By Rachel Gross Weinstein
From a murder mystery set in Hollywood, to a children’s book about a girl looking for her missing “pipers,” to a historical profile of seven Israeli paratroopers, the lineup at Book Fest offers something that appeals to everyone.
The annual event, formerly known as Book Fair, is hosted by the Aaron Family JCC and will kick off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16. Author Marcia Clark, the former LA attorney who served as head prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, will share her new mystery novel, “Killer Ambition.”
The goal of Book Fest is to bring the best literature and writers to the community, and this year’s roster is strong, said Liz Liener, Book Fest chair. To be included, books must have a Jewish author or feature Jewish content; all of the writers this year happen to be Jewish.
“We are fortunate that so many big names are coming this year,” Liener said. “It’s not just about reaching out to the Jewish community, but to the entire community. This is a celebration of the written word and Jews are the ‘People of the Book,’ so we thought that tied together nicely. We also wanted to give it a new name to spice it up.”
The fact that the community gets to meet the authors is part of what draws people to Book Fest, said Rachelle Weiss Crane, the J’s director of Israel Engagement and Jewish Living and Book Fest coordinator. Also, it is not a requirement to read any of the books before attending the events.
Book Fest concludes on Thursday, Nov. 21, when guest speaker Jane Weitzman, wife of shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, will share her book “Art and Sole.” The evening will also be a fundraiser to benefit Jewish Family Service’s breast cancer support program, a cause Weitzman ardently supports.
Book Fest will continue with one more event next year. The Spring Read will be hosted on March 2, 2014 by the Tycher Library of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
“I hope people see this as a fabulous way to meet authors,” Crane said. “It’s easy to go to a book store for a signing, but this is a way to get to know the author and ask questions. I want people to feel that they can come to any one of these events and learn about a book and the author’s craft, and perhaps decide to read the book afterward.”
Each presentation will include a Q-and-A session, and all of the books will be available to purchase.
Book Fest organizers are excited to showcase such a broad range of authors and books. They said there will be something to match any reader’s interest, whether that’s history, art or fiction.
“These books and authors are the best fit for our community,” Crane said. “Some are in high demand everywhere, and some are more specifically suited for us. We hope to reach a cross section of the community. When the authors come here, they really enjoy themselves and members of the community like meeting them.”
Linda Blasnik has been on the reading committee for Book Fest for about five years. She loves reading the selections and meeting the authors.
“There are a great variety of books this year,” she said. “We wanted to choose works that would challenge people, but also still be something they enjoy. What I like about these books is that they don’t scream Judaism, but still highlight that the authors are part of the Jewish culture. I am very excited about this year’s lineup.”
There is a lot to be learned from Book Fest, but Liener hopes people take away one thing in particular:
“I want them to see that reading is fun,” she said. “We want people to become more involved with books. We have found a great balance between having quality books and engaging speakers.”
Here’s the schedule for the 2013-2014 Book Fest. All events will be held at the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road, unless otherwise noted.
“Killer Ambition,” by Marcia Clark
When the daughter of a billionaire movie director is found murdered in what appears to be a kidnapping scheme gone wrong, LA Special Trials Prosecutor Rachel Knight and Detective Bailey Keller find themselves at the center of a volatile, high-profile court case. A popular and powerful talent manager — and best friend to the victim’s father — is then revealed to be the prime suspect. The director vouches for the manager’s innocence, and soon the Hollywood media machine is waging an all-out war to discredit both Rachel and her case.
“The Sisters Weiss,” by Naomi Ragen
Rose and Pearl Weiss are sisters growing up in 1950s Brooklyn, N.Y., in a loving but strict ultra-Orthodox family. They would never dream of defying their parents or the community’s unbending and intrusive demands. Then, a chance meeting with a young French immigrant turns Rose’s world upside down. In rebellion, she begins to live a secret life, one that shocks her parents when it is discovered. With nowhere else to turn, and an overwhelming desire to be reconciled with those she loves, Rose bows to her parents’ demands and agrees to an arranged marriage. Pushed to the edge, she commits an act so unforgivable, it will exile her forever from her innocent young sister and all she has ever known.
“Dan Gets a Minivan,” by Dan Zevin
Dan Zevin, the least hip citizen of Brooklyn, has a working wife, two small children, a mother who visits each week to “help” and an obese Labrador mutt that would rather be driven than walked. How he got to this point is a bit of a blur. There was a wedding, and then a puppy. A home was purchased in New England. His wife was promoted and transferred to New York. A town house. A new baby boy. A new baby girl. A full-time dad was born. A prescription for Xanax was filled. Gray hairs appeared; gray hairs fell out. Six years passed in six seconds. And then came the minivan.
This event is co-sponsored by the Sherry and Ken Goldberg Early Childhood Center at the Aaron Family JCC.
“A Guide to the Perplexed,” by Dara Horn
Software prodigy Josie Ashkenazi has invented an application that records everything its users do. When an Egyptian library invites her to visit as a consultant, her jealous sister Judith persuades her to go. But in Egypt’s post-revolutionary chaos, Josie is abducted — leaving Judith free to take over Josie’s life at home, including her husband and daughter. Josie’s talent for preserving memories becomes a surprising test of her empathy and her only means of escape.
This event is also the annual Community Read, hosted by the Tycher Library of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
“Polly’s Pipers,” by Helen Waldman
Polly’s important pipers have gone missing. She has looked everywhere — under the bed, inside her closet and in the kitchen. Where can they be? Mommy wants to help, but isn’t sure what “pipers” are. Join Polly on this colorful and whimsical search.
“Like Dreamers,” by Yossi Klein Halevi
In “Like Dreamers,” journalist Yossi Klein Halevi interweaves the stories of seven members of the 55th Paratroopers Reserve Brigade, the unit that helped restore Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967. Halevi traces events in Israel since that time and the divergent ideologies of its people, while also revealing the pivotal role each man in this band of brothers played in shaping the nation’s destiny, long after their historic victory.
“Jacob’s Oath,” by Martin Fletcher
As World War II comes to a close, Europe’s roads are clogged with 20 million exhausted refugees walking home. Among them are Jacob and Sarah, lonely Holocaust survivors who meet in Heidelberg. Jacob is consumed with hatred and cannot rest until he has killed his brother’s murderer, a concentration camp guard nicknamed “The Rat.” Now he must choose between revenge and love, between avenging the past and building a future.
“The Power of Citizenship,” by Scott Reich
Scott Reich asserts that the most powerful element of President John F. Kennedy’s legacy was his emphasis on the theme of citizenship, and that a rededication to the values Kennedy promoted will shine a bright path forward for our country. Evoking the hopes and aspirations of the 1960s, Reich recaptures the excitement of the Kennedy era. This book blends the romance of Camelot with the new frontiers of today — not only identifying modern challenges, but also offering a tangible blueprint for how to improve our public discourse, be good citizens and lift our nation to new heights of greatness. It hones in on the very essence of what made JFK so inspirational and timeless.
This event is co-sponsored by the Dallas Jewish Historical Society.
“Art and Sole,” by Jane Weitzman
When Stuart Weitzman opened his first boutique on Madison Avenue in New York City, the store’s displays of specially commissioned designer shoes quickly became a tourist destination, drawing crowds from all over the world to its magical windows. “Art and Sole” presents the best of this carefully curated collection in vivid detail. From watercolor paper to playing cards, from fresh flowers to frosting, a vast range of inventive, beautifully crafted footwear is on display in this unique gift volume.
This event will take place at Neiman Marcus at Northpark Mall, and all proceeds from ticket and book sales benefit breast cancer support services at Jewish Family Service.
“The Wanting,” by Michael Lavigne
In this novel’s galvanizing opening, celebrated Russian-born postmodern architect Roman Guttman is injured in a suicide bombing. His life is thrown into instability, and his perceptions become heightened and disturbed as he embarks on an ill-advised journey into Palestinian territory. The account of Roman’s desert odyssey alternates with the vivacious, bittersweet diary of his 13-year-old daughter, Anyusha — who is on her own perilous path — and the afterlife of Amir, the young Palestinian bomber who is now damned to observe the havoc he wrought, from beyond.
This event is also the annual Spring Read, hosted by the Tycher Library of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
Attendance at each event requires a ticket and RSVP. The price of most tickets is $10, but the “Polly’s Pipers” event, the Community Read and the Spring Read are free. The cost for the evening with Jane Weitzman is $36, or the ticket and book can be purchased together for $54. For more information about Book Fest and to RSVP, contact Rachelle Weiss Crane at 214-239-7128 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.jccdallas.org.