Warm weather and sunshine greeted crowds of book lovers Saturday on the first day of the 2018 Texas Book Festival.
Visitors to the free event in and around the Capitol listened to authors talk about topics ranging from immigration to vintage crime to our current president and much, much more.
In an early panel, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas (“Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen”) and writer Reyna Grande (“A Dream Called Home”) discussed their perspectives on the undocumented immigrant experience.
In Grande’s case, she was well aware she was undocumented when she came to the United States at 9 years old.
“I knew it was the only way my family could be together, but I also knew the stakes were very high” Grande said. “Imagine having to choose between leaving your children behind and taking them with you and risking their lives.”
Vargas noted that while there is a lot of attention paid to the southern border, our northern one is often ignored.
“Being in Texas (reminds me) that we owe the Mexican people an apology for racializing" the issue of undocumented immigration, Vargas said.
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The creative process is always a big part of the festival. In front of a packed room, cartoonist Jason Lutes discussed the influences on his graphic novel “Berlin,” a story of the Weimar Republic.
Using an entertaining PowerPoint, he went from a childhood reading superhero and cowboy comics to "Star Wars" ("No other science fiction movies created such a completely believable world”) through Dungeons and Dragons (“It gave you permission to be creative in a group”) to the work of cartoonist Ben Katchor (“He showed me comics could be poetry”) and beyond.
In her book “The Real Lolita,” author Sarah Weinman pieces together how the real-life kidnapping and sexual abuse of 11-year-old Sally Horner in 1948 inspired Vladimir Nabokov's novel “Lolita.”
"The Real Lolita" discusses how the character of Lolita has often been misinterpreted — as a temptress rather than an abused child — and how Sally also was judged harshly by some after she was rescued from the man who held her captive nearly two years. Weinman said she was editing the book when the Harvey Weinstein story broke and the #MeToo movement began growing.
“It’s a really awful reminder that this is a subject that is timely, but it really is timeless," she said. "I think the Kavanaugh hearings really showed that a woman could get up in front of the American public and tell her story and be believed, and it still doesn’t matter.”
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Historian H.W. Brands, author of “Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants” noted that writing about three historical figures is a lot easier in some ways than writing about one.
“When you are writing a biography, you (can give the impression) the world revolves around your guy,” he said, adding that while one figure can have a slow period in his or her life, “having multiple characters gives you greater leeway to take out the boring stuff.”
Having written much of the book more than a year ago, Brands said he also wondered how he was going to engage a modern audience on tariffs and trade protectionism: “Part of me is thanking Trump for raising the issue,” he said.
The festival continues Sunday; look for panels on alternative realities in science fiction, the creation of Google Maps, the Golden Age of television, writing through illness and grief, and the civil rights movement in Texas.