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A longstanding fall literary series brings talent and empowerment to students and the community, plus a local record label celebrates 10 years and more culture news.
A single local organization produces a literary journal, an introspective celebration of banned books and banned lives in recent literary and cultural history, several visiting authors and multi-disciplinary figures and a night to showcase new, emerging voices. And all in one season.
It sounds like a surprising feat, but not to Adam Deutsch, creative writing faculty at Grossmont College. The East County community college has put on twice-yearly reading series and literary arts festivals for decades now, and Deutsch also sees San Diego’s literary scene as prolific overall.
“Between open mics and curated readings and writers groups, there’s something almost every night,” said Deutsch. But the welcome consistency in Grossmont’s programming helps create a stronger, intentional community.
A Place to Write
“We’ve had a structured creative writing program for a very long time, and we actually have a certificate in creative writing,” Deutsch said. “The workshops have a lot of students that are not full-time students — they’re just looking for a place to work on their writing.”
In this spirit, this year’s Fall Readings Series kicks off with a reading from Grossmont’s literary journal, Acorn Review, at Verbatim Books. It’s the only off-campus event during this fall’s series, though all events are open to the public.
Banned Books/Banned Lives
The second event in the series falls during National Banned Books Week. Grossmont’s program aims to expand the study of banned books into a bigger understanding of oppression.
“When we’re talking about banned books, we’re talking about banned lives, and we’re talking about voices that have been historically oppressed and specifically silenced,” Deutsch said. By curating their readings, they’re making space for the voices that have been — and in many cases still are — silenced.
This year’s Banned Books/Banned Lives event focuses on the perspectives and stories of LGBTQ voices on the history of queer persecution and silencing, featuring readings, performances and panels with Grossmont faculty, students and community members. This public event takes place on Sept. 25 on campus.
The Legacy of Lester Bangs
Also an annual feature of the fall program is the Lester Bangs Memorial Reading on Oct. 3. Lester Bangs, famed Rolling Stone music critic, was a Grossmont alum. To celebrate the impact Bangs has had on journalism, arts criticism and San Diego, the college brings in writers whose work is essentially similar to Bangs’ legacy or those who are directly connected to his work. In this year’s case, it’s a bit of both. Jim DeRogatis penned Lester Bangs’ official biography, “Let it Blurt,” but has also been researching and reporting on R. Kelly’s crimes for decades and released a book this year, “Soulless: the Case Against R. Kelly.”
Simon Tam is an author and member of the band The Slants, which recently won a Supreme Court free speech case that centered on the band’s name. Another feature of the semester-long program is the multidisciplinary support from departments across campus, which is the case with Tam’s reading and discussion on Oct. 16.
“Between the music department, the English dept and I think sociology or political science, Simon Tam’s book is being read by a number of students across the campus,” Deutsch said.
Finding New Voices
It all closes out with a celebration of the creative writing program itself: the New Voices reading on Dec. 9. Throughout the semester, faculty members watch for promising writing from students, who’ll perform those works live.
Deutsch said the reading is a perfect opportunity for community members to get a taste of what is new and interesting in literature from these diverse, emerging voices.
San Diego-based Volar Records was launched from a relatable conundrum: If you can’t find someone to back your work, do it yourself. But Craig Oliver, who founded Volar 10 years ago, was specifically looking to put out a “split,” an album featuring two artists’ works separately but on the same release.
Oliver then kept the ball rolling, putting out additional albums — over 60 (and counting) releases including full lengths, EPs, compilations and tribute albums, all on vinyl (except for a few cassette releases).
“Above everything, it’s incredibly fulfilling to be involved in the creative output of a world of music artists,” said Oliver, who gives artists ultimate creative control over their work. “The label has been both a curatorial and a family-building effort.” While some Volar bands are based in San Diego, others are all over the world.
It’s been 10 years since Volar put out its first release, the Beaters’ 7-inch vinyl “Fishage,” and Oliver said that only now, the largely DIY project is finally becoming self-sufficient.
On Friday, Volar Records hosts a 10-year anniversary show at the Whistle Stop, featuring Volar bands like Susan, Therapy and Cat Scan, with a DJ set and art show by Alejandra Frank of Teros Gallery.