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Skirball Cultural Center

The People’s Tongue: Americans and The English Language

A Book Release Celebration Co-Presented with PEN America

Public Programs | Words and Ideas

Headshot of author Ilan Stavans sitting casually and looking at the camera. Next to Stavans appears the cover of his book, "The People's Tongue"

Left to right: Ilan Stavans by Kevin Gutting; Cover of the book, courtesy of the publisher

Poets, essayists, and musicians take the stage to celebrate the release of Ilan Stavans's new book charting the evolution and transformation of American English.

Date and Time

Wednesday, April 19, 7:00 pm

Doors at 6:00 pm

Pricing and Details


  • $20 General
  • $15 Members
  • $10 Seniors and Full-Time Students

Reservations required

About the Program

Join the Skirball Cultural Center and PEN America to celebrate the release of Ilan Stavan’s The People’s Tongue: Americans and the English Language. Chart how individuals have shaped American English in inventive and culturally specific ways during an evening of performance featuring poets, musicians, essayists, and beyond.

Featured speakers and performers include:

  • Los Angeles Times writer Gustavo Arellano
  • Former Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Jessica Kim
  • Poet Alyesha Wise

Plus, more to be announced!

About the Book

This volume is a people’s history of English in the United States, told by those who have transformed it: activists, teachers, immigrants, scholars, students, musicians, and so many others. It is organized chronologically and offers a banquet of letters, poems, essays, dictionary entries, stories, songs, legislative documents, and other evidence of verbal mutation.

Our linguistic and cultural multiplicity has sparked fierce national debates that play out in these pages—from the compulsory education (and deracination) of Native Americans, to the classification of Black Vernacular English (once celebrated and ridiculed as Ebonics), to the dictionary wars over prescriptive versus descriptive usage, to the push for “English only” mandates that persist to this day. What is clear is that as much as we try to corral it, American English gallops ahead to its own destiny. 

“The shrewdly selected offerings capture the kaleidoscopic variety of American English and attest to its power in shaping national identity. The result is a trenchant look at a nation perpetually in the process of making itself.”—Publishers Weekly

Mother holding young daughter dancing and smiling outside during a festival

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