Book Lovers Flood Tucson

Tucson Festival of Books on University of Arizona Campus
Tucson Festival of Books main drag

Destination: Tucson, Arizona

Event: Tucson Festival of Books, 2011

[See more photos on my Facebook page]

The Tucson Festival of Books has grown rapidly in its three years. Organizers say there were 100,000 people there in March 2011, and I think that is true.

People of all ages cluster around tables piled with books. Colorful paper parasols bloom as people shelter from the sun. Wearing my green volunteer shirt sporting a big black tarantula, I attract questions–“Where is Elmore Leonard?” “Where are they selling caramel corn?” Follow your nose–the aroma of roasting corn and caramel corn from the center of the mall–the Festival’s stomach.

Chowing Down at the Food Court at the Tucson Festival of Books

Chowing Down at the Food Court

There is so much to see and do that it has taken me a week to get my thoughts together and give you a mini-slice of the Festival–the parts that I personally experienced. My choices this year were guided by two questions–what could I add to my travel library? and what could I add to my knowledge of American Indians and the literature about them?

Beresford Bears and fans
Beresford Bears and fans

After making my way past the storybook characters in front of the University Book Store, I attended a panel of authors discussing mystery movels featuring modern day American Indians as protagonists.

Craig Johnson (Wyoming-Crow and Cheyenne), Sara Sue Hoklotubbe (Oklahoma-Cherokee), Margaret Coel (Colorado/Wyoming-Arapaho) and Thomas Perry(New York State-Iroquois and Seneca)

The writers discussed how to transmit culture that is not your own, since only one of the panelists is an American Indian. (They agreed that American Indian is their preferred term over the P.C. Native American.) Craig Johnson remarked, “How do you NOT put Indians in when you write a Western novel? They are such an important part of America.”  I talk more about this panel over at the Quincy Tahoma Blog. (Article coming next Monday–sorry if you have been looking for it.)

Next I listened to two women who chucked the every day grind to follow very different paths.  Lisa Napoli left a job at National Public Radio to help start the first radio station in Bhutan. In Radio Bhutan (February 2011), she talks about The Happiest Kingdom, and her adjustments to life in a strange place. It all started when she met a cute guy at a party.

Polly Letofsky went even further. Obsessed since she was a child with the idea of walking around the world, she set off to walk around the world, raising money for breast cancer research. Her book, 3 MPH, follows the 5 years during which she covered 14,000 miles and touched on four continents.Polly’s lively presentation had me howling with laughter.

Lisa Napoli, author of Radio Shangri La
Lisa Napoli, author of Radio Shangri La
Polly Letofsky, author of 3 MPH
Polly Letofsky, author of 3 MPH


Panel on Place as Character at Tucson Book Festival
Panel on Place as Character

I was fortunate to be the driver for Martin Cruz Smith, the author of a series of mysteries set in Russia –and some other ones in foreign places like New York City and Cuba. He is best known for the Arkady Renko series that started with Gorky Park. (Saying goodbye to Smith on Sunday was like the melancholy of closing a good book.) An outdoor tent housed his panel with Jennifer CarrellCara Blackand Josh Bazell.

The subject of their panel was Place as Character--a concept readers of A Traveler’s Library are familiar with.  Jennifer Lee Carrell said in research for her mystery built around Shakespeare’s Macbeth, she found that “places have produced character.” Cara Black says that Paris is “an exacting muse” and she writes about “the darker side of the City of Light.” I thought that Josh Bazell made the most important comment. He says he wants to find “the things I was not expecting.  It is not memorable if it is what you expect.” In other words, finding the details that go beyond cliché.

Carolyn O'Bagy Davis talks about Hopi book
Carolyn O'Bagy Davis

Finally, I went to hear a friend, Carolyn O’Bagy Davis talk about her book, Hopi Summer, which has been chosen as the book that all Arizona will be reading and discussing this year in One Book Arizona. Carolyn showed slides documenting the 1920’s visit of an Eastern family to the Hopi reservation. The remaining family members gave her copies of journals and diaries and photos and she took them to the Hopi reservation and talked to descendants of the people in the pictures. What a great book for the traveler’s library, if you are going to the Southwest.

In fact,  all these authors definitely expanded my to-be-read file of books that inspire travel. [If you are considering buying one, please check the Amazon carousel above that features just these authors. Convenient for you. A few cents for me.]

If you are on Facebook, check out my personal Facebook page and look at my album of photos from the Tucson Festival of Books.  And please tell your Facebook friends about this post and my Facebook pictures. (I own the copyright to all photos here. If you are interested in using one, please contact me at vmb at

Book your Travel now: Tucson Festival of Books: March 10-11, 2012

Do you have a book fair or festival near you? Tell us about it. Have you read any of the book authors mentioned here? Which ones should we read?

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

3 thoughts on “Book Lovers Flood Tucson

  1. I have been to the Texas Book Festival several times — it is held on the grounds of the state captiol in Austin, and not surprisingly there is a bit of music involved as well as books. I’ve not been to the Virginia Festival of the Book, but a friend of mine who lives in Virginia presented there one year and very much enjoyed it.
    The Tucson event sounds like a winner — will you be back next year — presenting about your book, perhaps?

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