JBookFest Brings Authors to Austin’s Bibliophiles
From laughs with “The Knish War on Rivington” to tears with “Something Beautiful Happened,” as well as middle grade fiction, and scientific and historical non-fiction, the 2018 JBookFest includes material of interest for readers of all stripes.
The author series kicks off Saturday, October 20, with the Leslie Brittman Literary Event. Featuring Yvette Manessis Corporon, author of “Something Beautiful Happened,” the event will be held at Chez Zee at 7 p.m.
Yvette Manessis Corporon grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories about how the people of the small Greek island Erikousa hid a Jewish family—a tailor named Savvas and his daughters—from the Nazis during World War II.
Seventy years later, Yvette couldn’t get the story of Savvas out of her head. Armed with just first names, she set out to track down the tailor’s descendants. Her seemingly impossible search lasted years and took her around the world—until, miraculously, she found them. Their tear-filled reunion was halted when, three days later, Yvette’s nephew was gunned down in a parking lot in Kansas, a victim of a Neo-Nazi out to kill Jews.
At once a very personal memoir and an ambitious account of the untold history of the Greek Jews, “Something Beautiful Happened” is a nuanced story about the power of faith, the importance of kindness, and the courage to stand up for what’s right, no matter the cost.
JBookFest continues Sunday, October 28, with Chloe Benjamin, author of “The Immortalists.” Part of the Texas Book Festival, the event will be held at the Texas State Capitol at 11 a.m.
“The Immortalists” begins in 1969, in New York City's Lower East Side, where word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies inform their next five decades.
The novel probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.
The next JBookFest event features Julian Voloj, author of “The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman.” The event will be held at JCC Austin, 7300 Hart Lane, at 1:30 p.m.
Everyones knows Superman, but not everyone knows the story of two youngsters from Cleveland who created Superman. Based on archival material and original sources, “The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman” tells the story of the friendship between writer Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster, and puts it into the wider context of the American comic book industry.
JBookFest continues that afternoon, Sunday, November 4, at 2:30 p.m. with Joanne Oppenheim, author of “The Knish War On Rivington.” That event will also be held at JCC Austin.
“The Knish War on Rivington” is the story of an epic food war, 102 years ago, on the Lower East Side. A price war between Max Green, who claimed to have invented the knish and an interloper, Murray London, who opened up a knishery directly across the street. Their penny-by-penny price war begins but quickly grows into a competition with hilarious add-ons—an ump-pa-pa-band, an all-ladies orchestra, raffles free samples—all to outdo the other.
Monday, November 5, JBookFest continues with Iris Martin Cohen, author of “The Little Clan.” The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. at JCC Austin.
A love letter to classic literature and an illuminating look at newfound adulthood, “The Little Clan” tells the story of Ava Gallanter, the librarian in residence at the Lazarus Club, an ancient, dwindling Manhattan arts club full of eccentric geriatric residents stuck in a long-gone era. Twenty-five-year-old Ava, however, feels right at home. She leads a quiet life, surrounded by her beloved books and sequestered away from her peers.
When Ava’s enigmatic friend Stephanie returns after an unplanned year abroad, the intoxication opportunist vows to rescue Ava from a life of obscurity. Stephanie, on the hunt for fame and fortune, promise to make Ava’s dream of becoming a writer come true, and together they start a Victorian-inspired literal salon at the Lazarus Club. However, Ava’s romanticized idea of the salon quickly erode as Stephanie’s ambitions take the women in an unexpected—and precarious—direction.
Hosted by Shalom Austin Women’s Philanthropy, the JBookFest Book Lovers Luncheon will be held Wednesday, November 7. Featuring Juli Berwald, author of “Spineless - The Science Of Jellyfish and The Art of Growing a Backbone,” the luncheon will be held at 11 a.m. at JCC Austin. Tickets are available for $45.
Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and yet are undeniably alluring. Long ignored by silence, they may be the key to ecosystem stability.
Berwald’s journey into the world of jellyfish is a personal one. Over a decade ago she left the sea and her scientific career behind to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas. Increasingly dire headlines drew her back to jellies, as unprecedented jellyfish blooms toppled ecosystems and collapsed the world’s most productive fisheries. What was unclear was whether these incidents were symptoms of a changing planet or part of a natural cycle.
Saturday, November 10, JBookFest continues with Mike Reiss, author of “Springfield Confidential” at 8 p.m. at JCC Austin.
Four-time Emmy winner Mike Reiss —who has worked on “The Simpsons” since episode one in 1989— shares stories, scandals and gossip about working with America’s most iconic cartoon family. Reiss explains how the episodes are created and provides an inside look at the show’s writers, animators, actors and celebrity guests. In his freewheeling, irreverent comic style, Reiss reflects on his lifetime inside The Simpsons—a personal highlights reel of his achievements, observations, and favorite stories.
“Springfield Confidential” exposes why Matt Groening decided to make all the characters yellow; dishes on what it is like to be crammed in a room full of funny writers 60 hours a week; tells what Reiss learned after traveling to 71 countries where the Simpsons is watched (ironic note: there’s no electricity in many of these places); and even reveals where Springfield is located.
Wednesday, November 14, JBookFest features Lior B. Sternfeld, author of “Between Iran and Zion.” The event will be held at 7:15 p.m. at JCC Austin.
Iran is home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East, outside Israel. At its peak in the twentieth century, the population numbered around 100,000; today about 25,000 Jews live in Iran.
“Between Iran and Zion” offers the first history of this vibrant community over the course of the last century, from the 1905 Constitution Revolution through the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Over this period, Iranian Jews grew from a peripheral community into a prominent one that has made clear impacts on daily life in Iran. ■
For more information and to RSVP to JBookFest events, visit shalomaustin.org/JBookFest.