Loading Events

Everybody loves a debut novel. The thrill of discovering a new literary voice, the culmination of years of solitary work, and the possibility of so much more to come will always be catnip to publishers, reviewers, and of course, readers. First-time novelists often pour much of themselves and their family experiences into these works—lending a particular richness and depth. Emerging from a diverse, dynamic place like Los Angeles, debut novels invite us to step into unknown neighbors’ hearts, minds, and milieus, and offer us new ways to behold and understand our city and our world. Debut novelists Fatimah Asghar, Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi, and Ryan Lee Wong visit Zócalo and ALOUD to read from their books, and to discuss the excitement and challenges of putting out a first novel, what inspires their craft, and why Los Angeles had to be a part of it all. 

Fatimah Asghar

Fatimah Asghar, author of If They Come for Us, is a poet, filmmaker, educator, and performer. They are the writer and co-creator of Brown Girls, an Emmy-nominated web series that highlights friendships between women of color. Along with Safia Elhillo, they are the editor of Halal If You Hear Me, an anthology that celebrates Muslim writers who are also women, queer, gender-nonconforming, and/or trans. 


Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi was born and raised in Ibadan, Nigeria and graduated from Barnard and UPenn with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science. She is a Professor of Preventive and Social Medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in South Los Angeles. She has been a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Award (published in New Writing from Africa 2009, a collection of PEN/Studzinski Award finalists’ stories), and has been published in Ploughshares and The Best American Short Stories 2018. Her poetry has appeared in the Massachusetts Review, the Indiana Review and Wasafiri. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.


Ryan Lee Wong

Ryan Lee Wong, is author of the forthcoming novel Which Side Are You On. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, the son of a fifth-generation Chinese American father and a Korean immigrant mother, and lives in Brooklyn. Ryan organized the exhibitions Serve the People at Interference Archive and Roots at Chinese American Museum, both focused on the Asian American movements of the 1970s. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Rutgers-Newark and lived for two years at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple.


Eryn Brown

Eryn Brown is a Los Angeles-based editor and writer who joined Zócalo Public Square as an editor-at-large in 2017. A former staff writer at the Los Angeles Times and at Fortune Magazine, she has covered science, health, business, and a variety of other subjects, and has written stories for the New York Times, Wired, Nature, and other outlets. She graduated from Harvard College in 1993.


Photo credits: Fatimah Asghar © Cassidy Kristiansen; Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi © Femi Corazón; Ryan Lee Wong © Beowulf Sheehan; Eryn Brown headshot (c) Aaron Salcido.


Frequently Asked Questions