supply here at the festival. The biggest line I spied snakes multiple times, as people anxiously wait to get their book signed by Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston. (Also known for his other iconic show, Malcolm in the Middle). I watch from a distance as he smiles and chats with one of his fans while writing on the inside cover.

Making my way through the crowd, walking fast, I stopped for a few minutes to listen to the band Korduroy, as they jam and play a smooth jazz type of tune with the saxophonist playing an uplifting solo.

Up ahead, near the steps of one of the many buildings, the first thing I saw was bright red. A group of roughly twenty women in vivid crimson dresses and white bonnets march down the steps silently through the crowd. These are none other than the handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, whose classic book is now a series on Hulu.

I finally start to look for a book, stopping at one tent with the name “Tia Chucha’s”. I pick up a book here and there, skim the descriptions and start to notice that many of the authors featured are Latino, such as Ana Castillo and Sandra Cisneros.  I learn that Tia Chucha’s is more than a bookstore, but also a “centro cultural” that offers art and music workshops to youth in their community in Sylmar. The book sales in their bookstore and here at the festival fund the workshops and classes. 

Reina Esparza/Courier
People scanning and browsing the literary merchandise in one tent on Saturday, April 22, 2017.

“These workshops strengthen our community, so everything we sell here goes back to the arts,” said Mayra Zaragoza, who works for Tia Chucha’s. “Being here at the festival provides more visibility outside of Sylmar and shows people what we’re doing”.

The Festival of Books, though the concept itself may seem straightforward, goes beyond just the pages and words or in between the lines. It’s about the people, be they the ones who read or create or the middlemen vendors who share these creations between the two.
It is a literary land, a book spine if you will, that binds and threads us all together.  

Reina Esparza

Reina Esparza is the Managing Editor at the Courier. She is majoring in Journalism, with her career goal being a writer for a magazine writing feature stories. She also loves writing outside of a journalistic sense, be it poetry or prose, and hopes to write a book (or many) someday. In whatever free time she has she can be found attempting to read (and finish) her stack of books, being amused by Twitter, and spending time with her friends.

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