Santa Monica College (SMC) is pleased to continue its Literary Talks & Readings series featuring a noteworthy spectrum of writers reading from and discussing their works. The ongoing series opens its spring season on February 23.

All presentations in the series are free, and will be held online as live virtual events. A Zoom link to each talk will be posted with the listing on the SMC Events calendar at smc.edu/calendar. To attend the events, the Zoom software must be installed on the viewer’s computer. A free download is available at zoom.com.

The spring 2021 series lineup is:

• Thursday, February 23: Natashia Deón: “An Afternoon with Natashia Deón” at 11:15 a.m. Natashia Deón is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel Grace (Counterpoint Press) — awarded the 2017 First Novel Prize by the American Library Association’s Black Caucus (BCALA), and named a Kirkus Review Best Book of 2016 and a New York Times Top Book 2016. She is a practicing attorney, law professor, and UCLA creative writing professor, and an advocate of abolition of the prison industrial complex. She also launched Redeemed, a nonprofit hub of services and relief for those who have been convicted or incarcerated. Deón is the recipient of a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship and a number of fellowships and residencies. Her writing has appeared in American Short Fiction, Buzzfeed, LA Review of Books, The Rumpus, The Feminist Wire, Asian American Lit Review, Rattling Wall, and other places. Sponsored by the SMC Associates and SMC English Department.

• Thursday, March 11: Mario Padilla: “Blue Plums Among the Weeds: Poems from Mario Padilla – with Q&A” at 11:15 a.m. Mario René Padilla, of Italian and Mexican descent, grew up a typical “midwestern” kid, so multiculturalism and cultural identity are central themes in his work. His poetry and stories have appeared in North American Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, Alligator Juniper, The Ledge, INKWELL Magazine, Americas Review, Tulip Tree Review, Westwind, Chiron Review, and Atlanta Review, among others. He is a winner of a Fulbright Award for his dissertation, Jorge Luis Borges: Young Poet of Prose (1919-1925). Padilla’s first collection of poems, Reaching Back for the Neverendings, appeared in 1994. His second collection of poems, Blue Plums and Weeds, was a finalist for several literary prizes, and published in December 2020 by PSPoets in Los Angeles. Two of his stories — “La Château Possonniere” and “Scales” — won first prize in TulipTree Publishing’s story contest, “Stories That Need to Be Told” in 2017 and 2020. Padilla teaches English, Creative Writing, and Latin-American Literature full-time at Santa Monica College. Sponsored by the SMC Associates and SMC English Department.

• Tuesday, April 6: Donna Rifkind: “The Sun and Her Stars Reading and Discussion with Donna Rifkind. From Berlin to Santa Monica: Salka Viertel and Hollywood’s Fight Against Fascism” at 11:15 a.m. Donna Rifkind reads from The Sun and Her Stars, and discusses the little-known story of screenwriter Salka Viertel, whose salons in 1930s and 40s Hollywood created a refuge for a multitude of famous figures who had escaped the horrors of World War ll. Rifkind’s reviews appear frequently in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times Book Review. She has also been a contributor to The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The American Scholar, and many other publications. In 2006, she was a finalist for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle. Sponsored by the SMC Associates and SMC English Department.

• Tuesday, May 4: Sara Borjas: “Poems from the Cliff: A Reading by Sara Borjas” at 2 p.m. Sara Borjas, a Xicanx pocha, is a Fresno poet who now lives in Los Angeles. Her debut collection of poetry, Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff, was published by Noemi Press in 2019 as part of the Akrilica series, and received a 2020 American Book Award. Borjas was named one of Poets & Writers 2019 Debut Poets, is a 2017 CantoMundo Fellow, and is the recipient of the 2014 Blue Mesa Poetry Prize. Her work can be found in Ploughshares, The Rumpus, Poem-a-Day by The Academy of American Poets, and The Offing, among others. She is a lecturer in the Department of Creative Writing at UC Riverside. Sponsored by the SMC Associates and SMC English Department.

Now in its 20th year, the SMC Literary Series has brought to campus such acclaimed writers as Khaled Hosseini (author of the bestselling The Kite Runner), Steph Cha (writer of the popular ‘Juniper Song’ novels), Audrey Niffenegger (author of the bestselling Time Traveler’s Wife), and Edward J. Larson (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion).

Additional information is available by calling SMC’s Office of Public Programs at (310) 434-4100.

Submitted by Grace Smith