Novelist Naja Marie Aidt is from Greenland and Denmark. Short story author Andrés Neuman is from Buenos Aires. Tonight, Aidt reads from her novel about a broken toaster and Neuman shares some of the stories that reportedly made Roberto Bolaño want to weep, in an international celebration of kickass literature. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, elliottbaybook.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Joyce Maynard’s new novel, Under the Influence, is about an alcoholic mother whose irresponsibility caused her to lose custody of her child. She becomes friends with a wealthy couple who promise to help her regain control of her life and get her child back. Can she trust them, or herself? Folio: The Seattle Athenaem, 324 Marion St., 402-4612, folioseattle.org. $5. 7 p.m.
Poetry slams aren’t for everyone, but the Youth Speaks Grand Slam is the most accessible example of the form. The enthusiasm young people bring to poetry is palpable, and these are the best young slam poets in the region. Host Hollis Wong-Wear will be joined by musical guest Mary Lambert to make things extra-special. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $10-20. All ages. 7 p.m.
Every spring, Seattle’s edition of the international Edible Book Festival brings amateur and semi-professional chefs together to make plates of food that center around puns. (Past examples: The Silence of the Lamb Chops, A Game of Scones, and Ham of Green Gables.) Why? Who cares? At the end, you get to eat all the books. Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com. Free. All ages. 11 a.m.
The kids of Seattle Historical Arts present stories of Galileo’s life through musical interludes, storytelling, and reenactment. A trio of classical musicians will perform music by Galileo’s father, composer Vincenzo Galilei, as kids reenact moments in the seminal astronomer’s life while dressed in period costume. This one one ought to be entirely adorable. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $6-12. All ages. 1 p.m.
Tin House editor Rob Spillman is one of the best-respected figures in the literary scene. But thankfully his new book, All Tomorrow’s Parties, isn’t a bookish tell-all—book gossip is not juicy gossip. Instead, it’s a memoir of growing up in West Berlin and returning home as an adult after the Berlin Wall fell. Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, hugohouse.org. $10. All ages. 7 p.m.
Lesley Hazleton, delightfully, does not put up with anyone’s bullshit. If you’ve seen her read, you’ve probably seen her dismantle some lazy idea or another using just her smoky voice and easy laugh. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ve seen her talk proudly about her abortion, and against the tyranny of the zealots who somehow seized the moral high ground by claiming the name “pro-life” for themselves. (Hazleton has been involved with Amelia Bonow’s #ShoutYour Abortion movement from the very beginning.) At a reading for the whitewashed Seattle: City of Literature anthology last year, Hazleton discussed Seattle’s unspoken racist tendencies with a tenacious inquisitiveness that made some of the more delicate panelists and members of the audience turn even whiter out of mortification. She is, to put it simply, the kind of truth-teller we need more of in this town.
She’s just as cheerfully boisterous on the page, too. Hazleton writes books about the one subject that most authors would be afraid to touch — religion. Her trilogy of historical religious biographies — Jezebel, Mary, and, yes, The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad —recontextualize some of the most controversial figures in history through a blend of scholarship, first-person reportage, and literary criticism. Another book, After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam,investigates a topic that most Americans would rather ignore, or at least stereotype beyond recognition.
So after years of writing about religion and the Middle East and abortion, what’s left for Hazleton to tackle? Well, she’s staking a spot directly in some of the most contentious territory imaginable, smack in the middle between religion and atheism. Hazleton’s newest book is titled Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a full-throated defense of a stance, as she puts it in the title of the book’s first chapter, “Beyond Either/Or.” She’s celebrating Agnostic’s release with a big launch party at Town Hall this week, and attendance is mandatory, whether or not you’re religious or an atheist
Agnostic is, like all of Hazleton’s work, meticulously researched — she spends so much time at the UW’s Suzzallo Library that they really ought to name a reading chair after her — and unafraid to take a stance, even if that stance is not taking a stance between belief and disbelief. She calls it “an exploration of the agnostic perspective, or the zones of thought that open up once you break free of deceptively neat categorizations, and that then feed back into each other in fresh and unexpected ways.”
Agnosticism has always gotten a bad rap; nobody likes a fence-sitter. But when someone as hugely intelligent, curious, and fearless as Hazleton embraces agnosticism, it should encourage even the most ardent atheists to take notice. In 2015, most people form opinions in whatever amount of time it takes to craft a tweet; Hazleton is demonstrating an inordinate amount of guts by embracing “I don’t know” as a cause. Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave., 652-4255, townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7 p.m.