Southern California’s renowned Vroman’s Bookstore is continuing the new year with more exceptional virtual and in-person programs in February.
Vroman’s in-store events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted. Offsite events are most often ticketed and will include a link to buy. Masks are strongly encouraged for those attending the events.
All in-person events will be held at Vroman’s, located at 695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, unless otherwise noted.
To register, visit vromansbookstore.com. Those with questions can email email@vromans bookstore.com.
Jessica George, in conversation with Xochitl Gonzalez, discussing “Maame”
Noon Thursday, February 2
To register: www.crowdcast.io/e/jessicageorge
Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With an overbearing mother who spends most of her time in Ghana, Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.
When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts.” She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career and throws herself into the world of internet dating. But it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils and rewards of putting her heart on the line.
Smart, funny and deeply affecting, Jessica George’s “Maame” deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy, from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love and the life-saving power of friendship. Most importantly, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures, and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.
Kwei Quartey discusses “Last Seen in Lapaz” | 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 7
When a whirlwind romance leads to a brutal murder and the disappearance of a young Nigerian woman, PI Emma Djan resorts to dangerous undercover work to track her down in Accra.
Just as things at work are slowing down for PI Emma Djan, an old friend of her boss asks for help locating his missing daughter. According to her father, Ngozi had a bright future ahead of her when she became secretive and withdrawn. Suddenly, all she wanted to do was be with her handsome new beau, Femi, instead of attending law school in the fall. So when she disappears from her parents’ house in Nigeria the middle of a summer night, they immediately suspect Femi was behind it and have reason to believe the pair has fled to Accra.
During Emma’s first week on the case, Femi is found murdered at his opulent residence in Accra. There are no signs of Ngozi at the scene, and fearing the worst, Emma digs further, discovering that Femi was part of a network of sex traffickers across West Africa.
Emma must figure out which of Femi’s many enemies killed him, but more urgently, she must find Ngozi before she, too, is murdered in cold blood.
Amy Meyerson discusses “The Love Scribe” | 7 p.m. Wednesday, February 8
When Alice’s best friend, Gabby, is reeling from a breakup, Alice writes her a heartfelt story to cheer her up. While reading it in a café, Gabby, as if by magic, meets the man of her dreams. Thinking the story might have some special power to it, Gabby shares it with her sister and other friends, who all find instant love. Word of mouth spreads, and Alice stumbles upon a new calling: to be a love scribe.
But not all the love stories she writes unfold as expected. While Alice tries to harness her extraordinary gift, she is summoned to a mansion in the woods where she encounters the reclusive Madeline Alger and her mysterious library. As Alice struggles to write a story for Madeline, her most challenging assignment yet, she’s forced to confront her own guarded heart. Because maybe there’s a love story waiting to be written for her, too.
Emotional, deeply imaginative and brimming with valuable life lessons, “The Love Scribe” explores love, fate and the power of stories when we choose to believe in them.
Mark Harris discusses “The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar”
7 p.m. Thursday, February 9
An exploration of the history of Black horror films, after the rising success of “Get Out,” “Candyman” and “Lovecraft Country” from creators behind the acclaimed documentary, “Horror Noire.”
“The Black Guy Dies First” explores the Black journey in modern horror cinema, from the fodder epitomized by “Spider Baby” to the Oscar-winning cinematic heights of “Get Out” and beyond. This eye-opening book delves into the themes, tropes and traits that have come to characterize Black roles in horror since 1968, a year in which race made national headlines in iconic moments from the enactment of the 1968 Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April. This timely book is a must-read for cinema and horror fans alike.
Phil Stamper discusses “Afterglow”
7 p.m. Friday, February 10
Bestselling author Phil Stamper takes the Golden Boys from summer fun to senior year in the next installment of his charming duology.
After a life-changing summer, these four friends are finally ready for senior year.
Gabriel is thrilled to create his school’s first LGBTQ+ advocacy group, but his long-distance relationship is fading from summer love to something else.
Heath feels secure for the first time in years, but with his future riding on a baseball scholarship, each pitch triggers his anxiety.
Reese is set on pursuing a career in fashion design, but his creativity takes him in an unexpected direction, he isn’t yet ready to share.
Sal wants to be in politics, specifically local politics. After a chat with his aunt, he is ready for an unlikely path.
As graduation nears and the boys prepare to enter the real world, it feels like everything is changing fast, including their friendships. Can they find a way to make the most of their senior year even as they eagerly look ahead to the future?
Charmaine Wilkerson discusses “Black Cake”
7 p.m. Monday, February 13
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves.
Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right?” Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories and even names can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, “Black Cake” is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.
Johnny Compton discusses “The Spite House”
7 p.m. Wednesday, February 15
Eric Ross is on the run from a mysterious past with his two daughters in tow. Having left his wife, his house, his whole life behind in Maryland, he’s desperate for money — it’s not easy to find steady, safe work when you can’t provide references, you can’t stay in one place for long and you’re paranoid that your past is creeping back up on you.
When he comes across the strange ad for the Masson House in Degener, Texas, Eric thinks they may have finally caught a lucky break. The Masson property, notorious for being one of the most haunted places in Texas, needs a caretaker of sorts. The owner is looking for proof of paranormal activity. All they need to do is stay in the house and keep a detailed record of everything that happens there. Provided the house’s horrors don’t drive them all mad, like the caretakers before them.
The job calls to Eric, not just because there’s a huge payout if they can make it through, but because he wants to explore the secrets of the spite house. If it is indeed haunted, maybe it’ll help him understand the uncanny power that clings to his family, driving them from town to town, making them afraid to stop running.
Liz Climo presents “I’m So Happy You’re Here”
6 p.m. Thursday, February 16
We all need a reminder that we’re loved and we matter, and international bestselling author Liz Climo delivers that dose of warmth and love in “I’m So Happy You’re Here.”
Sometimes we just need a pep talk to remind us that we’re doing our best. With help from her charming animal drawings, Liz Climo encourages us to embrace the joyful moments, get back up after falling down and always love ourselves.
A little book to let someone know how important they are to you or a thoughtful gift you can give to yourself, “I’m So Happy You’re Here” highlights how truly amazing we are. Like a good friend, it will lift you out of low moments and keep you company until they’ve passed, making you laugh and cry while reminding you that you’re loved, you matter and we’re all really happy you’re here.
Walter Mosley discusses “Every Man a King: A King Oliver Novel”
7 p.m. Tuesday, February 21
In this highly anticipated sequel to the Edgar award winner “Down the River Unto the Sea,” Joe King Oliver is entangled in a dangerous case when he’s asked to investigate whether a white nationalist is being unjustly set up.
When friend of the family and multi-billionaire Roger Ferris comes to Joe with an assignment, he has no choice but to accept, even if the case is a tough one to stomach. White nationalist Alfred Xavier Quiller has been accused of murder and the sale of sensitive information to the Russians. Ferris has reason to believe Quiller’s been set up and he needs King to see if the charges hold.
This linear assignment becomes a winding quest to uncover the extent of Quiller’s dealings, to understand Ferris’ skin in the game and to get to the bottom of who is working for whom. Even with the help of bodyguard and mercenary Oliya Ruez — no regular girl Friday — the machine King’s up against proves relentless and unsparing. As King gets closer to exposing the truth, he and his loved ones barrel towards grave danger.
Mosley once again proves himself a “master of craft and narrative” in this carefully plotted mystery that is at once a classic caper, a family saga and an examination of fealty, pride and how deep debt can go.
Tara Ison discusses “At the Hour Between Dog and Wolf”
7 p.m. Friday, February 24
“At the Hour Between Dog and Wolf” is the story of a 12-year-old Parisian Jewish girl in World War II France, living “in hiding” as a Catholic orphan with a family in a small village.
When Danielle Marton’s father is killed during the early days of the German Occupation, her mother sends her to live in a quiet farming town near Limoges in Vichy France. Now called Marie-Jeanne Chantier, Danielle struggles to balance the truth of what’s happened to her family and her country with the lies she must tell to keep herself safe. At first, she’s bitter about being left behind by her mother, and horrified at having to milk the cow and memorize Catholic prayers for church. But as the years pass and the Occupation worsens, Danielle finds it easier to suppress her former life entirely, and Marie-Jeanne becomes less and less of an act. By the time she’s fifteen and there is talk amongst the now divided town of an Allied invasion, not only has Danielle lost the memories of her father’s face and the smell of her mother’s perfume, but her very self, transforming into a strict Catholic and an anti-Semitic, fervent disciple of fascism.
Vroman’s Local Author Day featuring Nita Whitaker, Alden Reimonenq, and Scott D. Dovale
4 p.m. Sunday, February 26
Nita Whitaker presents “When Your Hand is in the Lion’s Mouth: The Life and Wisdom of a Man Named Green”
“When Your Hand is in the Lion’s Mouth” is a narrative non-fiction told in 42 stories that is a father-daughter memoir. The foundational paternal love, wisdom and life lessons shared can father us all, and at 96 years young, he keeps inspiring and teaching us with his foundational practical wisdom. The simplicity and complexity of the life into which he was born informed the wisdom and worldliness he would gain. Born as the second youngest of 19 children in a rural northwest Louisiana farming community, the lion of the Jim Crow South loomed large and oppressively in the 1920s. But, Green Whitaker had the beautiful gift of a family devoted to each other to guide him through. Each anecdote highlights a nugget of Green’s advice about how to navigate life’s challenges with confidence, courage and love, spoken in words that are succinct, amusing and often moving. It gives us a glimpse into the life and earned wisdom of a distinguished Black father named Green, and how he shares his useful life gems with his children, his community and especially his youngest daughter, Nita. Full of historical tidbits, the stories share sage advice, memories and homespun counsel.
Charlotte Maya, in conversation with Mike Kinman, discussing “Sushi Tuesdays: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Family Resilience”
7 p.m. Tuesday, February 28
This free event is at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Avenue, Pasadena
Faced with a shattering loss, a young widow searches for answers, acceptance and family resilience.
After taking her sons on a hike with the family dog one beautiful fall afternoon, Charlotte returned home to find a policewoman, a policeman and a priest in her driveway — there to deliver the news of her husband’s suicide. Charlotte knew her husband had been stressed about work, but she had no idea he was suicidal. She thought he had stayed home to take a nap.
As a young widow, Charlotte cried, cursed, meditated, medicated, downward-dogged and ran as a way to make sense of her husband’s suicide. As the mother of two bereft sons, she summoned her inner strength and clarity in order to provide steady guidance for them to navigate their own ways through the ensuing months and years. Her story offers intimate moments, powerful lessons, as well as practical ways through which not only suicide survivors but any of us experiencing loss can move forward to live lives of joy and purpose.