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Women's Voices

September 05, 1993|Ellen Melinkoff

The women's voices in the Los Angeles Festival's literary series of the same name are the voices of "bad girls."

"That was our code word," says Akilah Oliver, who curated the series along with Gloria Alvarez and Fadwa El Guindi. The three L.A.-based writers sought out "women who are challenging, who offer a critical edge, who might even be critical of traditional feminist ideas." They wanted nothing to do with "coffee table" writers. Good girls need not apply.

Oliver, Alvarez and El Guindi came up with 31 "bad girls" who will read from their works and participate in "Dialogs and Exchanges" in 19 events at 11 sites around the city, from traditional literary hangouts (Midnight Special Bookstore and Beyond Baroque) to the Museum of Flying. Some venues can squeeze in 100 or so people; The Vision Complex, at Leimert Park, can hold 700. Events run from September 3rd through September 19th.

The series' bad girls range from Suzan-Lori Parks (a 26-year-old playwright Oliver calls the "hottest thing in New York") to doyenne/bad girl Gwendolyn Brooks. The 70ish Brooks is the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet laureate of Illinois (she succeeded Carl Sandburg in that post). The curators have balanced L.A.-based writers (poets Saundra Sharpe, Adrienne Rich, Eloise Klein-Healy) with out-of-towners (performance artists Trinh T. Minh-ha and Jessica Hagedorn, Beat poet Anne Waldman).

The writers have been grouped with an eye for provocative exchange and contrast. Shirley Kaufman (another doyenne/bad girl) is coming from Israel to read and discuss alongside Naomi Shihab Nye, a Palestinian-American poet.

Three Latina writers, who will read their works in Pasadena, bring together different audiences within the Latino community. Giocanda Belli is a Nicaraguan poet, Roberta Fernandez is a Chicana short story writer from Texas and Monica Monsour is a well-known poet in Mexico.

Women's Voices is a giant step up-and-out from a similar series at the last L.A. Festival, which, according to Oliver "had a very small literary section." She remembers 10 poetry readings, not very well attended and lost in the festival's exotic offerings. This time, the literary events, especially poetry, have "more equal status."

The series alternates readings with "Dialogs and Exchanges," where the writers will discuss the festival's weekly topic (Voices of Liberation, Reclaiming History, Cultural Survival). The stages at the Dialogs and Exchanges will include an extra chair or two so that audience members can join in the discussion as equals. There will also be questions taken from the audience.

Most of the series events are free. However, except for the bookstore events, all require reservations (800-FEST-TIX). A few of the free events are already at capacity.

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