We spent a great Saturday wandering about downtown Berkeley at the Bay Area Book Festival, which was crowded with book-lovers of all shapes and  ages … but it must be said, especially at the panels we attended, more women than men.  Guys, it is clear, from the folks staffing the booths, you are  publishing and selling. Guys, it is clear from the folks on other panels, you are making history, you are recording history, you are cherishing music and ideas and thoughts.   But at the sessions we attended, one about how we deal with death, the other about personal taste in literature,  the majority of people who stopped to take the time to listen to authors talking about their works, their research findings, their — um, maybe here’s the problem — feelings,  were women.

That said, it’s  irrelevant.

For everyone who attended, books are a way of life, and this was a chance to celebrate that. Here’s a small album of clippings from Saturday:

— The first street we walked down was Kittredge Street, which was called Writer’s Row for the occasion.  Outside the Berkeley Public Library, the main entrance of which is on that street, a woman was giving a speech about the cruelty of the Oakland Police. She may have been correct, but imparted amid the tented booths of the festival, it seemed to have little relevance to what was going on around her.  Perhaps the message was “Welcome to Berkeley.”

— We walked over to Allston Way/Eco Alley, to the Brower Center, for “How We Die: Making Sense of Modern Death.” Organizers were insistent that this not be called the “death panel,” and when I said that to a volunteer from whom I was seeking directions, she corrected me in a firm tone of voice.  We took a seat next to Michael Freeman, a blogger who had marked up the schedule with colored pencil — indicating what he planned to attend, what he had a little interest in, what he was trying to get a ticket for — and was carrying a set of matching file folder.  My copy of the schedule was pretty much wadded up in the bottom of my purse, and I felt as though it was the first day of school and I’d neglected to bring a notebook.

Anyway, the panel — including writers Katy Butler and Monica Wesolowska, physician/writers Louise Aronson and Jessica Zitter — was stunning. The give and take of the women was inspiring, as was their admission of being sometimes stymied by dilemmas, ambivalent.  There were more questions than there were answers. (…) Read Full Publication Here

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