DCA Literary Programs

Robin Coste Lewis National Book Award

Los Angeles Poet Laureate Robin Coste Lewis

Robin Coste Lewis, winner of the National Book Award, is the new Poet Laureate of the City of Los Angeles.

As an official ambassador of L.A.’s arts community, Lewis will promote and celebrate the written word, and represent the city’s rich literary scene.

“Robin is a fearless writer whose lyricism reclaims history for people who feel forgotten, and gives voice to those who feel silenced,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Los Angeles is fortunate to be represented by such a powerful artist. She will push boundaries and challenge us to rethink our perspectives.”

The Los Angeles Poet Laureate Program is a collaboration between the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL). Its aim is to enhance the presence and appreciation of poetry and the literary arts in Los Angeles, and to engage Angelenos who have limited exposure to poetry and other forms of expressive writing.

“The role of the L.A. Poet Laureate is two-fold: first, to celebrate and curate an ever-widening cross-city appreciation for poetry of all kinds, from all cultures and nations; second, to celebrate the rich and diverse history of Los Angeles poetry,” said Lewis. “Poetry is high art, sure, but it is also an exceedingly accessible cultural game that anyone can play. From the elderly to prisoners, I try at all times to remind my students that the only difference between a great poet and a lousy one is practice. Poetry isn’t rocket science. It’s merely love.”

A native of Compton, Lewis is the author of the award-winning collection Voyage of the Sable Venus. She is a writer-in-residence and provost’s fellow at the University of Southern California. A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the California Book Award, she has published poems in The New Yorker, The Best American Poetry, Lambda Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond.




The Big Read Program in Los Angeles

A catalyst for community participation, civic engagement, and a celebration of Los Angeles culture through literature and art.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to restore reading to the center of American popular culture. The NEA presents the Big Read in partnership Arts Midwest.

The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the NEA hope to unite communities through literature and inter-cultural connections, as well as to inspire teens to become life-long readers.  

DCA will mark its 11th year of programming the NEA Big Read with the 2018-2019 selection of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, by Dinaw Mengestu, who was recently named among one of the most gifted and important Black writers of our time.  

The novel tells the fictional account of an Ethiopian immigrant living in Washington, D.C.; whose story could relate to any person who has moved from one place to another in any city. The protagonist deals with the trauma of leaving his homeland, the struggle to find success and love in America, and the adjustment to gentrification in the neighborhood that has been his new home. The NEA Big Read Program in LA will address these timely and resonant themes through its engagement with this award-winning literary work.  Topics to be explored include displacement, identity, cultural convergence, memory, and the American Dream.

The specific issue of Los Angeles’ transformation will be examined through a creative online project that celebrates how different  cultures have come together throughout the city to create, inform, or redefine our city’s history and diversity through place, story, and food.  

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears offers a unique educational platform to inspire community discussions about the transformation that is occurring in Los Angeles due to urban redevelopment, and to foster creative participation through cultural and recreational events. Reading groups run from October 2018 through April 2019 and public activities and events are hosted from February through April, 2019.  All events are free and open to the public, and offerings include an on-line book community and mapping project; artwalks; walking tours; book fairs and festivals; lectures; panel discussions; film screenings; exhibitions; culinary presentations; music and performances; animation courses; live readings; writing workshops; museum tours; and book groups, etc.

Community and cultural partners of the Big Read Program in Los Angeles include Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center; Los Angeles Public Library; City of Los Angeles’ African American Heritage Month; the Anne Douglas Center for Women – LA Mission; the Culinary Historians of Southern California; SONY Pictures; the Los Angeles Unified School District; CalArts Community Arts Partnership; Grand Park LA; the City’s art centers (Barnsdall Park, Canoga Park Youth Arts Center, Lincoln Heights Youth Arts Center, Watts Towers); Libros Schmibros Lending Library; Los Angeles Times Festival of Books; and many more.


The Big Read LA Events Online The Big Read LA Narrative and Full Events List


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