Bay Area Book Festival goes virtual with thought-provoking programs

(Images courtesy of the Bay Area Book Festival)

For its sixth annual staging, a popular Berkeley celebration of authors and reading is by necessity going YouTube virtual this year, but with its customary emphasis on socially conscious issues seriously amped up in this time of crisis.

Bearing the somewhat ironic hashtag #UNBOUND, the Bay Area Book Festival launches at 7 p.m. May 1 with a “Vote at Home” panel featuring New York Times journalist Jesse Wegman, author of “Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College,” and Amber McReynolds, head of the National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition and co-author of “When Women Vote.” “Merge Left” author Ian Haney Lopez moderates the session, with a focus on making the upcoming presidential election safe and secure for all.

The virtual fest carries on throughout the month of May and into June, with live and some pre-recorded presentations for adults, young adults, middle-schoolers and children (an “Ivy and Bean Shelter in Place” program on the first Saturday morning!). Most of the events are free and will remain on the festival’s YouTube channel after their original airing (but without audience participation).

Anthony Doerr

The big exception is a star-studded “Coming Together When Things Fall Apart” fundraiser featuring Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr of “All the Light We Cannot See” fame, “The Incendiaries” author R.O. Kwon, and another Pulitzer winner, “The Sympathizer” author Viet Thanh Nguyen. The 7 p.m. May 2 program, moderated by “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self” author Danielle Evans, will cost between $40 to $1,000 for a limited audience to attend, with the “tickets” serving as tax-deductible donations.

Here are a few highlights from events already scheduled (more will be posted by mid-May):

  • “ACCORDIONLY – Abuela and Opa Make Music,” a picture book session for the youngest readers with author Michael Genhart and his illustrator Priscilla Burris presenting their heartwarming story of two grandpas from different cultures working together to make their blended family a harmonious one. (10 a.m. May 3)
  • “Queens of Mystery: Writer to Writer” session pairs “The Dark Corners of the Night” author Meg Gardiner with Rachel Howzell Hall, author of “They All Fall Down.” Edgar Award-winner Laurie King moderates their conversation about what they do to keep you up all night reading. (7 p.m. May 5)
  • “How to Raise a Reader” co-author Pamela Paul of the New York Times Book Review converses with developmental psychologist Diana Divecha of the Yale Child Study Center about how to turn kids away from video games and TV and toward a love of reading. (7 p.m. May 26)
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee
  • “One Person, No Vote,” a conversation between racial justice writer Carol Anderson, author of “White Rage,” and the East Bay’s own firebrand U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. (7 p.m. May 28)
  • “Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes.” In a pre-recorded conversation, Berkeley author and historian Adam Hochschild talks about his just-published account of a woman who rose from crushing poverty to become the most talked-about labor organizer and birth control activist in early 20th-century America. (7 p.m. June 2)

To register for the festival and find a more complete schedule of events, go to After registering, you will get the direct YouTube premiere link and will have access to chat for many of the live events.

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *