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Gustavo Arellano At The 4th Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair


This year's San Diego City College International Book Fair adopts the theme Lucha Libro, a play on "lucha libre," or freestyle, Mexican wrestling. We'll find out why and we'll talk about the addition of children and young adult programming to the festival line-up.

The 4th Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair runs from September 28th through October 3rd at the Saville Theater on the San Diego City College Campus.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. This is a special week for book lovers here in San Diego and across the border. The 4th annual San Diego City College International Book Fair gets underway today. The event features readings and workshops and local authors galore. Plus, this year the City Book Fair is trying to lure the next generation into a love of reading with a variety of activities for kids and young adults. And everyone will have the opportunity to make their own lucha libre wrestling mask. In fact, this fair's theme is "Lucha Libro." We'll hear what books have to do with Mexican wrestling and more from my guests. Virginia Escalante, English professor at City College and director of the San Diego City College International Book Fair. Virginia, welcome.

ESCALANTE: Good morning. Thank you for having us.

CAVANAUGH: And Jennifer Silva-Redmond is the editor-in-chief of Sunbelt Publications. She organized the Children’s and Young Adult’s section of the book fair. Jennifer, welcome.

SILVA-REDMOND: Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Virginia, tell us what is “Lucho Libro?” Why is that the theme for the book fair this year?

ESCALANTE: Well, it’s really the conception of our graphic artist. She wanted to make a poster that was really peppy, that appealed to popular culture, so she incorporated a mask from Mexican freestyle wrestling and so ‘Lucha Libro,’ which means, literally means, wrestle book, but we don’t have that intended meaning, right? And so it’s a play on lucha libre, which refers to Mexican freestyle wrestling. And it’s like saying Cherry Garcia, right?

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, I see. I get it.

ESCALANTE: It has nothing to do really with the Grateful Dead…


ESCALANTE: …and ice cream so this is…

CAVANAUGH: It’s a tribute.

ESCALANTE: Right, right.

CAVANAUGH: Now what happens at the San Diego International Book Fair? What can people expect when they go there, Virginia?

ESCALANTE: Well, we have quite, I would say, a fun, interesting and eclectic lineup of authors. We have people who – from the zany satirist Gustavo Arellano to Willie Perdomo, a New York Rican whose work is very musical, it draws from hip-hop and jazz. Then we have other people who address issues like environmentalism – Well, no, I mean, the environment and the impact that militarism on it (sic). And so we have quite a variety of topics and – but we’re also going to premiere a film called “Nommogeneity” by Terrence Stubbs, which is a documentary about African-American authors. That’s going to be happening Thursday night at the World Beat Center. And in tribute to books, readers and writers, on Friday night we’re going to have a concert with Grammy nominee Perla Batalla…


ESCALANTE: …who’s incredible.

CAVANAUGH: So it’s – all sorts of arts are getting into the book fair.

ESCALANTE: Yes, we’ll even have a faculty art exhibit in the lobby of the Saville Theatre.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Jennifer, you’ve organized one of the latest additions to the festival and that is Children and Young Adult programming. Give us a general sense of what’s being offered to kids this year.

SILVA-REDMOND: Well, it’s going to be a wonderful, eclectic, once again, spread, smorgasbord of activities and readers. At Sunbelt, we have a lot of different kinds of books about the area as well as Baja, California and Mexico, all over – books about California. And we have some of those authors that are going to be appearing, doing slide shows, doing talks, so those are going to be one-on-ones with the kids so they can meet authors and hear from them. And then there’s going to be just a plethora of activities as well. As you mentioned, they’ll be able to make their own lucha libre mask, they’ll be able to write or color a book, and the books will be that are already assembled that the kids can draw in and write. And then there’ll also be some giveaways, so every event they go to, there’ll be a drawing of a ticket to give a prize. And then Sunbelt, just to add to the fun, is going to be giving away stuffed animals to the first 100 families…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, that’s nice.

SILVA-REDMOND: …to buy a book. So there’s going to be a lot of fun for the kids to interact and maybe see if they’re excited about, we hope, of course, being readers but maybe being writers as well.

CAVANAUGH: Now one of the well known authors that is going to be at the book fair is, as you mentioned, Virgina, is Gustavo Arellan. And he’s the author…

ESCALANTE: Arellano.

CAVANAUGH: Arellano. He’s the author of the column, “Ask A Mexican.” What should people expect from his talk?

ESCALANTE: Humor and challenges to what academics so politely term anti-Mexican sentiment. He does it with wit, and with history, but he’s also written a memoir called “Orange County,” which gives us insight to what it’s like for Mexican immigrant families to live in that kind of an environment with the history that it has had.

CAVANAUGH: And one of the other authors that’s coming is Marilyn Chin. Tell us about her.

ESCALANTE: Oh, her book is incredible. “The Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen.” It’s about twin Asian girls but they’re, I don’t want to say – but they’re very American in the sense that they’re very connected to popular culture, the different trends in it. It’s magical, whimsical, and hilarious. There’s a part in there where the father gets upset because some bullies have taken the lunch money away from his daughter so he goes in to the see the principal and he says, moo goo gai pan? You want moo goo gai pan? You get moo goo gai pan. He pulls out a spatula from his pocket and starts swatting the principal with it. But – And then all the name-calling and the insults that the elderly Chinese women in the family hurl against other people, those are funny, too. It’s just an incredible book. And she is brilliant in the way that she shows her characters navigating across multiple cultural terrains, so we see a good slice of our diverse society.

CAVANAUGH: Now when these authors appear at the San Diego International Book Fair at City College, when – what will they be doing? Will they be reading from their books? Will they be taking questions? What – How will their appearances take place?

ESCALANTE: They will read from their books, most of them will, and then there will be a Q&A session, and then they will sign their books afterwards. A couple of them are going to give lectures. The imminent historian Rudy Acuna is going to address “Chicano Studies” from activism to the mainstream. And William Powers, who writes about the environment, he has written books about Liberia and the rainforest in Bolivia, he’s going to talk about the power of writing to achieve change. So we have a mix.

CAVANAUGH: I can tell you’re really looking forward to this. Let me ask you, Jennifer, about some of the children’s book authors who are going to be in attendance.

SILVA-REDMOND: Absolutely. It’s wonderful to once again have a real breadth of subjects as well as authors. Virginia mentioned the environment, we have Rick Halsey, who wrote a wonderful book on chaparral, which is, of course, our dominant ecosystem here in San Diego, and he talks about fire and the interaction of chaparral – I mean, of fire on chaparral. And he has a wonderful slide show with music that goes with that that kids really enjoy, and that’s for kids and adults. Lowell Lindsay will come and talk about the fossils of the Anza-Borrego Desert, which is, of course, an amazing seven million year fossil record, so of course kids love fossils and he’ll have things to show them. And there’ll be a world tour with “Follow The Sun,” which is a story about a young man in the time of the Pharaoh, Ramses the Second, and how he traveled around the world on foot. Of course, it’s a fictional book but it’s based on reality and the travels of the Gastils, and Janet Gastil will show us some slides of places around the world. And then Roberta Labastida with her “My Ancestors’ Village,” as well as our brand new book by Jeffrey Garcia, “Santa Claus and the Molokai Mules.”

CAVANAUGH: Ah, you’ve brought that one in. Now it’s…

SILVA-REDMOND: As you can see.

CAVANAUGH: …a different kind of an idea when a children’s book author kind of comes to do – because they can’t do a lecture. Question and answers, maybe, maybe not as when an adult author – so the inclusion of the slide shows, and what else do they do to really sort of galvanize the attention of children and young adults?

SILVA-REDMOND: Well, I think what Jeffrey’s going to do is talk about the conception, how this story came to him and how his young son, when he talked about the initial story, he credits his son, one of his young sons with inspiring him to write the book. And I think kids will get a real charge out of that because a lot of times adults tell stories to children and the kids, you know, would maybe get the enthusiasm for saying, let’s write that down, let’s – and certainly in our lives, I’m sure we’ve had grandparents or parents that have told stories and we’ve wanted to say, boy, that should be written down, you know, and some people do do that. And so what he’ll talk about is he’s been a lifelong surfer. How his surfing in Hawaii and surfing with his young sons inspired this story about a young boy that surfs…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm. Right.

SILVA-REDMOND: …in Hawaii and how he saves Christmas.


ESCALANTE: I’d like to add that we’re also having a Spanish language section for children.


ESCALANTE: And the Tijuana actress Ursula Tania is going to come and present a dramatic enactment or storytelling session where she will use different musical instruments, many of them that were used by the indigenous people of upper and lower California. So that’s another way to engage the children, through music. So…

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Virginia, about on the adult side now, I want to ask about one more book and it’s called “Itchy Brown Girl Seeks Employment.” Tell us a little bit about this book.

ESCALANTE: The book is by Ella deCastro Baron. She’s Filipina-American. And so it is about her experiences in a multi-cultural world because that’s what it’s like for her. For example, she has a piece in there about going to this church with her mother and they’re the only Filipinos in the congregation because everybody else is African-American. So there are those kinds of insights. She has – she suffers from a skin disease and that’s why it’s called “Itchy Brown Girl” and “Seeks Employment,” I think that’s also part of the condition for a lot of people these days.


SILVA-REDMOND: She actually ends the book by saying, after she’s told everything that’s – so many things have gone on with her life, she says, if anybody thinks I can be useful, you know, please contact me. So it’s really like one long, wonderful, creative, humorous classified ad in a sense.

CAVANAUGH: Now the book fair begins today but you really have a culmination this weekend. I mean you have an entire day that’s devoted to authors. Tell us a little bit about that.

ESCALANTE: Yes, on Saturday, we will begin with Gustavo Arellano and then Rudy Acuna. We’ll have “La Banderia,” our anthology, which Jennifer can talk about. Then we will also have, oh, Laurel Corona, who will read from her book on the Holocaust. It’s called “Until Our Last Breath.” And Barry Sanders, William Powers, and Willie Perdomo and then, of course, Friday night is the big weekend kickoff with novelist and poet Ana Castillo. Ella will read from her book, too. And then we’ll end with Perla Batalla’s fantastic concert.

CAVANAUGH: And in, really, the minute we have left, if you could, Jennifer, just tell us a little bit about the series of readings that you’re going to have from the book “La Banderia.”

SILVA-REDMOND: Yeah, but I did want to mention quickly that Saturday is the day that we also have the children’s lineup and that is…


SILVA-REDMOND: …also from ten to five and so there’s quite a bit of – It’ll go all day long in two different venues at the city – at City College so there’s something for people with kids to bring those. And “La Banderia” is actually, it’s going to be a collection of – it’s a collection of prose, poetry, and photography, so I believe there’s going to be somebody representing each of those. I know Donna…


SILVA-REDMOND: …Watson, the editor, will be there, and the variety of stories and spoken word, there’s actually spoken word script in the anthology, which I’ve personally never seen before. And I think that’s going to make it really exciting for reading.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I can – Yeah?

ESCALANTE: Oh, I meant to mention that we’re also going to have our independent bookstore vendors there on site, not as many as before because they’ve dwindled tremendously and unfortunately, but they will be there, too.

SILVA-REDMOND: And Sunbelt will be there, of course, selling books.

CAVANAUGH: I have to tell you that that’s all the time we have but I can tell that the two of you were very excited about this. Let me tell everyone the 4th Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair runs from today through October 3rd at the Saville Theatre on the San Diego City College Campus. I want to thank my guests, Virginia Escalante and Jennifer Silva-Redmond. Thank you both so much for coming in.

ESCALANTE: Thank you.

SILVA-REDMOND: Thanks for having us.

CAVANAUGH: You’ve been listening to These Days. Stay with us for hour two coming up in just a few minutes.

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