Yuba Lit Presents an Evening with Zara Houshmand Sept. 29th

Yuba Lit will present an online reading and discussion with local treasure Zara Houshmand sharing her new translations of Rumi’s poetry, on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m.

Houshmand, a writer and literary translator based in Nevada City, will read from Moon and Sun, her translations of Rumi’s poetry. The book is available through The Book Seller in Grass Valley and Harmony Books in Nevada City, and has received stellar reviews.

Houshmand began translating Rumi as a way of studying deeply the13th century Sufi mystic poet, whose popular American translations have often erased his cultural roots. Her poem-a-day translation practice began 20 years ago and evolved into the beautifully designed bilingual book that has just been released. Writes Ali Manai of news aggregator 3 Quarks Daily, “[Houshmand] has found a flawless idiom that is completely modern, yet captures the timeless quality of Rumi’s poetry to perfection… retaining the poetic essence of the original, Houshmand’s translations take the reader to the very core of Rumi’s mystical world [. . .] Moon and Sun will, no doubt, immediately become an essential part of the Rumi canon for our time.” 

Houshmand’s work has focused on using empathy to bridge cultural divides, reflecting her background as an Iranian American and her experience living in many countries. As well as poetry and creative nonfiction, her work includes theater and virtual reality as an art form. Adding to the international perspective, award-winning author Stephanie Sauer, native to Nevada City but now based in Brazil, will emcee the online program and interview Houshmand live from Rio de Janeiro.

Yuba Lit celebrates literary community, and is optimistic that the same constraints that have kept us all at home for months have also created new opportunities for far-reaching connection. The organization first explored meeting virtually for an urgent online conversation on racial justice and how to create spaces welcoming and supportive to all in the Yuba Lit community. The intimate and engaging format proved successful and sparked the current plans for reviving regular Yuba Lit events online.

This event with Zara Houshmand is free. Please email yubalit@gmail.com to RSVP and receive connection information.

Houshmand’s Moon and Sun is available for purchase online here: https://zarahoushmand.com/moon-and-sun/

Moving Forward from “The White Space”–Next Steps

Dear literature-loving friends,
     Last Wednesday night, Yuba Lit held our online discussion of Elijah Anderson’s “The White Space” and Eula Biss’s “No Man’s Land.” In the midst of our national tumult, it was an encouragement and a joy to be part of such a thoughtful and searching conversation with an amazing array of community members who each had a special angle of insight to lend. And as we discussed what new or not-so-new perspectives we had seen in the readings, we naturally soon moved to the question: What can we do here in the Grass Valley/Nevada City region to create spaces welcoming and supportive to all? Specific ideas arose, and I wanted to share those with you.
     Many of us agreed on the importance of gaining a fuller view of our local history and its inequalities. The following books were highly recommended:
–History of Us: Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria. Available at the Bookseller and Harmony Books. More information here: https://yubanet.com/regional/history-of-us-nisenan-tribe-of-the-nevada-city-rancheria/
How Much of These Hills Is Gold. More information here: https://bookshop.org/books/how-much-of-these-hills-is-gold/9780525537205
     I left the Yuba Lit discussion particularly struck by the importance of supporting the Nisenan tribe. Discussion members suggested writing to government representatives in support of federal recognition, and taking part in the Ancestral Homelands Reciprocity Program: https://ancestralhomelands.org/
     At the meeting, we also discussed the challenge of most effectively standing up against racism when we see it, and the possibility of joining with other organizations to offer a Bystander Training. I will look into this and welcome further tips for pursuing this.
     And finally but far from least important, discussion members pointed to two vital local groups: Creating Communities Beyond Bias and (a newer organization) Color Me Human.
     Another encouraging outcome of the discussion: participants seemed to feel that Zoom worked well and felt salon-like, a good option for continuing our community while we cannot gather large crowds in person. So I will be looking into doing more Yuba Lit events on Zoom in September and beyond, with visiting writers sharing their work, followed by Q and A.
     Thank you so much to Wednesday’s discussion participants and to the larger Yuba Lit community. Together we are holding a space for supportive, searching, and even at times vulnerable conversation. This gives me hope. Yuba Lit will be reaching out in the weeks to come about future events.
Yours in the love of literature,
Rachel Howard
Yuba Lit Founder
PS: A participant in the discussion also offered a list of “Readily Available Resources Regarding Racism in America,” created by Bill Drake, founder of Communities Beyond Bias. You can see this richly annotated list here: Resources on Racism w Quaker List.
PPS: Another participant highly recommended Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist. As it happens, the Maryland public library system recently held a discussion with Kendi, available free here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VyIemUvoEQ
PPPS: Thank you to the Nevada County Arts Council for all their heroic efforts to support the arts during the pandemic, and for supporting Yuba Lit as our fiscal sponsorship organization. Tax-deductible donations may be made here: https://www.nevadacountyarts.org/donate

Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, and a Live Yuba Lit Discussion Online Wednesday July 22nd

Dear literature-loving friends,

Today is Juneteenth, the day a Union general announced in Texas that all slaves in the United States were legally free. In an age when the commercialization of so many holidays can turn me cynical, this is a holiday whose skyrocketing popularity I can get behind. And it feels like an auspicious day to finally reach back out to the Yuba Lit community with an opportunity for discussion on Wednesday, July 22nd.

When you last heard from Yuba Lit, we were cancelling our March presentation in response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Now we all seem to be living two lifetimes past that event, having endured three months of this new pandemic reality, and then the murder of George Floyd, which–captured graphically on video–awakened so many people to the reality of so many unjust deaths, including Ahmaud Arbery and Brionna Taylor but also Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin and countless others, names known and unknown.

If, like me, you seek to maintain hope for a better society through these challenging times, I believe we can find it together in the particular power of books and literature to challenge invisible assumptions, open hearts, and widen perspectives. The latest New York Times best-seller list reads like a crash course syllabus in anti-racism, and that’s good news. The surge of these book sales, to me, holds a truth: to really understand the history of the United States and its current structures and cultures, we need more than social media and news flashes. We need literature and books.

Amid the wealth of books, articles, and podcasts supporting constructive conversation on racial injustice (in my PS you will find a highly recommended list of resources compiled by seminarians), two very different works of literature have been on my mind. The same day George Floyd’s murder was filmed in Minneapolis, Christian Cooper filmed a white woman in the Central Park Ramble making false 911 accusations against him, pointedly describing him to dispatchers as “an African American man.” This took me back to a landmark article by Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson published in 2015, “The White Space,” which studies the problem of our entrapment in “white spaces,” where black people perform a delicate “dance” to prove a belonging that can be swiftly and dangerously revoked, while white people exist oblivious to their dominance. Re-reading Anderson’s article took me back, in turn, to Eula Biss’s 2008 essay in The Believer, “No Man’s Land,” which makes further connections to the “pioneering” eviction of Native Americans from their own lands.

The two articles with their complex, interconnected truths led me to an open question: Moving beyond “white spaces” is hard. But it is possible. What realities do these articles show us so that we might hold the awareness to make this possible?

Yuba Lit right now cannot produce live, in-person author readings. But we can hold discussions of literature, much as Yuba Lit did back in Winter 2019 with our “Reading Chekhov for Our Times” meetings. And so, I would like to make a space for reading “The White Space” and “No Man’s Land” and discussing them together, on Wednesday, July 22nd, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. This free discussion will take place on Zoom. Please press “reply” to this email and RSVP if you’d like to attend, and you will be sent connection information.

This will be a community discussion rooted in the readings. I will guide and lightly moderate with a series of structured prompts. The two readings are available free online, here: https://sociology.yale.edu/sites/default/files/pages_from_sre-11_rev5_printer_files.pdf

and here: https://believermag.com/no-mans-land/

Again, if you’d like to take part on Wednesday, July 22nd, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Zoom, please just reply to this email to let me know. It will be such a joy to reconnect with members of the Yuba Lit community! And I look forward to the day when we can also connect in person again at live readings.

Yours in the love of literature,

Rachel Howard

Yuba Lit founder



An important PS: I highly recommend this helpfully organized list of anti-racism resources. Check out where you are on the chart and start exploring the plethora of thoughtfully selected links:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PrAq4iBNb4nVIcTsLcNlW8zjaQXBLkWayL8EaPlh0bc/preview?fbclid=IwAR2oirDMyZotWm1g7QFdNc-xzcBtc3BFlzbUWh9UCJVGms5IqsVge

Update: The March 19th Yuba Lit Indefinitely Postponed Due to Coronavirus Measures


Dear Yuba Lit friends,

Due to coronavirus transmission precautions, the March 19th Yuba Lit is indefinitely postponed. We’ll be sending out an email to the Yuba Lit community soon.

In times like these, it’s good to be in community together, even if we will not gather in the same room next Thursday. Thank you for being part of Yuba Lit.

Sending support and care to all,
Yuba Lit Founder



Yuba Lit will draw on the talents of local writers for its March presentation, Essays for Our Times: A Celebration of Community Voices, to be held Thursday, 7 p.m. at Brown Banana Books (formerly The Open Book) in Grass Valley.

Headlining the reading is Sarah Miller, a Nevada City-based writer whose recent essays for the New York Times, Vice, and The Cut have been national sensations. Miller’s work explores everything from the climate crisis to the diet industry in a voice that is frank, provocative, and arrestingly honest.

Sarah Miller Headshot 1x1

Sarah Miller

Joining Miller onstage are five writers who responded to Yuba Lit’s call for essays that connect personal experience to the larger world and the challenging questions of our moment. Local writers Julie Becker, R.S. Breit, Nory Fussell, Maggie McKaig, and Carol Menaker will each read their essays, which concern everything from communal interdependence to sexual assault to racial justice.

Brown Banana Books (formerly The Open Book) is located at 671 Maltman Dr., Grass Valley. Doors will open at 6:30, and the reading will begin at 7 p.m., with beer and wine available. Admission is $5 at the door, and helps cover Yuba Lit’s production expenses. Students are admitted free, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Yuba Lit is a fiscally sponsored project of Nevada County Arts, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, and donations are greatly appreciated.

Essays for our time-page-001

Announcing Readers for the March 19th Yuba Lit: Essays for Our Time

Thank you to all members of the Yuba Lit community who sent in essays! Decisions were tough. Yuba Lit is now delighted to announce the readers for March 19th, Essays for Our Time: A Celebration of Community Voices.

This all-local Yuba Lit will be headlined by Sarah Miller, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Cut, Popula, and many other magazines.

And also featuring:

Julie Becker

R.S. Breit

Nory Fussell

Maggie McKaig


Carol Menaker

Hear these varied voices as they show us the range of the contemporary personal essay at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 19th, at The Open Book, 671 Maltman Dr., Grass Valley.

Doors open at 6:30. Beer and wine available.

Admission $5 at the door. Students free. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Hope you will join us for this celebration of arrestingly honest, deeply questioning local voices, 7 p.m. March 19th at The Open Book!

Yuba Lit Seeks Your Essays for March 19th: Essays for Our Time!

Calling All Essay Writers!

The next Yuba Lit will take place

7 p.m. Thursday, March 19th, at the Open Book

Featuring essayist Sarah Miller, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Cut, Popula, and many other magazines.

And perhaps also featuring:


Yuba Lit seeks essayists and their essays to feature at our March Yuba Lit: Essays for Our Time.

Specifically, we seek essays that connect the personal to the larger world and the tough questions of the moment. Essays between 500 and 2,000 words are warmly welcomed for consideration! We will choose three to five authors to feature reading these works.

Writers, please send your essays to yubalit@gmail.com by February 19th for consideration.

And save the date for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 19th, at the Open Book, 671 Maltman Dr., Grass Valley.

Save the Date for Wednesday, January 15th, 7 p.m.: Yuba Lit Presents Three Fearless (and Funny) Spirits

Three Fearless (and Funny) Spirits: Fiction Writers Who Face the World with Humor and Heart

At the Wild Eye Pub, 535 Mill St., Grass Valley.

Wednesday January 15th, 7 p.m., doors open at 6:30.

$8 advance tickets, available soon, or $10 at the door. Cabaret-style seating; delicious dinner and drink options available.


Tomas Moniz Author Pic

TOMAS MONIZ: Tomas’s new novel, Big Familia, is the sweet and gentle story of Juan Gutierrez, a single dad living in gentrifying Berkeley (on the edge of Oakland), letting go of his teenage daughter while trying (really trying!) to open himself up to a man who loves him. The characters defy all stereotypes and the first-person narration speaks from the heart. Tomas, who lives in Berkeley but frequently visits family in Nevada City, edited Rad Dad, Rad Families, and the kids book Collaboration/Colaboración. Recently shorter work has appeared in Barrelhouse and Longleaf Review.

Nancy Au_headshot

NANCY AU: Nancy’s debut fiction collection is Spider Love Song & Other Stories, about characters, many of them Chinese American, marginalized by race, age, and sexuality, who boldly endeavor to create new worlds that honor their identities and heritage. Nancy’s essays and stories appear in many journals including Craft Literary, Redivider, Gulf Coast, Catapult, Foglifter, and Michigan Quarterly Review. She lives in Oakland, teaches at CSU Stanislaus, and is co-founder of The Escapery, a writing and art unschool.

Judie Rae Jan 20 Photo

JUDIE RAE: Judie’s new novel is The Haunting of Walter Rabinowitz, the lively story of a post-grad student exacting revenge on her notoriously womanizing professor. A beloved writing teacher at Sierra College, Judie is the author of four books for young people, including a Nancy Drew Mystery. She also authored a college thematic reader, Rites of Passage, and two poetry chapbooks, The Weight of Roses and Howling Down the Moon. Her essays have appeared in The Sacramento Bee, as well as on San Francisco’s NPR station KQED. She has also written for Outside California, Tahoe Quarterly, and Sacramento Magazine.

Save November 7th for Yuba Lit: New Angles on America

Yuba Lit: New Angles on America


From the Bay Area, Devi Laskar, The Atlas of Reds and Blues

“A poignant meditation on racism and police brutality experienced by people of color . . . The Atlas of Reds and Blues provides no easy answers. Laskar’s fine and moving novel is a step toward her own release, and with it she simultaneously offers readers a way out, too.” ―The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


From Boston, James Charlesworth, The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill


Charlesworth’s debut novel takes a sweeping sideways look at American ambition and even the great American novel. However, the tone is never cynical in this family tragedy. Rather, there is a beautiful sadness as well mournful anger as Charlesworth evokes the loss following consequential choices.”—Booklist, starred review


From Nevada City, Ben Preston, reading from a novel-in-progress

Preston’s novel dramatizes the Polish laborers’ strike that became the Bay View Massacre in 1886 Milwaukee.


Thursday, November 7th, 7 p.m. at The Stone House, Nevada City. $10 at the door. RSVP to save your seat: yubalit@gmail.com.

Yuba Lit Is Back with Christian Kiefer’s PHANTOMS, Thurs. Sept. 12 at the Wild Eye Pub

Dear literature-loving friends,

Yuba Lit is back in a big way. I hope you can join the Yuba Lit community on Thursday, September 12th for an eye-opening reading and discussion with acclaimed Auburn novelist Christian Kiefer. The conversation is sure to be locally relevant and timely, bringing lost history to light. Near the end of World War II, hundreds of Japanese Americans were sent from the Placer County towns of Penryn, Loomis, and Newcastle to desolate internment camps at Tule Lake and beyond. Most of these Americans never returned to the homes from which they were torn.


Kiefer’s novel Phantoms is dedicated to these families: The Asazawas, the Nakashimas, the Yoshidas, and many more. And it imagines the experience of a fictional family, the Takahashis, whose son Ray fought in World War II while his parents and siblings were sent to the camps. Decades later, a Vietnam veteran, John Wilson, returns to the Placer County land he and Ray both knew as home, and begins to piece together the entwined history of their families: The Wilsons who rented their property to the skilled Japanese-American farmers, and the Takahashis, who were sent away on buses, their lives forever changed.

The critical reception for Phantoms has been rapturous. A starred Kirkus review raves: “It’s a complex narrative structure, but this allows Kiefer to constantly overlay past and present and to recognize, through John [Wilson], the cycles in which his character, and in fact the country, remains trapped—cycles of racism, cycles of war, and cycles of young men who return home guilty of crimes, the full ramifications of which they couldn’t possibly understand . . . It will break your heart, and in the breaking, fill you with bittersweet but luminous joy.”


This novel is so beautifully written, and the historical context around it so profound, that I wanted Christian Kiefer to be the sole featured writer for this return of Yuba Lit. At the same time, we are eager for the return of the Yuba Lit community and its talents! So, this Yuba Lit will start with our ever-popular opening audience flash readings: Bring a poem or a page of your own and draw a raffle ticket to read in Yuba Lit’s famous opening audience flash round! Five audience members will be chosen. 

This Yuba Lit will be held at The Wild Eye Pub, 535 Mill St., Grass Valley. A no-host bar and dinner will be available, with cabaret-style seating; we encourage Yuba Lit patrons to support the pub with your purchase of food and drink. Tickets are $10 at the door, $8 in advance, with online tickets available soon at wildeyepub.com.

You can also RSVP on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2936748599883983/ RSVPs help us greatly with planning.

Please, bring your questions for Christian Kiefer about his luminous and revelatory book. He is deeply researched on the history of Japanese-American experience in Placer County. This will be a fascinating reading and an illuminating conversation. I so hope to reconnect with you on September 12th.

Yours in the love of literature,

Rachel Howard

Yuba Lit founder




Sept. 12th: Don’t Miss Christian Kiefer reading Phantoms

Yuba Lit Presents: Christian Kiefer reads and discusses Phantoms


Years after both wars, a Vietnam veteran named John Wilson begins to piece together the story of Ray Takahashi, a young Japanese American soldier who fought in World War II while his family was forced to abandon their Placer County farm for an internment camp. What sins and mysteries are the Takahashis and their former neighbors, the Wilsons, hiding?

Of Kiefer’s latest novel, a starred review from Kirkus raves: “It’s a complex narrative structure, but this allows Kiefer to constantly overlay past and present and to recognize, through John, the cycles in which his character, and in fact the country, remains trapped—cycles of racism, cycles of war, and cycles of young men who return home guilty of crimes, the full ramifications of which they couldn’t possibly understand . . . It will break your heart, and in the breaking, fill you with bittersweet but luminous joy.”

Hear acclaimed Auburn novelist Kiefer read and discuss his deeply researched new book—and ask him a question of your own during the Q and A.

Plus: Bring a poem or a page of your own and draw a raffle ticket to read in Yuba Lit’s famous opening audience flash round! Five audience members will be chosen.

Christian Kiefer’s previous novels are The Animals and The Infinite Tides, and a novella, One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left to Hide.


Thursday, September 12th, 7 p.m.

Doors open at 6:30

The Wild Eye Pub, 535 Mill St., Grass Valley

No-host bar and dinner available

Tickets: $10 at the door, $8 in advance, available at wildeyepub.com