In just two years the Tucson Festival of Books has been astonishingly successful: It ranks fourth among book festivals around the United States, with 80,000 book lovers attending last year. The 2011 festival will take place March 12 and 13 on the University of Arizona campus.
“What’s unique is how the community has jumped aboard” in support of the festival, says Brenda Viner, one of the five co-founders. “The business community is passionate about the festival.”
One hundred percent of festival profits — around $350,000 so far — has been donated to local literacy organizations, says Viner, and prior to last month, when the festival hired its first paid staff member, it was entirely volunteer-run.
This third annual festival will host more than 400 authors. Local Jewish authors include Tom Miller (travel/Southwest), Janni Lee Simner (young adult fantasy), Bonnie Marson (fiction), Dr. Virginia Maizes (health), and Janos Wilder (culinary).
Jewish authors with Tucson connections will also be flying into town for the festival. Tucson native Sari Horwitz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, wrote “Finding Chandra” about the Chandra Levy murder in Washington, D.C.
Mitch Tobin, a former reporter for publications including the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen, will discuss his book “Endangered,” which grew out of his yearlong series on Arizona’s endangered species.
Arlene Weintraub, author of “Selling the Fountain of Youth” and the daughter of local Jewish community leaders Ron and Diane Weintraub, will participate on a panel about corporate malfeasance.
Other Jewish authors coming to the festival include NPR’s Scott Simon, the author of “Windy City: A Novel of Politics,” who appeared last year. Mark Rudd is traveling from Albuquerque to discuss “Underground: My Life with the SDS and the Weathermen” on a panel about the 1960s. He will also present a workshop, “Writers as Social Activists.”
Paula Fass, a professor of history at the University of California Berkeley and author of “Inheriting the Holocaust: A Second Generation Memoir,” will trace her past on a panel with others who have found their way to America.
For more information, visit tucsonfestivalofbooks.org.