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After a pandemic hiatus, L.A. book fair LitLit will return to downtown

After a pandemic hiatus, the Little Literary Fair will be returning to downtown Los Angeles.

Also known as LitLit, the two-day event is a celebration of West Coast indie booksellers and publishers that will feature dozens of authors, artists, community organizers, local presses and literary arts organizations. The fair will be held at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, the arts complex in L.A.’s Downtown Arts District. There will also be food, music and activities for people of all ages.

The event will be free and open to the public, running from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 30 and 31, and will be presented by the Los Angeles Review of Books in partnership with Hauser & Wirth Publishers.

LitLit was just getting off the ground when COVID-19 put a stop to in-person events; 2019 was its inaugural year, and this will be its second. Its organizers feel grateful to be returning at all. Other gatherings haven’t fared so well, leaving the upstart LitLit, for now, as the L.A. indie-press standard-bearer.

Kelly Peyton, LARB’s public programs and engagement manager, said indie presses and bookstores “are essential to creating a diverse literary landscape, and we wanted to give them face time with Angelenos, especially now that a lot of fairs dedicated to print culture haven’t returned after the pandemic.”

Among those that haven’t come back are Acid-Free and the Los Angeles Art Book Fair, though the former plans to return in person February 2023. But it wasn’t just fairs that took a hit during the pandemic — indie bookstores across L.A. and beyond struggled to make ends meet. Shops like Brentwood’s Diesel and Stories in Echo Park launched GoFundMes while others, such as Family Books and BookMonster, permanently closed. Last month, a co-owner of the beloved Eso Won Books in Leimert Park announced that the hub of Black literature and culture would close by the end of the year.

LitLit, meanwhile, is benefiting from renewed attention and funding. Thanks in part to a grant from City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, this year’s fair will welcome more panels, presses and workshops. “We’re just very grateful to still have enough presses that have survived these very difficult years to present this,” added Peyton.

The second LitLit fair will be held July 30-31.

(Noé Montes/ Hauser & Wirth)

Exhibitors will include 826LA, Angel City Press, Dryland Literary Journal, Not a Cult, PEN America, Semiotext(e), Con Todo Press and Kaya Press. Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Los Angeles Public Library, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and the Village Well Books & Coffee are also slated to attend.

Michaela Unterdörfer, publisher of Hauser & Wirth Publishers, said the fair was inspired “by the vibrant publishing ecosystem” of the L.A. region.

“The West Coast has a rich and diverse history of print culture,” she said in an email. “Our vision for LitLit is to provide a platform to promote open discourse in the field and allow for a broader global audience to acknowledge the innovative work being done.”

On July 30 at 11:30 a.m., publishers and other literary leaders will discuss “resistance, resilience [and] healing” in poetry. Panelists will include Neelanjana Banerjee, managing editor at Kaya Press; Quentin Ring, executive director of Beyond Baroque; Bidhan Chandra Roy, founder of Words Uncaged; and Hiram Sims, executive director of the Community Literary Initiative. L.A. Poet Laureate Lynne Thompson will moderate.

Other activities that day will include a panel on the art of translation and a demonstration on bookbinding and letterpress printing with the International Printing Museum. On both days, attendees will also get the chance to screen-print their own totes and T-shirts at the museum’s exhibit table.

Panels on July 31 will include talks about page-to-screen adaptations, print media and music criticism as well as a demo on how to properly taste and prepare tea.

The seeds for the fair were planted in 2017 with the LARB Publishing Workshop, a summer training program for people interested in careers in publishing. Among the events was a day set aside for local independent publishers, during which fellows got to meet and interact with L.A. small presses.

“There’s such a vibrant literary scene in Los Angeles, but like so many things in the city, it’s very diffuse,” said Irene Yoon, executive director at LARB. “And just seeing the energy around what can happen when you bring people doing this really exciting work together was really inspiring, so we decided we wanted to open it up to the public,” she added. “That was the genesis of LitLit.”

The inaugural fair in 2019 drew more than 5,000 attendees across the city and beyond and welcomed local luminaries including poets Vickie Vértiz and Yesika Salgado.

After more than two years of isolation, virtual events and pandemic uncertainty, Yoon is looking forward to gathering in person again.

“There is a lot of really exciting energy and really wonderful creative production that’s happening,” she said, “and so if our exhibitors, panelists, readers and attendees can all come away with a sense of that, that would be really wonderful.”

For more information on the Little Literary Fair, visit litlit.org.


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