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Texas Book Festival Field Guide

Austin writer Imani K. Evans highlights the festival's panels in this introduction.
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Texas Book Festival Executive Director Lidia Agraz and First Lady Laura Bush at the 2012 author lineup announcement event at the Bush home in Dallas.

As ever, the 2012 Texas Book Festival promises to be a big stuffed omelet of literary goodness appealing to bibliophiles of every stripe. Whether you’re drawn to the achingly serious, the bracingly risqué, or the delightfully loopy, the Festival has something to offer.

Here’s a sample of what this writer will be checking out:

The unyielding focus on President Barack Obama’s racial and ethnic background sometimes obscures a simple truth: no person’s racial identity is uncomplicated. In American Tapestry: Michelle Obama’s Multicultural Ancestors, Rachel Swarns shows how the First Lady’s stark blackness is not merely a foil to her husband’s multiracial complexity, but is quite a varied bundle in its own right. Swarns, a New York Times reporter, managed to locate a number of Michelle Obama’s black, white and multiracial ancestors, weaving a tale of multigenerational race-mixing which challenges everything we thought we knew about the First Lady.

Date: Saturday, October 27, 2012. Time: 10:00 – 10:45. Location: C-SPAN/Book TV Tent.

Ever since the Oscar-nominated film The Social Network hit screens in 2010, Facebook’s mythic narrative has become firmly fixed in the public mind: from scruffy underdog to all-seeing entity no one can escape. Now comes Katherine Losse’s The Boy Kings: A Journey Into the Heart of Facebook, a first-person account of the company’s ways from the perspective of a liberal arts major who never fully bought into the hype. As much a work of social history as autobiography, Losse’s book raises challenging questions about the world Facebook has created.

Date: Saturday, October 27, 2012. Time: 11:30 – 12:15. Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.036.

In a panel discussion titled “Big City Sueños: Latinos in Urban Texas”, authors Sarah Cortez, Thomas Kreneck, and Gwendolyn Zepeda will each draw upon their highly distinct works to present a variegated picture of Latino life in urban Texas. Kreneck is the author of Del Pueblo: A History of Houston’s Hispanic Community, which connects Houston’s recent Latino boom back to the struggles of the city’s relatively tiny Hispanic community in the 19th century. Cortez is the author of Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston, a multi-genre memoir that presents vignettes in poetic, short fiction and nonfiction form about her memories of growing up Tejano in Houston. Zepeda is the author of Level Up/Paso De Nivel, a bilingual children’s book about a young Latino boy’s struggle to unlearn some bad habits in the age of junk food, video games and television.

Date: Saturday, October 27, 2012. Time: 1:30 – 2:30. Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.026.

The Observer’s Melissa del Bosque will moderate “Nunca Volver: New Lives, New Lands,” a panel discussion on writing which recounts the lives of immigrants. Reyna Grande (The Distance Between Us), Michel Stone (The Iguana Tree) and Peter LaSalle (Mariposa’s Song—an excerpt of which will soon appear in the Observer) will discuss their new works in what the TBF labels a “conversation about crossing borders.”

Date: Saturday, October 27, 2012. Time: 4:00 – 5:00. Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.030.

In his new book Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas, Dale Carpenter lays bare some of Texas’ recent history as a pivot-point in the struggle for gay equality. 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas began as a small civil case but eventually set off repercussions that would provide much of the current gay rights movement’s forward thrust beyond basic liberties and toward full equality.

Date: Saturday, October 27, 2012. Time: 1:45 – 2:30. Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.030.

Venerable economist James K. Galbraith of UT- Austin will discuss his book Inequality and Instability: The World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis. Galbraith has long been a critic of neoliberal economic policy, and is unafraid to point the finger at his colleagues in the economics profession—in particular those who march lock-step to the tune of deregulation, privatization, and free trade.

Date: Sunday, October 28, 2012Time: 3:15 – 4:00Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.030.

Imani K. Evans is an Austin-based freelance writer. He writes about politics and culture for The Dallas Examiner.