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New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow grew up in an out-of-time African-American Louisiana town where slavery’s legacy felt astonishingly close, reverberating in the elders’ stories and the near-constant wash of violence. Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward writes powerfully about the poverty of her Mississippi childhood and the pressures it brought on men and women, revealing disadvantages that bred a certain kind of tragedy. In this conversation, two accomplished storytellers take the stage to discuss their memoirs that pay homage to the troubled past of the South with emotional honesty and moments of stark poetry.

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Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University. She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, the latter of which won the 2011 National Book Award and was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her memoir, Men We Reaped, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi, and lives there now.


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Charles M. Blow

Charles M. Blow has been the visual Op-Ed columnist at the New York Times since 2008, is a CNN commentator, and has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and HBO. Prior to working at The Times, he was Art Director of National Geographic Magazine, and a graphic artist at The Detroit News. Blow lives in Brooklyn with his three children.


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Robin Coste Lewis

Robin Coste Lewis is a Provost’s Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies at USC. A Cave Canem fellow, she received her MFA from NYU, and an MTS in Sanskrit from Harvard’s Divinity School. A finalist for the International War Poetry Prize, the National Rita Dove Prize, and the Discovery Prize, her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. She has taught at Wheaton College, Hunter College, Hampshire College and the NYU/MFA in Paris. Born in Compton, her family is from New Orleans. Her book of poems, Voyage of the Sable Venus, is forthcoming from Knopf.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the reservation policy for ALOUD?

    As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at 7 PM.

  • Why do programs fill so quickly?

    ALOUD provides a unique experience for the public to engage with scholars, authors, and artists in the intimate 235-seat Mark Taper Auditorium. Library Foundation Members have the benefit of reserving for programs in advance of the public. Consider joining as a Member to receive this benefit, and check the website on an on-going basis for program availability. Be sure to subscribe to our email alerts, and visit our Media Archive for podcasts and other items from our recent programs.

  • Where does ALOUD take place?

    Unless otherwise noted, ALOUD programs are held at the downtown Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium.

  • Where should I park for ALOUD programs?

    We recommend taking public transportation. Parking for the Central Library is at the Westlawn Garage at 524 S. Flower Street. For more information, visit the Library’s website.

  • Should I purchase the author’s book in advance?

    We encourage you to purchase books from the Library Store. All proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Public Library. Books are made available for purchase when you reserve for a program online, and are also on sale at programs. In order to participate in the book signing, you must purchase at least one book from The Library Store. Members receive discounts on purchases.


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