Seattle Arts & Lectures' literary arts series at Benaroya Hall will, for the first time, be entirely made up of female writers, from Doris Kearns Goodwin to Valeria Luiselli to Alice Walker; SAL is also launching a journalism series. And how successful was this year's Seattle Independent Bookstore Day?
Seattle Arts & Lectures announced its 31st season this week, with a lineup that’s immediately unique: Its 2018/19 Literary Arts Series at Benaroya Hall will, for the first time, be entirely made up of female writers.
In a phone call earlier this week, SAL associate director Rebecca Hoogs told me that the decision, prompted by the remarkable events of the past year, is in response to the #MeToo movement. “We feel strongly that as readers, as an organization, and as a community, that we have the power to influence and change the culture,” Hoogs said. “This gesture is our way of saying, ‘Women, we value and celebrate your voices.’ ”
It’s all part of a three-year plan, Hoogs said, designed to positively influence the broader publishing community, encouraging the work of women, people of color, and other voices that have traditionally been marginalized. “We thought this was a way we could make a strong public statement to the publishing community, that these are the voices that we want to hear in this moment.”
The four announced names in the Literary Arts series (two more speakers will be announced later) make up a diverse group. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin will kick off the series Oct. 1, just weeks after the publication of her latest nonfiction book, “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” in which she examines the leadership qualities of four presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson).
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Goodwin will be followed by novelist Barbara Kingsolver (“The Poisonwood Bible’), who will speak Oct. 25 about her forthcoming novel, “Unsheltered.” Mexican author Valeria Luiselli, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, appears April 27, 2019; her latest book is “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions.” And Tayari Jones, author of the Oprah’s Book Club pick “An American Marriage” (a terrific read) and three other novels, will speak May 14.
SAL’s Poetry Series will feature Alice Walker, Solmaz Sharif, Ilya Kaminsky, an Eco-Poetics evening and Jericho Brown (one additional poetry speaker will be named later). After Walker’s event Oct. 4 at Benaroya, the series will move to Broadway Performance Hall. The Women You Need To Know Series will feature historian Jill Lepore (whose new book is “These Truths: A History of the United States”) on Oct. 12, and two additional speakers to be announced later.
And SAL is presenting something entirely new this year, also in response to current events: a Journalism Series, created by journalists Timothy Egan and Sam Howe Verhovek. That series will bring CNN’s Van Jones, The New York Times’ Dean Baquet and The Washington Post’s Marty Baron to town (an additional speaker will be named later) to talk about, Hoogs said, “what’s happening with media and politics and journalism and the way those things have intersected in ways they previously did not intersect.” Jones’ event is Oct. 10; Baquet and Baron will speak in conversation March 5.
One other change at SAL will be great news for young people: The student rate for subscriptions and individual tickets (quite a bargain) is now available to anyone aged 25 or under, with valid ID. Full-time students of any age continue to be eligible. For more information about SAL’s new season, or to purchase subscriptions (individual tickets go on sale July 16), see lectures.org or call 206-621-2230, ext. 10.
In other book news, Seattle Independent Bookstore Day on April 28 was a smashing success; its organizers report that 500 avid readers completed the 19-bookstores-in-a-day marathon, earning the title of Bookstore Champions and a 25 percent discount at all participating stores for the year. This was a big jump from last year’s total of 320 — despite the sort of rainy weather that generally keeps book-lovers at home.
My longtime book club did the marathon together this year; there are just four of us, so we fit nicely into my Honda (I drove, Sarah navigated, and Arlene and Terri provided moral support and snack-passing from the back seat). We had a splendid time, driving a total of 110 miles to visit bookstores in Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, Edmonds, Bothell, Redmond, Kirkland, Mercer Island and many Seattle locations; thanks to good luck with ferry connections, the whole trip (with frequent pauses for book-browsing and bakeries) took about 12 hours.
Favorite moment of the day: We arrived at Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo just after they opened at 8 a.m. (special hours, I think, in honor of the day). A long line of people, clutching Independent Bookstore Day passports, snaked out of the front door and down the block; all in high spirits despite the gray weather. A man came out the bookstore door, looked up, and saw the line. “Holy s***!” he uttered, astonished at the sight; a queue at a bookstore isn’t something you encounter every day. I think we all felt lucky to be part of it, and to celebrate 19 delightful places where magic lives on shelves.