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Post By Suren Najaryan

The Handmaid’s Tale is an original Hulu series based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name. The show is speculative fiction that explores themes of female autonomy and systematic misogyny. Set in the newly formed country of Gilead, formerly America, the totalitarian government struggles with falling birth rates due to widespread infertility. Established following a coup by Christian fundamentalists, Gilead seeks to exert control over American women, specifically fertile women, in order to restore Christian doctrine to what they consider a godless country. In this new order, several classes are established. The men who had instrumental roles in the founding of Gilead are given high status, the title of commander. Commanders, as elite, are allotted wives, many of whom are presumed to be infertile. Each is additionally assigned a handmaid, a fertile woman who serves as a vessel for child bearing. The show follows Offred, as in “Of Fred.” Her name, derived from her commander, signifies her status as his property.

Handmaids wear a conservative uniform to deter individuality and sexual digression. Their caps jut out on the sides to impair peripheral vision. Courtesy of The New Yorker

The commodification of women as baby incubators, against their own wills, is not such a far-fetched idea, though it may seem extreme to many of us. The reality is, as Margaret Atwood put it, The Handmaid’s Tale is not a work of science fiction, but that of speculative fiction: fiction, because the events in the book have not happened, and speculative, because in some ways, they have. The distinction as speculative rather than science fiction is an important one to make, particularly because the world described in the book is not entirely a product of Margaret Atwood’s imagination, but, rather, an amalgamation of the many occasions of female subjugation throughout history. Some sects of Mormonism and Old Testament Christianity continue similar practices to this day. The Order, for example, a polygamist Mormon cult that operates in Salt Lake City, Utah, dictates that male leaders have multiple wives while young men without position are powerless to secure even one. Paul Kingston, the current leader, is noted to sleep with a different wife every night, “in accordance to their ovulation cycles.” Furthermore, the Order has strict rules in place for the average member but leaders are often excused from such formalities. Another Christian Fundamentalist society located throughout the U.S., Quiverfull, likewise believes children are a blessing and that “birth control is evil.” Atwood’s world is a direct reflection of such communities: the commanders live opulent lives, with both wives and handmaids (assets, really), but the average man is to serve as a soldier. If he’s lucky, he may find an econowife – a woman of low status who serves as wife and handmaid simultaneously. And similar to the Order, the commander is expected to only copulate with a handmaid once a month in the fertility ritual, when she is ovulating. But most importantly, what these groups share is the common belief that the sole purpose of woman is to birth and serve her husband, a decree from God.

Offred lying on her back during the fertility ritual. The commander’s wife holds her wrists as a sign of unity. Courtesy of Inverse

Not only is there a historical basis for the reality of the handmaids, but there is a continuing push for a return to the fundamental ways of the Bible. Now, more than ever, The Handmaid’s Tale seems relevant –especially in America, where Donald Trump was recently elected to the highest office in the country. Trump began his presidency by selecting an overwhelmingly anti-abortion cabinet, threatening to defund Planned Parenthood for providing abortions, cutting the Affordable Care Act, and rescinding federal protections for the LGBT community in the workplace and, more expressly, transgender persons. These changes come at a pivotal moment in the U.S.: racial tensions are high and white, and Christian America is scrambling for control. And without a doubt, the persecution of women who receive abortions and the cuts to healthcare and LGBT protections disproportionally affect women and people of color. In the show, the government began its reign by targeting women’s rights and queer people, or gender traitors – their classification in Gilead. Those found to be gender traitors or abortion providers were hanged in public as a warning. Most notably though, the government froze the assets of women, in the single, swift click of a button. The digitization of money, through credit and banking, allowed the government to effectively disable all of its female population within mere hours of taking control. It’s a frightening thought. And our reality.

Pictured above is the “Wall”. Hangings are public to deter deviation. Courtesy of Telefilmaddicted

While in the U.S. women are not so blatantly commodified and left without rights, the attitudes and the means for creating Gilead are there. And the sobering truth is that Trump only brought out these subsurface convictions; he didn’t create them. It is exactly these parallels that make the world presented in The Handmaid’s Tale so compelling. As with all great dystopian fiction, comes the realization that this dystopia is not too far from our own world.

Ready to procrastinate studying for finals? Take a tour of the finest record stores L.A. has to offer.

  1. Amoeba

No list of record stores in the Los Angeles area is complete without mention of Amoeba, the world’s largest independent record store and one of the city’s hallmark establishments located in the center of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. Not only is Amoeba famous for its vast variety of new and used records, CDs, cassettes, film, books, and artwork, but it also frequently hosts live shows and other fun events.

6400 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028


Courtesy of the 
L.A. Times

Freakbeat Records

If you ever find yourself roaming Ventura Boulevard and are in the mood to increase your vinyl collection, stop by Freakbeat Records and check out their selections of rare, unique records both used and new. They mainly feature rock, jazz, and soul artists, and also carry a lot of small-label releases, too. Be sure to also check out their sale section, as they always have great vintage finds that will only set you back a few bucks.

13616 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Courtesy of Record Shops

Gimme Gimme Records

Located in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Highland Park, Gimme Gimme Records houses a sizable inventory of some classic favorites in the genres of rock, punk, psychedelic, hip-hop, jazz, and blues in a beautiful, brick-walled setting. I’m a huge fan of their classic rock collection, and have purchased some of my favorite vinyls here!

5810 North Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Courtesy of Gimme Gimme Records

Touch Vinyl

This little record shop is one of Sawtellle’s gems, featuring a highly curated selection of contemporary releases as well as all-time favorites. If you’re into more recent work, especially indie, experimental, alternative, and hip-hop, be sure to stop by Touch Vinyl  the next time you’re in the area. Also, they frequently host album listening parties, live bands, and DJs, so grab a few friends and make a night out of your next vinyl-hunting mission!

1646 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Courtesy of The LA Travel Guide

Vacation Vinyl

If your musical taste ventures into heavier genres, you know the struggle of finding independent record stores that carry much of what you’re into. Luckily, for that, we have Vacation Vinyl, which houses a large number of punk, hardcore, and metal rarities. Located in another one of my favorite neighborhoods in the heart of Silver Lake, Vacation Vinyl has a really cool vibe, paired with a continuous stream of even cooler music.

3815 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Courtesy of Locale Magazine

One of the best parts about summer is catching up on your summer reading list (I’m not pretending I’m not an English major, here). It’s also perfect for hitting up the events literary Los Angeles has to offer if you’re stuck in Westwood for summer school or a Los Angeles local.
Here’s a few we’re excited for!

Courtesy of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance

David Sedaris will return to Royce Hall for his now annual “An Evening with David Sedaris.” I’ve attended this event twice and could not recommend a student ticket to any show more. Sedaris is always a balancing act between laughing out loud and shrinking in discomfort, in the best way possible.
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Courtesy of Mike Ditz

It’s time for Griffith Park’s annual Shakespeare Festival. Check out the full schedule here to decide between this year’s choices: Measure for Measure and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
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The first annual Southern California Poetry Festival was only last year, but it’s back for June 2017. Partnered with Poetry Foundation, each festival will have a new theme and location. This year’s announcements are coming soon, so make sure to check back in!
This is a peak at last year’s Saturday schedule:

Courtesy of Southern California Poetry Festival

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Courtesy of ALOUD

ALOUD puts out a consistently good lineup of authors and speakers normally at their home base in Los Angeles’ downtown public library branch. But this one is special: ALOUD is collaborating with the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center to bring the incredible Sherman Alexie to the Aratani Japan America Theater for a reading and performance.

On Wednesday, May 10th, Westwind hosted it’s annual spring reading in Powell Library Rotunda featuring Aimee Bender, Libby Flores, and Jessica Vidal.

Aimee Bender was our featured reader. She is the author of five books—her most recent novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, was a New York Times bestseller. Currently, Bender teaches creative writing at USC.

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Libby Flores is a 2008 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow and her short fiction has been featured in multiple publications, including Post Road Magazine, Paper Darts, and the LA Review of Books (LARB). You can find more work at her website.

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Jessica Vidal, is finishing up her fourth-year as an English major with a Creative Writing concentration at UCLA. Her honors thesis was a novella of vignettes titled The Migratory Patterns of Marisol. They follow the various relationships of a young Mexican-American woman.

 

Courtesy of Yad Vashem Museum

To write with the purpose of creating something artful that communicates the human experience is in and of itself a daunting and challenging task. To write with the purpose of representing, documenting, and relating traumatic historical events is that much more difficult — especially if one wants to maintain accuracy and not run the risk of sensationalizing, trivializing, or further dividing the involved groups. However, these discussions and considerations are certainly warranted, if not mandatory, as those of us who want to write about and preserve the past must do so in a way that can harness growth and benefit the communities involved, making sure to pave the path for a collective memory which can lead to progressive healing and not regressive hate and division.

Although I’ve always been heavily concerned with the “collective” human past and my own family history, considerations of how I could potentially represent such pasts did not cross my mind until I participated in a few poetry workshops while simultaneously undertaking the academic study of histories that encapsulated the course of my own ancestors. Specifically, I took courses in which I studied the Armenian Genocide and Stalinist repression in the Soviet Union, events which, in the past century, have caused significant impact on families such as my own. As a great-grandchild of genocide survivors and as the descendant of individuals that were forced to immigrate throughout the Middle East and the Soviet Union, I have grown up with stories upon stories that not only illustrate atrocious trauma, but also depict the human capacity to adapt, survive, and persevere. Thus, just as many others who have grown up with the collective memory of such historical traumas as myself, including histories of war, genocide, exile, slavery, and oppression, I have a desire, if not an inner duty, to somehow preserve and present the lives of my ancestors through art.

Photo credit Sergei Loznitsa

However, there are several important aspects of writing about such historical trauma that must be considered when attempting to undertake such an ambitious task. Throughout my discussions with writing instructors, professors, peers, and historians, I’ve received varied advice. Whereas some promote the idea that caution shouldn’t be taken when writing about such things, because art is art and thus any discussion of such memory is valid, others are more hesitant. One concern is sensationalizing the trauma, which can occur through the over-usage of melodramatic words and horrific imagery intended to create shock-value to the point where it almost becomes disrespectful and distracting from the memory at hand. Another concern is trivializing the trauma by grossly reducing it to mere metaphor or allegory in a way that serves to promote the aims of the writer, exploiting the horrors of the past and demoting the histories of our ancestors to a gimmick.

Lastly, and this is a huge concern for me personally, is further dividing already tense ethnic groups, especially regarding traumas which involve perpetrators and victims. For example, although the Armenian Genocide was orchestrated by nationalist Young Turks and victimized over a million innocent Armenian civilians, I’m still wary to craft the image of the “barbaric” Turk or the “evil” gendarme, as such language only serves to promote more hatred and division and does not adequately address the traumas of the past in a fruitful manner. Yes, the facts must be accurately presented, and yes, the injustices of the past must be mourned, but in my opinion, language that serves to further divide neighboring ethnic groups and promotes stereotypes serves no one, especially in literature that is self-aware of the problems stemming from intolerance.

Of course, these concerns rely heavily on personal preference, and many may not find fault with writers or artists who do engage in such sensationalist, trivializing, or divisive manners. For example, poet and writer Peter Balakian is considered to be one of the leading artists who has depicted the trauma of the Armenian Genocide in his works, having won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry (2016) and having received much praise for his Black Dog of Fate and The Burning Tigris. However, although many acclaim Balakian for his literary prowess, others would argue that he sensationalizes the past sufferings of genocide victims. Ultimately, the receptiveness of art is always subjective, but I would suggest, in my preliminary judgements on such topics, that the best way to present historical trauma is to simply present the facts and let the chips fall where they may. For example, Sergei Loznitsa, a Ukrainian filmmaker that presents the collective memory of the Holocaust in his works (Austerlitz, The Old Jewish Cemetery), simply utilizes footage from museums and concentration camps-turned-tourist sites, without any distinct sensationalist plot or dialogue — essentially, he merely presents the facts of the trauma and the memory, and allows the art to grow from there.

Courtesy of Basic Books

Clearly, there is much to be said (and written) about writing on collective memory and historical trauma, and there is no uniform way to approach such a task. However, as always, consideration of how such art can be received, and any discourse aiming to gain a better understanding of potential approaches, is important and necessary. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll go about documenting, presenting, and crafting the trauma endured by my ancestors and the histories preserved by their memories, but by continuing to be mindful of such aforementioned concerns, and by analyzing the successes and failures of others who write about historical trauma, I hope to gain a better overall understanding.

On Thursday, Mayor Eric Garcetti named the new LA poet laureate: Robin Coste Lewis.

Photo Credit: Dunya Alwan

Born in Compton, Lewis currently serves as the Provosts’s Fellow at USC. Here’s one of Lewis’ poems, “The Mothers” from her first collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus (winner of the National Book Award in 2015).

The Mothers

We meet—sometimes—between the dry hours,
Between clefts in the involuntary plan,
Refusing to think of rent or food—how
Civic the slick to satisfied from man.

And Democratic. A Lucky Strike each, we
Sponge each other off, while what’s greyed
In and grey slinks ashamed down the drain.
No need to articulate great restraint,

No need to see each other’s mouth lip
The obvious. Giddy. Fingers garnished
With fumes of onions and garlic, I slip
Back into my shift, then watch her hands—wordless—

Reattach her stockings to the martyred
Rubber moons wavering at her garter.

post by Rachel Sweetnam

In honor of the March for Science last weekend, here’s a list of books—both fiction and nonfiction—related to the field.

1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

courtesy of Anchor Books

Though originally published in 1985, Atwood’s dystopian novel feels especially relevant thanks to an upcoming Hulu adaptation and the current administration.

2) Hidden Figures: The American Dream And The Untold Story Of The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win The Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Speaking of adaptations, the story of Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan finally received recognition in one of the best movies of the year. Read the book that preceded the film!

3) I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us And A Grander View Of Life by Ed Yong

courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Educational, poetic, and funny. Did you catch the Whitman quote in the title?

4) Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch

courtesy of CROWN

This thriller meets science fiction novel made NPR’s “Best Books of 2016.”

5) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Written in Powell Library and the namesake of Cafe 451! No Bruin can leave this one off the list.

On Wednesday, April 12th, Westwind hosted its spring poetry reading with undergraduate student Randy James, graduate student Alana de Hinojosa, and Professor Brian Kim Stefans at UCLA’s Fowler Museum.

 

UCLA undergraduate student, Randy James, reads his poem, “A Second Witness.”

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Alana de Hinojosa, a UCLA graduate student, reads her poem, “Unsettling Comforts.”

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Professor Brian Kim Stefans reads, “To a Korean American Poet,” based off of his experiences  with a Brazilian poet who accused him of not being a “real” Korean.

post by Erika Salazar

It’s the start of a new quarter which means that you are probably looking for some new book readings to attend. Don’t trip, chocolate chip! We’ve got you covered.

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1.Westwind’s Spring Poetry Reading 

If you are not fond of leaving campus and want to attend a reading before your classes get to hectic, this is the reading for you! UCLA’s own Professor Brian Kim Stefans will be reading some of his most recent poems right here on campus. Other readers include Alana de Hinojosa and Randy James, UCLA graduate and undergraduate students.

Where: Fowler Museum
When: April 12, 7:00 PM
Price: Free

2. CALARTS presents NextWords

Courtesy of Skylight Books

Interested in up-and-coming authors? CALARTS will be hosting their annual reading series featuring their graduating Creative Writing MFA students. Stop by to hear the new literary voices of Erik Alessandro Mondrian, Leann Lo, Jesse Garrett VanDenKooy, and Chelsea Dright.

Where: Skylight Books
When: April 15, 5:00 PM
Price: Free

3. L.A. Times Festival of Books

Courtesy of LA Times Festival of Books

Although this event takes place at USC, the two-day event features an impressive line-up, including Joyce Carol Oates and Roxane Gay. Interspersed with the readings are “conversations” on a variety of topics and performances.

Where: USC Campus
When: April 22-23
Price: Free Admission

4. The Last Book Review

Courtesy of The Last Bookstore

Featuring Ever Mainard as the host, this event contains more than your average book reading. Multiple comedians, authors, and musicians are present to share their experiences. Recommended by LA Weekly, Divulge Magazine, and Yay!LA Magazine, this event is sure to fill up quick so make sure to RSVP.

Where: The Last Bookstore
When: April 28, 8:00 PM
Price: Free

5. The Light We Lost Book Reading

Courtesy of Charles Grantham

Have a penchant for sappy love stories? You’ll love this reading. Jill Santopolo will be discussing her debut novel about the struggles of first loves and fate.

Where: Book Soup
When: May 10, 7:00 PM
Price: Free

post by Rachel Sweetnam

In addition to being National Celery Month and National Frozen Food Month, March is also National Reading Month.  In honor of thirty-one days celebrating reading, here are some of our favorite reading spots―UCLA and beyond:

Hammer Museum

Courtesy of Hammer Museum

Enjoy free admission and plentiful outside seating at UCLA’sHammer Museum, including Thomas Heatherwick’s “Spun” chairs.  Take your time to explore the exhibits, store, and cafe before or after a good book.

10899 Wilshire Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90024

 

Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden

Courtesy of Newsroom.ucla.edu

You have not had the college brochure experience until you have read some poetry in UCLA’s sculpture garden.  Recline on a grassy knoll or tucked-away benches, and you can people-watch, sculpture watch, and read away.

Charles E Young Dr E,
Los Angeles, CA 90095

 

Espresso Profeta

Courtesy of The Westwood Village

This little coffee shop offers indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for readers.  While there is free WiFi, there are no outlets, making for a less crowded atmosphere.  Read, caffeinate, and repeat.

1129 Glendon Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90024

 

Stories Books and Café

Courtesy of Kate Wertheimer

Where better to read than a bookstore?  Browse the new and used books and then settle into the cafe for light fare and heavy reading.  Stories Books and Cafe also holds events such as comedy shows and readings if you are looking for local literary activity.

1716 Sunset Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90026

 

Burton W. Chace Park

Courtesy of Chase Park

The Marina’s scenic park has many a bench or picnic table for the outdoorsy reader.  You can even take dollar rides on the water bus when your mind wanders to the water.

13650 Mindanao Way,
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

 

Santa Monica State Beach

Courtesy of LA California

LA has no shortage of landscapes for the beach reader and Santa Monica State Beach is one of them.  When you tire of the hubbub on the pier, you can curl up in the sand with your novel and take advantage of the sunshine.

Pacific Coast Hwy,
Santa Monica, CA 90401

 

Happy National Reading Month!

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