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SA Book Fest Promises An Exciting Mélange Of War And Peace

San Antonio Public Library Foundation

Military-themed books that talk about the effects of war and post-conflict issues are among those that headline the third edition of the San Antonio Book Festival (SABF), a free, daylong, family-friendly event on April 11 at the Central Library and the Southwest School of Art.  The event, which will feature more than 75 local, regional and national authors, will also see readings, panel discussions, book sales, recipe demonstrations, children’s and teen activities, food and live music.

In a nod to the city’s strong military community, the works of soldiers returning from the Middle East will be an important part of this year’s event, said Katy Flato, the SABF Executive Director. Former U.S. Marine Michael Pitre, whose novel Fives and Twenty-Fives follows an American road repair crew and bomb disposal team in Iraq, will be there, as will former Special Ops team member, Ross Ritchell. Ritchell’s debut novel, The Knife, takes the reader straight to the “killing fields of Afghanistan.”

One of the panel discussions will feature The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program, Jan Jarboe Russell’s poignant and very revealing story on a dark chapter in U.S. history — the vilification and harassment of U.S. citizens of Japanese, German and Italian origin during and just after the second World War.

Russell’s haunting story is centered on the country’s lone wartime family interment camp, in Crystal City, Texas, the feeder for a rather horrific government prisoner exchange program called ‘Quiet Passage,’ which saw many prisoners there, including their U.S.-born children, exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany. Her co-panelist is the former PBS Frontline chief correspondent, Richard Reeves, whose latest book, Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II, takes you back to just after Pearl Harbor, and the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans and aliens, in a powerful narrative of xenophobia, revenge, racism and the meaning of patriotism.

SABF Literary Director Clay Smith said the topics for panels would focus on current affairs and look at immigration issues, the effects of war, climate change and motherhood.

“We are particularly strong in fiction writing,” said Smith. “Great examples are the award-winning authors Kirstin Valdez Quade (Nights at the Fiesta: Stories), who received a "5 Under 35" award from the National Book Foundation, and Maggie Shipstead (Astonish Me), who won the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction.”  Smith added, “Our fiction programming is so robust that we are even able to present a panel called ‘Novels about Kidnapping,’ which features Bret Anthony Johnston (Remember Me Like This), Antonio Ruiz-Camacho (Barefoot Dogs: Stories) and Natalia Sylvester (Chasing the Sun: A Novel).”

Pulitzer-Prize winner Lawrence Wright, who detailed the events of the 1978 Camp David conference and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in his latest book, Thirteen Days in SeptemberCarter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David, will be there, as will Austin-based author, S.C. Gwynne, whose newest offering is a compelling look at the tragedy of Confederate hero Stonewall Jackson, in Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson. 

Andrew Yang, the founder and CEO of Venture for America, a nonprofit organization that places top college graduates in start-ups to encourage job growth and a new generation of entrepreneurs, will present his book, Smart People Should Build Things.

Several local personalities will be present, including poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye with her new novel for middle grades, The Turtle of Oman, and David Liss (The Day of Atonement). 

Other Highlights

· The Festival will screen “Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove,” a feature-length documentary about San Antonio native Doug Sahm, master of Tex-Mex roots-rock music. This will be the film’s San Antonio premiere and the director, Joe Nick Patoski, will also conduct a Q&A. 

· Recipe demonstrations from cookbook authors at the H-E-B Central Market Cooking Tent, including Terry Thompson Anderson, author of Texas on a Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Lone Star State, and Kate Payneauthor of The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen.

· Student winners of the Second Annual San Antonio Book Festival Fiction Contest will be recognized in an awards ceremony at the Festival. 

· Interactive experiences at the Geek Bus, Connect Tent; free books from the Literacy Caravan; a performance by Magik Theatre and educational activities by MyStory and the San Antonio Children’s Museum.

· Literary Death Match at the Empire Theatre, 7 p.m. Tickets are available at saplf.org/festival/. Four famous authors perform the most exciting sections of their work for an audience and a panel of judges, who take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary, then select their favorite to advance to the finals.

A full schedule of events will be available next month.