We’re thrilled to welcome two powerhouses of Los Angeles literature onto The Air/Light Podcast. Vickie Vértiz and Alex Espinoza were each born and raised in Los Angeles, and they also make the city, its people, and its communities the center of their poetry and fiction. Vickie and Alex use their writing as both a means of artistic expression and as a process of social justice, helping to redraw the cognitive maps of Los Angeles, to orient them toward a more equal city and society. Vickie and Alex are public writers in the sense that they do so much more than write: they are also teachers, activists, and organizers.
Vickie Vértiz is a native Angelena and the oldest child of an immigrant Mexican family. Her poetry and essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, KCET Departures, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her book Palm Frond with Its Throat Cut (University of Arizona Press) won the 2018 PEN America Literary Prize in poetry. A VONA, Macondo, and CantoMundo Fellow, she teaches at UC Santa Barbara.
Alex Espinoza earned his MFA from UC Irvine and is the author of the novels Still Water Saints (Random House) and The Five Acts of Diego León (Random House). His most recent book is Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime (Unnamed Press). He’s written for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, and NPR’s All Things Considered. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacDowell Colony, as well as an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, he is the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at UC Riverside.
In our conversation, we discuss the history and present of literature in Southern California, how art intersects with community, and more. And keep listening after the closing theme music to hear Vickie and Alex reading from new work.
We hope you enjoy the episode!