Arts and Culture | Local

Annual book festival to host 360 authors

Beverly Gray

“We’re rapidly preparing for the 10th Annual Tucson Festival of Books. We expect this to be the best festival ever,” says Brenda Viner, a member of the local Jewish community and one of the festival founders. This year’s festival will be held March 10 and 11 on the University of Arizona campus.

“We founded the festival to make Tucson a more literate community,” notes Viner. Over the years, it has raised more than $1,650,000 for local literacy organizations for adults and children, including Literacy Connects, Reading Seed, and UA literacy outreach programs.

The festival “features every type of genre we can think of from mystery, fantasy, to historical fiction and current events. Astronaut Scott Kelly has just been confirmed as a presenting author, and that’s very current,” says Viner. So is Veronica Roth, the number one New York Times bestselling author of “Divergent”, “Insurgent,” “Allegiant,” and “Four: A Divergent Collection.” Her latest, “Carve the Mark,” starts a new series.

“All of our presenting authors are published by established publishers,” Viner notes, although self-published authors are represented at the fair, too.

Hollywood industry insider Beverly Gray will be among the 360 participating festival authors. Her newest book, “Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How ‘The Graduate’ Became the Touchstone of a Generation,” published in November, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the landmark film.

Gray will discuss the book at a screening of “The Graduate” at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E Speedway Blvd., on Thursday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. and will take part in a “Perspectives on Hollywood” panel at the festival on Saturday, March 10 at 4 p.m. Gray also authored “Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers,” and “Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon . . . and Beyond”. With a doctorate in contemporary American fiction from UCLA, Gray has covered the entertainment industry for The Hollywood Reporter, and leads screenwriting workshops for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program.

Dozens of other Jewish authors are slated for this year’s festival.

“For This We Left Egypt?: A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them” is the latest humor from Alan Zweibel, an original “Saturday Night Live” writer the New York Times says “earned a place in the pantheon of American pop culture.” Winning Emmys and awards from the Writers Guild of America and The TV Critics Association for his work in television, he co-created and produced “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Zweibel’s theatrical work includes collaboration with Billy Crystal on the Tony Award-winning “700 Sundays” and Martin Short’s Broadway hit “Fame Becomes Me.”

Susan Goldman Rubin has authored more than 55 books for young adults, mainly about art and history. Most recently she’s created board books based on fine art for young children. She also explored Judaica themes in titles such as “Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America,” “Haym Salomon: American Patriot” and “Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin,” a Sydney Taylor Award Honor Book.

Steve Sheinkin has written short stories and screenplays, but wrote chapters for history textbooks while honing his graphic novel chops. His first non-textbook history book is “King George: What Was His Problem?” It spins stories from the American Revolution that were never allowed into textbooks.  His newest books are “Mixed Up History: Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler” and “Mixed Up History: Abigail Adams, Pirate of the Caribbean.”

Local Jewish agencies that will have booths at the festival include Jewish Family & Children’s Services, the Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center, Tucson Jewish Community Center and Tucson Hebrew Academy.

Besides attracting 135,000 people, the festival counts on 2,000 volunteers to organize the weekend. For a complete list of authors, a festival event schedule, or to volunteer, go to