Bay Area Book Festival offers powerhouse writers, thinkers on 10th anniversary  

Aya de Leon

The 10th Bay Area Book Festival kicks off in June in downtown Berkeley with a lineup of literary and celebrity authors including Joan Baez and Bay Area native Amy Tan. 

More than 157 writers will attend the mostly free June 1-2 extravaganza, which features panels with authors from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and genres from literary fiction, memoir, poetry, history, biography and essay and journalism to noir, science fiction, romance, graphic novels, horror and young adult, as well as the business of writing and publishing. 

Billed as “three headliners, 10 writers’ workshops, an outdoor fair and four stages full of top programming,” the 2024 festival begins June 1 with Writers’ Day, a series of workshops for emerging writers and sessions for teens and children, at the Berkeley Public Library.  

Panels and talks at the Freight & Salvage and an outdoor fair in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, with authors speaking at multiple stages, follow on June 2. 

Joan Baez is one of the headliners of the 2024 Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley. (Courtesy Joan Baez)

Headliners include Baez, the legendary activist and musician, in conversation with tribal leader Greg Sarris about her new poetry book “When You See My Mother, Ask Her to Dance,” which covers her relationships with contemporaries Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and Jimi Hendrix and her childhood and family memories. Joan Baez & Chairman Sarris: Legendary Artists on Identity and Remembering ($20) is at 5:30 p.m. June 1. 

Festival programming director Aya de León, a novelist who teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley, is particularly excited about a June 2 forum, “We the People: Building a Resilient Multiracial Democracy in 2024 and Beyond” with electoral analyst Steve Phillips, a civil rights lawyer and fellow at the Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization. Phillips’ books include the best-selling “Brown is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution has Created a New American Majority.” 


Civil rights attorney and writer Steve Phillips speaks on the panel “We the People: Building a Resilient Multiracial Democracy in 2024 and Beyond.” (Courtesy Berkeley Book Festival)

“He was one of the first people I wanted, because in this electoral year we really need to be thinking about fascism and threats to American democracy,” de León said. “Steve came to the conclusion that a coalition of people of color and progressive white people can win any election anywhere in the country, including the presidency,” de León said. “But in order to do that there would have to be candidates who were really progressive and inspiring.” 

Stressing the importance of putting authors in discussions with political organizers, de León added, “We want to have people with a vision for change, but in conversation with people who actually have strategies for change that the audiences can plug into if they’re interested,” she said. 

Moderated by BART board director and congressional candidate Lateefah Simon, the free forum at 12:30 p.m. June 2 features Phillips, Ash-Lee Henderson, co-director of the Highlander Center, a grassroots group working in the South; and Maurice Mitchell of Movement for Black Lives and the Working Families Party.  

In addition to being on the festival’s leadership team, de León will be on two panels: “Climate Fiction as a Tool for Climate Justice” at 11:30 a.m. June 2 on the MLK Stage, and “Climate Poetry Across Generations: An Inspirational Reading” at 3:45 p.m. June 2 on the same stage.  

Among author de Lion’s fiction titles are feminist heist books and three novels for younger readers. When she told her young children they couldn’t attend her book readings about sex worker heists, de León started writing books for middle-grade children. 

“I thought it would be so nice to write something that my kids could participate with me in, that was also part of my parenting,” de León said. 

At 11 a.m. June 2 is the high-profile “National Book Critics Circle Superstars of Fiction,” with Oakland native Tan (“The Joy Luck Club”), Jonathan Lethem (“Motherless Brooklyn”) and Tommy Orange (“There, There”) reading from their recent works and speaking about how winning the award for their first book transformed their lives.  

Another powerhouse program is the ticketed ($20) “Page to Screen: A Dance Between Words and Images” at 5:30 p.m. June 2 with writers whose works have been adapted for television. Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winner for “The Sympathizer,” about a Vietnamese communist double agent who moves to the United States; Piper Kerman, whose memoir “Orange is the New Black” about her time in a women’s prison became a long-running Netflix series; and Alka Joshi, whose “The Henna Artist” about a young woman escaping an abusive marriage to build a new life in Jaipur in the 1950s is in development with Netflix, will appear.  


Writer-activist-filmmaker Naomi Klein’s latest book is “Doppelganger.” (Courtesy Sebastian Nevols)

Another ticketed ($20) headliner, at 7:30 p.m. June 1, is Canadian social activist and filmmaker Naomi Klein, known for political analyses, ecofeminism and criticizing corporate globalization. The author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” and “On Fire: The Burning Case for the Green New Deal” has a new book, “Doppelganger,” which delves into the comically absurd predicament of being mistaken for Naomi Wolf, the former liberal feminist icon turned anti-vax conspiracist.  

Other notable programs include “Creative Alchemy: Exploring the Intersection of Creativity and Artificial Intelligence” with multicultural fantasy novelist Hamsa Buvaraghan; researcher Alex Hanna of the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute; journalist and novelist Annalee Newitz; and Maja Thomas, chief innovation officer at the publishing company Hachette. It’s at 3:30 p.m. June 2.  

Also, at 2 p.m. June 2, “The Vibration of Liberation: Healing through Sound, Word and Breath” features doula, vocalist, composer and sound healer gina Breedlove sharing her book, “The Vibration of Grace: Sound Healing Rituals for Liberation.”  

At 3 p.m. June 2 on the Allston Stage, National Book Critics Circle Superstars of Poetry” features award-winners including Forrest Gander, Victoria Chang and D.A. Powell reading their work and discussing the power of the form.  

The Bay Area Book Festival runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 1-2. Programs are at the Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley, and in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, Martin Luther King Jr. and Allston ways, Berkeley, unless noted otherwise. For the schedule, map and details, visit 

The post Bay Area Book Festival offers powerhouse writers, thinkers on 10th anniversary   appeared first on Local News Matters.

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 *