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Karen Tongson in Conversation with Louis Virtel, The Carpenters Megafan

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The Last Bookstore

453 South Spring Street

Los Angeles, CA 90013

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Note: Your ticket includes - and is the same price as - the book.


“Why do birds suddenly appear, every time Karen Tongson and Louis Virtel are near?”

Find out at The Last Bookstore, August 27 at 7:30 pm, when Tongson, co-host of Maximum Fun’s Pop Rocket, and Virtel, cohost of Crooked Media’s Keep It! sit down together to chat about Why Karen Carpenter Matters.

Tongson’s new book, which debuts at the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture’s Pop Conference, tells a story of Karen Carpenter's enduring ability to transcend cultural differences, bridging not only American suburbia and the author's native Philippines but also diverse communities and fan cultures worldwide. Tongson (whose Filipino musician parents named her after the pop icon) interweaves the story of the singer’s rise to fame with her own trans-Pacific journey between Manila—where imitations of American pop styles flourished—and Karen Carpenter’s home ground of Southern California.

Virtel, a self-described Carpenter’s mega-fan will lead the discussion for music fans and readers. Whether you know all the words to every Carpenter’s song, or you’re just here with a “Ticket to Ride,” it will be a welcoming, inclusive, and joyful evening at Skylight.

In early reviews, Le Tigre’s JD Samson praises Tongson as, “a genius. Inspired by the queer significance of Karen Carpenter, this book is an intersectional conversation between Tongson as an artist and Tongson as an academic, both created and performed by the author."

Why Karen Carpenter Matters is available for pre-order from Skylight Books, now. It is part of the Music Matters series, short, sharp polemics that make the musical, cultural, experiential, and personal case for the artists we love, filtered through the consciousness of writers of distinction working in music criticism, journalism, academia, and literature.


In the '60s and '70s, America's music scene was marked by raucous excess, reflected in the tragic overdoses of young superstars such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. At the same time, the uplifting harmonies and sunny lyrics that propelled Karen Carpenter and her brother, Richard, to international fame belied a different sort of tragedy—the underconsumption that led to Karen's death at age thirty-two from the effects of an eating disorder.

In Why Karen Carpenter Matters, Karen Tongson (whose Filipino musician parents named her after the pop icon) interweaves the story of the singer’s rise to fame with her own trans-Pacific journey between Manila—where imitations of American pop styles flourished—and Karen Carpenter’s home ground of Southern California. Tongson reveals why the Carpenters' chart-topping, seemingly whitewashed musical fantasies of "normal love" can now have profound significance for her—as well as for other people of color, LGBT+ communities, and anyone outside the mainstream culture usually associated with Karen Carpenter’s legacy. This hybrid of memoir and biography excavates the destructive perfectionism at the root of the Carpenters’ sound, while finding the beauty in the singer's flawed, all too brief life.



Karen Tongson is associate professor of English, gender and sexuality studies, and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is also the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries and the co-editor of the Postmillennial Pop book series at NYU Press. Her cultural commentary has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and other publications, and she is a panelist on MaximumFun.org's “Pop Rocket” podcast. Visit her website at www.karentongson.org.

Louis Virtel is cohost of the Keep It! podcast from Crooked Media.

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The Last Bookstore

453 South Spring Street

Los Angeles, CA 90013

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