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Santa Monica College Kicks Off 19th Annual Fall Literary Series

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By Jorge Casuso

September 6, 2019 -- From viewing gun rights and affirmative action through a constitutional lens to searching for an abiding image of LA, the Santa Monica College fall literary series provides plenty of food for thought.

It also offers a chance to hear two award-winning poets and a novelist read and discuss their work during the free series starting this month in Stromberg Hall (HSS 165) on the Main campus.

The series kicks off Thursday, September 19 when American legal scholar Akhil Reed Amar shows how the U.S. Constitution can be used as a handbook to consider the biggest and most bitterly contested debates of the last two decades.

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Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University and a recipient of the American Bar Foundation’s Outstanding Scholar Award, Amar is an expert on constitutional law and criminal procedure, organizers said.

His 2016 book "The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era" was named by Time magazine one of the year’s top 10 nonfiction books.

"Prioritizing sound constitutional reasoning over partisan preferences, he makes the case for diversity-based affirmative action and a right to have a gun in one's home for self-protection," according to promotion for the book.

Amar also makes the case "against spending caps on independent political advertising and bans on same-sex marriage."

The series continues in October with two California poets -- Dana Gioia and Stephen Yenser -- and local novelist Katya Apekina reading from their work.

Gioia, whose talk titled “Rebel Tongues & Poetic Blues” takes place Thursday, October 3, is a former California Poet Laureate and Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.

He has authored five collections of poems, most recently "99 Poems: New & Selected" in 2016, which won the Poets’ Prize.

His critical collection of essays "Can Poetry Matter?" was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991.

The essay the bok is named for generated international attention when it was published in The Atlantic, allowing Gioia to leave his job at General Foods Corporation where he spent 15 years writing at night.

The following year, he shared the Poets' Prize with Adrienne Rich and in 2008 was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President George W. Bush.

On Tuesday, October 15, Yenser, a protege of renown poet James Merrill and UCLA Distinguished Emeritus Research Professor, will read from his poems.

Yenser’s first volume of poetry, "The Fire in All Things," won the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award.

London Magazine said "Stone Fruit," Yenser's latest book of poems, "dazzles, delights, and enchants with its wordplay, predilection for sound effects, and linguistic brilliance."

A former Fulbright Fellow, Yenser is the co-editor of six volumes of Merrill’s work and has written three critical books, including "A Boundless Field: American Poetry at Large."

The series continues Tuesday, October 29 with Apekina reading from her debut novel "The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish" as well as from some of her short fiction.

NPR Books contributor Michael Schaub called the novel "a stunningly accomplished book" that is "brilliantly structured, with multiple characters narrating the events of the novel.

"It's an unusual technique that Apekina uses to stunning effect, creating a kind of narrative tension that propels the novel forward."

The fall series concludes Tuesday, November 19 with Lynell George, a journalism teacher at Loyola Marymount University, discussing her book "After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame."

The book explores a kaleidoscope of images of the city where George grew up and which she covered as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and L.A. Weekly.

Among its themes, the book explores the distinguishing features of LA that remain deeply rooted and how the rest of the country sees the city.

Now in its 19th year, the SMC Literary Series is sponsored by the SMC Associates and the SMC English Department. Seating is on a first-arrival basis.

For additional information, call SMC’s Office of Public Programs at (310) 434-4100.

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