Writers, professors and literary enthusiasts assembled at the Whitsett Room to hear selected readings reminiscing about the political, social, and emotional lives of residents in glamorous West Hollywood and the chic area of Silver Lake.
Sponsored by the Center for Sex and Gender Research, writers from the newly released book, ‘Love, West Hollywood: Reflections of Los Angeles,’ were invited to the CSUN campus to read their excerpts. A collection of witty and intuitive essays, the book reveals the literary and cultural heritage of Los Angeles’ gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender history.
Wanting to bring to life personal perspective and experience through quality writing, the center’s director and philosophy professor, Jacob Hale, came up with the idea to host the event after he read and loved the book.
‘One of the writers, Eloise Klein Healy, was an inspiration and mentor to me when I first came to CSUN,” said Hale. ‘The other writers I found over Facebook and when I asked them to come to do a book reading they said ‘yes we’d love to.”
The event started like most lectures and seminars with a table set with fruits, cookies and beverages while writers and readers mingled amongst themselves. Once the reading started, however, attendees situated themselves around a large conference table rather than the more common stadium style seating for a more intimate atmosphere. The side conversations subsided and guests focused all of their attention to the speakers.
Hale started by allowing the professors who are a part of the newly added Queer Studies minor to introduce their classes for the spring semester. After professors from different departments explained the nature of the courses they would be teaching, the floor was handed over to Chris Freeman, co-editor of ‘Love, West Hollywood: Reflections of Los Angeles.’
Freeman introduced the writers who helped compose the book by contributing stories about their lives. His intent, along with co-editor James J. Berg, was to tell the story of a range of people from different Los Angeles ‘villages’ that had grown up together.
The first reader to take the floor was Terry Wolverton, who said that Freeman gave her the tough assignment to ‘tell a story that she had never told before.’ Describing herself as coming from simple origins, Wolverton moved to Los Angeles for the feminist art movement. Wolverton’s story told of life in the 1970s being full of political controversies between people’s political ideals and the lives they actually led. Wolverton depicted women defying normal conventions in order to find their identity and their place in a world of traditional expectations.
The former director of the women’s studies department and founding chair of the creative writing department at Antioch College, Eloise Klein Healy, spoke next. With her soft spoken voice, Healy told her personal story, discussing learning about one’s self and the approach to the next step in one’s life.
Eric Gutierrez, a writer of religion, politics and culture took the audience to a darker place with his narrative, tackling the issues of relationships between genders and the inner search and outer loss of love.
Sociology professor, Teresa DeCrescenzo, shared her story about the spirit and strength of her domestic partner, Betty, and the trials and tribulations they experienced together as a couple.
Writer Pat Alderete was last to give her account about her experiences within the Queer community in her native city of East Los Angeles. In her story, Alderete explores the issues of identity and the longing for acceptance and a place to belong.
Immersed in powerful spoken words of wisdom, the guests of the lecture praised the writers for sharing their life experiences and offered their thoughts on the readings.
‘The readings were beautiful,’ said Paul Grosart, a 19-year-old anthropology major. ‘It’s great to have a reminder of where we came from and where we have to go.’
When the lecture concluded, copies of the book were available for the authors to sign. Laurel Robinson, CSUN alumni who attends lectures in various departments, enjoyed the event because it provided a public forum that grants access to intellectual circles.
‘The writings for tonight expressed a community that’s going places where we haven’t been before, one where we are all trying to find a home,’ said Robinson.