Local Lit: March’s top literary picks

Steven Levy: Facebook: The Inside Story, Mar. 6

Tech writer Steven Levy had uncommon access during a three-year period while conducting hundreds of interviews inside and outside the company. It takes a hefty tome to profile a company with a valuation exceeding $576 billion and a world’s-largest social media platform used by nearly 3 billion people. Even so, the book’s deep dive largely avoids becoming a diatribe about Facebook’s legal and political woes involving surveillance, election-influencing and other recent controversies. Expect the Q&A with KPFA’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert to touch on those topics. Levy is Wired editor-at -large and author of seven previous books. He has written for Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and The New Yorker.

Mar. 6, $12 advance, $15 door, First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, 2407 Dana Street, Berkeley, 510-967-4495. Tickets here.

Bay Area Women’s Theatre Festival: Women of Color Reading, Mar. 9

The inaugural, three-month festival celebrates women-plus and non-binary artists across the Bay Area with full-length theater productions, two un-staged script readings series and a climactic 24-hour grand finale showcase of literary and theater activities April 18-19 at Brava! in San Francisco’s Mission District. The Color Reading Series curated by Kathryn Seabron launches in Berkeley with La Paloma, by theater artist Alejandra Maria Rivas and directed by Marisa Ramos. Co-hosted by Aurora Theater Company, the 75-minute event is free, with donations accepted. Visit the website to find out about other literary events included in the festival that runs from March to April.

Mar. 9, @ 7pm, Free, Aurora Theater Company, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, (917) 535-3341. Tickets here.

Gretchen Sorin: Driving While Black: African-American Travel & the Road to Civil Rights, Mar. 11

Victor Green’s The Green Book gave African Americans a safe-travel guide during a Jim Crowe era that limited black families’ mobility and allowed racist laws that humiliated black people using public transportation. The book’s listings of black-only hotels, restaurants, communication networks and maps highlighting safe routes on the open road shaped the lifestyles and history of middle class African Americans for decades. Author Gretchen Sorin shares personal accounts of family trips on which her parents brought food, blankets, and other supplies to avoid segregated hotels. The author’s deep research provides a fascinating profile of the automobile and what it symbolized for African Americans. Sorin is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Cooperstown Graduate Program of the State University of New York and appears in conversation at Kehilla Synagogue with KPFA radio host and producer Sabrina Jacobs.

Mar. 11 @ 7:30 p.m., $ – 9:30 pm $12-$15 door, Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Avenue, Piedmont, kpfa.org/events, 510-967-4495, Tickets here.

Nancy Davis Kho Book Reading for Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries, Mar. 12

The Friends board and members bring Bay Area author Nancy Davis Kho to First Unitarian Church of Oakland to support Oakland public school libraries. Often underfunded and therefore lacking not only books, but upgraded technology, facilities and programs aimed at nurturing budding authors, playwrights, journalists, reporters, readers and writers, the Friends’ role in advocating and fundraising for the area’s public school libraries is vital. The FOPSL reports: “Since 2012, FOPSL has supported school libraries with 25,000 volunteer hours and $100,000 in book grants, technology grants and other financial assistance, and we’ve helped open or refurbish 26 public school libraries. In 2019 alone, FOPSL provided new library books for 9000 students at 19 different Oakland Public Schools.” Davis Kho’s book chronicles a year in which she wrote one thank-you letter each week and from that practiced gratitude, discovered reassurance, hope and comfort. She will share insights from the book and offer practical tips for raising your happiness quotient.

Mar. 12 @ 6:30 p.m., $30, First Unitarian Church, 685 14th Street, Oakland, 415-794-6284, www.fopsl.org

Adam Hochschild at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore, Mar. 13

Best-selling Berkeley author Adam Hochschild’s new book, Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes, tells the perilous history of the long-overlooked social justice activist. Hochschild, also the author of King Leopold’s Ghost and Spain in Our Hearts, shines the spotlight on Rose Pastor, a Jewish refugee from Russia. After working in a Cleveland cigar factory from the age of 11, she moved in 1903 as a young adult to New York City. Two years later, she married high-society millionaire mogul James Graham Phelps Stokes and together, they joined a group of Socialist Party mavericks. Campaigning with America’s earliest feminists, she lived during the movement’s formative years that included the 1909 N.Y.C. garment workers’ strike, activities of the International Workers of the World, and the American Birth Control League. Convicted in 1918 for violating the Espionage Act and a founding member of the Communist Party of America, the marriage eventually unravelled under the strain and left her to die in poverty, but with Hochschild’s compelling biography, her legacy lives on.

Mar. 13 @ 7:30 p.m., Free, Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore, 2904 College Ave, Berkeley, 510.704.8222,

Berkeley Arts & Letters: Linda Sarsour, Mar. 31

Women’s March co-organizer Linda Sarsour’s new memoir, We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders, reveals her journey as a Muslim American woman up to, during, and post- 9/11. As the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, Sarsour learned the process and principles of community wellbeing and as an adult making claim to her faith, about the most effective, humanitarian efforts in the fight for social justice. Family, friends, and mentors provided emotional support, but also served to model noble purpose and inspired Sarsour as she stepped along a personal and public path to become a lauded civil rights activist and community organizer while parenting three children. She was featured as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2017 and has won numerous awards including a Champion of Change award from the Obama Administration. Her story of resilience and bold resistance to racial, ethnic, gender and religious bias, unapologetically told, seeks to “shatter every stereotype… of Muslim women.”

Mar. 31, 7 p.m., $10-20 (admission only) $38.50-48.50 (admission + advance book purchase), First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley. Tickets here.

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