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Popular literary fest returns to USC on April 20-21

Festival of Books
The Festival of Books draws thousands of people to the USC University Park Campus each year. (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

As part of a multiyear partnership, USC will host the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the University Park Campus on April 20-21. The largest and one of the most cherished public literary festivals in the country, the showcase is expected to draw more than 150,000 Southern Californians.

For the third consecutive year, the campus will be filled with signings and discussions with notable authors such as Sandra Tsing Loh, civic luminaries such as California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and entrepreneurial visionaries such as Olympic ice-skating champion and chef Brian Boitano.

Several USC faculty will participate on a series of panels, including Dana Gioia, USC Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture and former head of the National Endowment for the Arts; University Professor Kevin Starr, a leading California historian; and Guggenheim Fellow and playwright Brighde Mullins, director of the Master of Professional Writing program at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“USC was founded in 1880, and the Los Angeles Times was founded the following year, so we have really grown up together in the heart of Los Angeles,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “This festival has become such a beloved annual event in our city, and its success reflects the power of our continued collaboration.”

In its 18th year, the free festival has become an institution in Los Angeles and has evolved to encompass more than 400 award-winning and celebrity authors and chefs, local musicians and political experts.

The festival, which kicks off on the morning of April 20, includes an opening extravaganza by the USC Trojan Marching Band, followed by a joint welcome from Nikias and Times CEO Eddy Hartenstein. The jazz ensemble from Foshay Learning Center, a member of the USC Family of Schools, will perform the music of Wayne Shorter and Dave Matthews, among others.

Continuing from last year, the Keck Medical Center of USC’s Health and Wellness Pavilion will again have a large presence at the festival. The pavilion will feature programs from the Health Sciences Campus, such as internal medicine, pharmacy, infection prevention, occupational therapy and physical therapy, to name a few. Each program will provide medical screenings, health education and healthy tips for children, and the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC’s mobile clinic will give oral health screenings and education.

The USC Civic Engagement booth will offer arts and crafts activities for children as well as readings and signings by celebrity authors, including Slake founder Laurie Ochoa and South Los Angeles’ homegrown author Jervey Tervalon. In addition, Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the “La Cucaracha” comic strip, will conduct a workshop on the afternoon of April 20.

“I’m going to show kids how to create their own character and how to use their imagination to tell a story,” Alcaraz said.

For the first time, USC Libraries and the USC Athletics Department will host booths at the festival. At the Athletics’ booth, attendees can pick up game information as well as giveaways, including two copies of the limited edition commemorative book Trojan Way.

Other USC booths include ones by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC Dornsife, USC Figueroa Press and KUSC.

The USC music stage, located at the center of campus, will showcase a steady stream of entertainment, such as Grammy-nominated Trio Ellas, an all-female mariachi ensemble that fuses traditional material with modern rock and other influences. Suemy Gonzalez, a senior at the USC Thornton School of Music, is on violin, with Stephanie Amaro on guitar and Nelly Cortez on guitarron.

Through the weekend, the USC School of Cinematic Arts will host a series of screenings, including a special showing of Tyler Perry Presents Peeples, written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism, starring Kerry Washington and Craig Robinson, and presented by the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Since last month, Civic Engagement has been collecting new or gently used books to be distributed to local children through the USC Family of Schools for its annual online book drive that coincides with the Festival of Books. It’s already off to a good start with 25,000 books donated by Los Angeles-based Piccolo Books. The challenge is to have the community match the donation to extend the contributions beyond classrooms and provide students with books they can call their own.

Civic Engagement and the USC Bookstores have set up a user-friendly online donation system as well as several book drop-off stations on the USC campuses and the Times building. Visit for more information.

Another activity leading up to the festival is a coloring contest for elementary school students. Judged on originality, creativity and whimsy, winners will be chosen this week and will be recognized on stage during the festival’s opening ceremonies.

In addition, a new photo contest was introduced this year. Participants will submit an original photo that captures a literary moment — favorite reading spot, recreation of a scene from a book, interpretation of a book title, improvised book cover or interpretations of literary authors, figures or characters.

More details about the festival programming, public transportation and parking services can be found at To join in the conversation, use the hashtag #bookfest.

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Popular literary fest returns to USC on April 20-21

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