As last year, today, Saturday, March 12, I volunteered for the Tucson Festival of Books, held at the University of Arizona. Last year 80,000 people attended. 400 authors will speak. (It continues tomorrow.)
I arrived early and sat at the Food Court with a $5 iced latte (it was 83°, much hotter than last year) and watched people. It was 3pm and the tented food court was packed.
Attire was generally jeans or shorts. Many teen boys in giant pants and huge gym shoes. A few high school girls in sprayed-on jeggings. Mostly adult women, but a few teens carrying the brightly colored parasols sold in the children’s area. Not many women in skirts or sundresses, but a few. Cargo shorts to the knee appear to be popular with men of all ages.
Despite designers’ attempts to stamp a season with a color, the T-shirts are in a rainbow of colors. A bit of tan plaid in a pair of shorts and a few shirts, a couple of flowered blouses. We volunteers are wearing chartreuse T-shirts. The coordinators got theirs in a nice shade of lemon yellow.
Three kids, about seven, dressed all in black (young Goths?) Not too many hats – some cowboy, some baseball, some straw, and some large sunhats. Three boys in bright blue Utterback Junior High T-shirts carrying instruments. Guess they’re giving a concert. Some young men and one woman in mariachi uniforms, burgundy with gold braid. (Ok, the photo is of ¡Three Amigos!, but you get the idea.)
People back, white, Hispanic, Asian. Toddlers in strollers, one elderly couple, bent over, walking along holding hands. An Arab woman with a scarf covering her hair, an Indian woman in a sari. A couple, my age, walking their tandem bicycle.
One woman with bright, simplistic tattoos covering her arms and legs – mostly flowers and bugs – a bee, two dragon flies. Some little kids have had their faces painted. A few people with well-mannered dogs. A couple of teen girls wearing the turtle hats they’ll probably never wear again. (This photo from last year,
My venue was Border Crossings, Scott Simon (NPR Staff Host – and he sounded just like he does on the radio, and much better looking!) interviewing T. Jefferson Parker (whose book, Iron River has been nominated for the prestigious Hammett Prize) and Luis Alberto Urrea.
Luis Alberto Urrea is a poet, novelist, journalist, and essayist who has been writing about the relationship between the United States and Mexico, amongst other things, for 30 years. His 2004 nonfiction work, The Devil’s Highway, is a searing chronicle of the fate of the Yuma 14, 14 men who died in the desert after crossing the border illegally. The Los Angeles Times described it as “superb….Nothing less than a saga on the scale of the Exodus and an ordeal as heartbreaking as the Passion,” and it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
His next work, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, is an epic novel which took him twenty years to write. In shimmering prose, Urrea imagines the life of Teresita, the real-life “Saint of Cabora,” who was in fact a relative of his. The Oregonian raved, “The Hummingbird’s Daughter is nothing short of miraculous….The story of the saint is told with such love and care that it will make a believer out of anyone.”
His latest novel, Into the Beautiful North, is a funny, moving, and gorgeously written tale of a young woman’s journey to America, which Booklist calls “an outstanding reading treat.” Bookpage claims “It only takes a few pages of Luis Alberto Urrea’s thoroughly enjoyable Into the Beautiful North to start you wondering whether this book will break or warm your heart….So which is it?…A little of both, of course.” If you haven’t yet read this lyrical, generous, and important American writer, his new work is a great place to start. http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=7297
Luis was an exceptionally entertaining speaker.
The Devil’s Highway was assigned in my OLLI book discussion class. It was very depressing, and went into detail about how someone dies of dehydration. But I am glad that I read it; I don’t think that you can understand our border problems without having read it.