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Pasadena Museum of California Art launches its first reading series

October 20, 2009 |  7:30 am


The happily local Pasadena Museum of California Art is launching a fitting reading series, Written in California. The free series kicks off Thursday at 7 p.m., with discounted ($5) access to the galleries for the hour prior.

Thursday night will feature Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, who was nominated for the National Book Award for her debut novel, "Madeline Is Sleeping." She now lives in Southern California and teaches at UCSD, so she could read her recent short fiction or from her second book, 2008's "The Ms. Hempel Chronicles." Susan Salter-Reynolds wrote our review:

Such a beautiful book is "Ms. Hempel Chronicles," the kind that gives its reader profound insights into ordinary, everyday life. The more such insights we have, the better able we are to really live, and not just go through the motions.

Beatrice Hempel is a young middle-school teacher, "still young enough to decipher the lyrics" of the songs her students listen to, but "old enough to feel that a certain degree of outrage was required of her." Beatrice, Ms. Hempel, is often uncertain of herself. She thinks she is a terrible teacher, but her students love her. The school bureaucracy makes teaching with any heart all but impossible.

Current exhibitions at the museum include "Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting," "Behold the Day: The Color Block Prints of Frances Gearhart" and "Population: Portraits by Ray Turner."

Written in California is scheduled to return roughly bimonthly. The next announced reading will be in January 2010, featuring Marisa Silver, an LA Times book prize finalist for her novel "The God of War."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Pasadena Museum of California Art. Credit: Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times