Literary types might best describe the San Antonio Book Festival as a bevy, an abundance, a surfeit, or a plethora of literature, all centered around books and conversations with the people who made them.
With more than 90 featured authors and 66 scheduled events
packed into the one-day festival on April 7, “we want there to be so many choices that it’s actually hard to choose what to go see,” said Clay Smith, literary director of the festival.
For example, to start the day, those in a mood for comedy might choose the 10 a.m. “Paula Poundstone Is Made of Funny” discussion with Poundstone and Joyce Slocum, president and CEO of Texas Public Radio. Those preferring care and support might instead choose the 10 a.m. panel “Laughing Through Heartache,” centered on Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s book How to Love the Empty Air.
In the same time slot, the “Literary San Antonio” session features a collection of local authors, while novelists Attica Locke and Jardine Libaire discuss race and class in fiction with moderator and award-winning author Amanda Eyre Ward.
The philosophy of the festival, Smith said poetically, is “like skipping a rock across a pond.” The single, jam-packed day of the festival is the rock hitting the surface, he said, and then “the ripples continue through the rest of the year, to brighten the cultural life of San Antonio.”
Examining the festival schedule, certain themes emerge, some of which are coincidental and some of which are based on subjects of current importance: Mexico and immigration; presidential politics; natural sciences and civilization; poetry, myths, and fables; stories for kids and young adults; and of course, Texas.
“We truly have something for everybody,” said Katy Flato, the festival’s executive director, who recommends that visitors craft itineraries for themselves based on subjects of interest. The festival website’s schedule offers a handy “My Schedule” tool to help plan.
Flato also encourages free wandering among the many panels, books signings, and sales tents. “You can wander into a session you might not have planned to see,” she said, a strategy that “can keep us all curious and learning.”
In the spirit of Flato’s suggestion of curating the experience, the Rivard Report offers several possible schedules, grouped by theme:
Readers focused on politics might begin with 10 a.m. session “When the Gun Goes Off: Two Novelists Tackle Race & Class,” with Libaire and Locke, in the Ellison Room of the SSA Santikos Building.
At 11:15 a.m., head over to the library’s first-floor auditorium for Seamus McGraw on A Thirsty Land: The Making of an American Water Crisis. Next, at noon, to the Central Library Plaza’s EY-sponsored tent for Jorge Ramos talking about the challenge of being an immigrant in the Trump era, with Rivard Report publisher Robert Rivard.
A presidential-themed afternoon starts at 2:30 p.m. with writer/comedian David Litt on Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years, then Mark Updegrove on the two Bush presidents at 3:45 p.m., and from 4:15-5 p.m., David Cay Johnston on “The Trump Administration: It’s Even Worse Than You Think” with moderator
Beth Frerking, editor-in-chief of the Rivard Report.
Texas-centric book lovers might begin the day with Roger D. Hodge and Bryan Mealer for the “Texas Blood: Two Writer Wrestle with Family Legacy” session in the Library’s third floor Festival Room, then move to Rogers Hall in the Southwest School of Art’s (SSA) nearby Santikos Building for the 11:15 a.m. “Have Camera, Will Travel” panel, based on the picturesque Hometown Texas photographic book by Peter Brown and storyteller Joe Holley.
The afternoon presents a conundrum for those interested in Texas legends, who must choose between 1 p.m. panels on “Giant: The Making of a Legendary American Film” in Rogers Hall, “Coyotes and Wolves: The Myth and Reality of the American West” in the library’s second-floor Swartz Room, or local historian Lewis Fisher’s Maverick: The American Name That Became a Legend, in the Festival Room.
A 2:30 p.m. panel on Texas novels, moderated by Opera San Antonio Board Chair (and Faulkner scholar) Blair Labatt, follows in the Launch SA section of the library’s first floor, with more Texas photos in As Far As You Can See: Picturing Texas by Kenny Braun rounding out the day from 3:30-4:15 p.m. in Rogers Hall.
The subject of Mexico has been ever-present for San Antonians in light of the Tricentennial year and current politics.
A Mexico-themed day might begin at 10 a.m. in the library’s first-floor auditorium, with former border agent Francisco Cantú talking with Stephanie Elizondo Griest and moderator Raúl Lomelí-Azoubel on “Dispatches from the Borderlands: The Human Face of Immigration.”
A panel on the horrifying police kidnapping and killings of Mexican students at Ayotzinapa follows at 1:45 p.m. with journalist John Gibler. The 2:45 p.m. time slot offers a choice between ancient and recent history, with Matthew Restall’s “When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting That Changed History” in the Festival Room, or “Bloodlines: Truth & Fiction About the Cartels” with Melissa del Bosque and Daniel Peña in the Latino Collection Resource Center.
A lighthearted Tex-Mex capper for the day would be the 4 p.m. session on Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty with Bárbara Renaud González, with moderator and San Antonio author and performer Marisela Barrera, or the 3:45 p.m. session on “The Myths of Mexico” with author David Bowles.
Children and Young Adults
The youth section of the festival figures prominently in the day’s events, from Newbery Award honoree Jason Reynolds from 1:45-2:30 p.m. in the outdoor EY tent, to new Coco book authors Diana Lopez and Angela Cervantes at 2:30 in the Copper Kitchen of the SSA’s Urschel building.
The morning is also rich with intriguing questions for kids, from “Who’s All Around Us?” with Adriana M. Garcia and Xelena González at 10:40 a.m in the Holt Family Children’s Reading Tent in the SSA’s McNutt Garden, to “Why Am I Me?” with author Paige Britt in the same location at 11:20 a.m., to “Is the Constitution Perfect?” with Cynthia and Sanford Levinson at 1:40 p.m. in the Copper Kitchen just before the Coco session.
These themed days are only examples. The festival is programmed to represent multiple interests, from poetry to jellyfish, and curious wanderers will also find an event brimming with possibilities, Flato said. She recommends arriving early and planning to stay the whole day.
The San Antonio Book Festival, free and open to all visitors, runs Saturday, April 7, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Central Library and Southwest School of Art, with indoor and outdoor sessions, activities, and food trucks. Free, paid, and metered parking is available nearby, with options listed on the festival website.