JOIN US for the relaunch of our monthly literary salon series featuring David Rocklin (The Night Language), Gayle Brandeis (The Art of Misdiagnosis) and Rabbi Steve Leder (More Beautiful Than Before) in reading and conversation with Angels Flight • literary west Fiction Editor and author Shilpa Agarwal (Haunting Bombay).
The Night Language tells the story of a young man, Prince Alamayou of Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia), who is taken from his home and the Abyssinian war to the court of Queen Victoria―a world he knows nothing about. With him is Philip Layard, a young apprentice to one of the doctors on the battlefield in Abyssinia, who becomes Alamayou’s guardian, only friend, and eventually, the love of his life. When Parliament accuses Alamayou of murder, the young prince is sentenced to return to Abyssinia where he will be executed. Alamayou’s only hope comes from the very thing that cannot be uttered: the unexpected and forbidden love between him and Philip. Inspired by true events, The Night Language is a unique novel of love, loss, and the consequences of repressive societies.
Gayle Brandeis’s mother disappeared just after Gayle gave birth to her youngest child. Several days later, her body was found: she had hanged herself in the utility closet of a Pasadena parking garage. In The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide, her searing, formally inventive memoir, Gayle describes the dissonance between being a new mother, a sweet-smelling infant at her chest, and a grieving daughter trying to piece together what happened, who her mother was, and all she had and hadn’t understood about her. Around the time of her suicide, Gayle’s mother had been working on a documentary about the rare illnesses she thought ravaged her family: porphyria and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. In The Art of Misdiagnosis, taking its title from her mother’s documentary, Gayle braids together her own narration of the charged weeks surrounding her mother’s suicide, transcripts of her mother’s documentary, research into delusional and factitious disorders, and Gayle’s own experience with misdiagnosis and illness (both fabricated and real). Slowly and expertly, The Art of Misdiagnosis peels back the complicated layers of deception and complicity, of physical and mental illness in Gayle’s family, to show how she and her mother had misdiagnosed one another. Gayle’s memoir is both a compelling search into the mystery of one’s own family and a life-affirming story of the relief discovered through breaking familial and personal silences. Written by a gifted stylist, The Art of Misdiagnosis delves into the tangled mysteries of disease, mental illness, and suicide and comes out the other side with grace.
In the spirit of such classics as When Bad Things Happen to Good People, A Grief Observed, and When Things Fall Apart, More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us examines the many ways we can transform physical, psychological, or emotional pain into a more beautiful and meaningful life. As the leader of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, one of America’s largest and most important congregations, located in the heart of Los Angeles, Rabbi Steve Leder has witnessed a lot of pain: “It’s my phone that rings when people’s bodies or lives fall apart,” he writes. “The couch in my office is often drenched with tears.” After 27 years of listening, comforting, and holding so many who suffered, he thought he understood pain and its challenges—but when it struck hard in his own life and brought him to his knees, a new understanding unfolded before him as he felt pain’s profound effects on his body, spirit, and soul. In this elegantly concise, beautifully written, and deeply inspiring book, Rabbi Leder guides us through pain’s stages of surviving, healing, and growing to help us all find meaning in our suffering. Drawing on his experience as a spiritual leader, the wisdom of ancient traditions, modern science, and stories from his own life and others’, he shows us that when we must endure, we can, and that there is a path for each of us that leads from pain to wisdom. “Pain cracks us open,” he writes. “It breaks us. But in the breaking, there is a new kind of wholeness.” This powerful book will inspire in us all a life worthy of our suffering; a life gentler, wiser, and more beautiful than before.
After her mother’s death crossing the border from Pakistan to India during Partition, baby Pinky was taken in by her grandmother, Maji, the matriarch of the powerful Mittal family. Now 13 years old, Pinky lives with her grandmother and her uncle’s family in a bungalow on the Malabar Heights in Bombay. While she has never really been accepted by her uncle’s family, she has always had Maji’s love. One day, as monsoons engulf the city, Pinky opens a mysteriously bolted door, unleashing the ghosts of an infant who drowned shortly before Pinky’s arrival and of the nursemaid who cared for the child. In Shilpa Agarwal’s acclaimed debut novel, Haunting Bombay, three generations of the Mittal family must struggle to come to terms with their secrets amidst hidden shame, forbidden love, and a call for absolute sacrifice.
David Rocklin is the author of The Luminist and the founder/curator of Roar Shack, a monthly reading series in Los Angeles. He was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in L.A. with his wife, daughters and a 150-pound Great Dane who seriously needs to stay on his own bed. He’s currently at work on his next novel, The Electric Love Song of Fleischl Berger.
Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write and the novels The Book of Dead Birds, which won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement (judged by Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, and contest founder Barbara Kingsolver), Self Storage, Delta Girls and My Life with the Lincolns, which received a Silver Nautilus Book Award and was chosen as a Read on Wisconsin pick, as well as a collection of poetry, The Selfless Bliss of the Body. Her essays, poems and short fiction have been widely published and have received numerous honors, including a Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Award, the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award, and a Notable mention in The Best American Essays 2016. She teaches in the low residency MFA programs at Antioch University, Los Angeles and Sierra Nevada College, where she was named Distinguished Visiting Professor/Writer in Residence. Gayle served as Inlandia Literary Laureate from 2012-2014 and was called a Writer Who Makes a Difference by The Writer magazine.
Rabbi Steven Z. Leder is the Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and the author of such critically acclaimed books as The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things and More Money Than God: Living a Rich Life Without Losing Your Soul. He has studied at Northwestern University; Trinity College, Oxford; and Hebrew Union College. He is a recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Louis Rappaport Award for Excellence in Commentary and the Religious Action Center’s Kovler Award, and he is a fellow in the British-American Project, a think-tank bringing together leaders from America and Great Britain. Newsweek magazine named him one of the 10 most influential rabbis in America. Rabbi Leder lives with his family in Los Angeles.
Shilpa Agarwal was born in Bombay and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Duke University and has taught at both UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Her first novel, Haunting Bombay, won a 2003 First Words Literary Prize for South Asian Writers. Shilpa is AFLW’s Fiction Editor, and is currently at work on her second novel and several screenplays. She is a founder of ArtWallah, an annual festival of South Asian Arts. She was recently featured on the United Nations’ album, Artists United Against Human Trafficking.
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Those wishing to get books signed will be asked to purchase a copy of the author’s title from The Last Bookstore. Any outside books must be checked with security upon entering the store. This policy applies to all Last Bookstore events unless otherwise noted. Save your receipt; it will be checked when you enter the signing line.