2021: Bookish Premium Edition

Page 16

Bay Area News Group $4.95
3 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH CREDITS SECTION EDITORS Jackie Burrell Randy McMullen DESIGN David Jack Browning Chris Gotsill PHOTO EDITING Laura Oda COPY EDITING Sue Gilmore COVER ILLUSTRATION BY DAVIDE BARCO Opposite: The Berkeley Rose Garden offers serene reading spots, as well as fragrant blooms. ARIC CRABB/ STAFF ARCHIVE CALIFORNIA BOOKS, AUTHORS AND LITERARY LANDSCAPES Alice Walker’s new dazzler 12 40 16 Whodunit? Books for the trail Iconic4 libraries PALINDROME ADVENTURES PAGE 28 ‘DOWNTON ABBEY’ IN JAIPUR PAGE 54 WRITE YOUR OWN STORY PAGE 64 48 A ‘Bibliophile’ guide

Books are just the beginning for these beautiful Bay Area buildings

Landmark libraries

Whatever ideas anyone may have had about the internet making libraries passé were erased as the 21st century got underway. Today’s libraries are still places to read, study and borrow the latest best-sellers, of course. But many Bay Area cities, towns and organizations have turned their libraries into architectural showplaces and thriving cultural and community centers. Here are some of the region’s most beautiful libraries and reading spots.

5 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
A patron browses the shelves inside the Rinconada Library in Palo Alto. DAI SUGANO/STAFF

RINCONADA LIBRARY, PALO ALTO

At first glance, you might mistake this building for another low-slung suburban library. But look more closely, and you’ll see an interesting terra cotta screen wall. Then step inside — it’s a midcentury marvel.

This 1958 stunner by noted modern architect Edward Durell Stone was renovated in 2018 by Group 4 Architecture, which wisely retained the metal spoke chandeliers that resemble a model of the solar system; the massive freestanding brick fireplace (with analog clocks); and Stone’s circleand-grid motif, versions of which can also be seen in his work at the Stanford Medical Center and other iconic projects around the world. New are the Eames-style chairs, another nod to the period.

Just how cool is this architecture? Branch manager Alex Perez and his wife knew little about midcentury modern until he took the job here. Now they are such fans that they regularly head to Palm Springs to check out the modernism decor and culture there.

One more vintage touch to appreciate while visiting this library: There’s a working pay phone outside the entrance. A call costs 50 cents these days.

What to read: Looking for reading material in other languages? Browse the library’s international collection, where books, movies and children’s books are available in Hindi, Chinese and Spanish, with some offerings in Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Russian, German and more.

Details: Open Wednesday-Saturday at 1213 Newell Road, Palo Alto; www.library. cityofpaloalto.org/locations/R/.

MECHANICS INSTITUTE, SAN FRANCISCO

Nestled quietly amid the towering office buildings and glitzy designer boutiques of downtown San Francisco, the Mechanics Institute library continues its cerebral tradition of promoting culture and intellectual growth. Tucked inside a nine-story

building on Post Street, the institute is a private membership library, one of many formed before the advent of public libraries in the 19th century to satisfy an increasingly literate population’s hunger for reading and learning. San Francisco’s institute opened in 1854 to cater to the city’s booming Gold Rush labor force. After the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed its original quarters, the institute moved to its current Beaux-Arts building, designed by architect Albert Pissis, in 1910. The library includes two stately reading rooms, where members, who pay a relatively egalitarian $120 a year can plant themselves in one of the comfortable leather chairs to read, write or reflect.

It’s especially easy to lose hours browsing through the five floors of bookstacks, filled with 160,000 books and connected by narrow

6 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Above: A spiral staircase adds glamour to San Francisco’s members-only Mechanics Institute Library. The library moved to its current location after the 1906 earthquake. Below: The library stacks house 160,000 books. JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO/STAFF

staircases that almost feel like secret passages. The institute hosts literary events and classes, as well as the oldest continuously operating chess club in the country.

What to read: The library houses thousands of books, maps, photographs and journal entries on the history of California, including the 1906 earthquake.

Details: Open weekday afternoons at 57 Post St.; www.milibrary.org.

WALNUT CREEK LIBRARY

Before opening in 2010, this library system was at the center of a fierce local debate about whether libraries were needed in the age of Google and Amazon. But city and library leaders pushed forward, tearing down its cramped 1961 predecessor and replacing it with a 43,000-squarefoot building designed by Group 4 Architecture that could fulfill a

more modern role as community hub.

The building includes a cafe, meeting rooms, cutting-edge technology and expansive reading areas for kids and teens. But its most striking aspect is its art. A portion of the library’s construction funds were earmarked to buy or commission artwork, primarily from Bay Area artists.

Arrive at the main entrance, and you’ll be greeted by “Shhh...,” Christian Moeller’s 26-foot-tall portrait of a librarian holding a finger to her lips. There’s a floating sculpture of colorful glass bottles riding a metal tidal wave. Skateboards-as-art adorn the teen area, while playful sculptures of bees, dragonflies and flowers dance across the children’s area.

What to read: Go old school and pore through one of the actual, honest-togoodness print newspapers or magazines in the periodical section on the second floor, where cozy chairs face a fireplace or look out onto the park.

Details: Open Monday through Saturday at 1644 N. Broadway; https://ccclib.org/ locations/26/

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. LIBRARY, SAN JOSE

This sleek, eight-story public and university library may reign as the largest library west of the Mississippi to have been constructed as a single project. What are really impressive, however, are the special collections. And many Bay Area residents have no idea what’s housed here:

• The largest collection of Beethoven works and memorabilia outside Europe. The rotating displays at the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies feature original manuscripts, early musical scores, the last quill pen Beethoven used and locks of the composer’s hair. Listen to live clavichord, harpsichord and fortepiano demos on Wednesdays.

• The world’s biggest publicly accessible John Steinbeck archive, with more than 40,000 items. Scholars and fans can view first editions, original letters, photos, screenplays, movie posters and more at the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies.

• The California History Room,

7 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
Late afternoon sun light shines through the patterned wall at the Rinconada Library in Palo Alto. DAI SUGANO/STAFF The Walnut Creek Library brims with art and sculptures, as well as quiet nooks to read or study. RAY CHAVEZ/STAFF

with tens of thousands of documents, maps and factoids available in the physical and digital collections. It’s an array that includes not just city directories and newspaper clippings but also yearbooks, postcards, Silicon Valley company archives and ever-increasing archives that tell the story of the state’s Spanish and Mexican heritage.

Where to read: Head to the eighth floor and find the spot where the building comes to a point. You’ll be rewarded with an amazing view that stretches from the north across the wide expanse of the East San Jose foothills and down to South San Jose.

Details: Hours vary for special collections. The library is open Monday-Saturday at 150 E. San Fernando St.; www.sjpl.org/king.

BURLINGAME MAIN LIBRARY

This library is no stranger to compliments. The current Italian Renaissance-style library building, designed by architect Col. E.L. Norberg, opened in 1931 to great praise, with one local newspaper calling it “one of the most beautiful buildings on the entire Peninsula.” Decades later, the periodical American Libraries dubbed it “the jewel of Burlingame.”

Above: Tim Shelton, left, helps his daughter Julianna, 7, with her homework at the Walnut Creek Library. Left: Christian Moeller’s artwork: “Shhh… Portrait in 12 Volumes of Gray” greets booklovers at the Walnut Creek Library. RAY CHAVEZ/STAFF

Not surprisingly, civic pride is on prominent display here, with extensive collections on local history, from a bust of Anson Burlingame to early maps of Burlingame and Hillsborough.

The Italian Renaissance exterior gives way to a three-story interior furnished with pieces from the Arts and Crafts Movement — period-style lamps, carpet that evokes William Morris designs and signage that hints at Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Lovely touches abound. Vintage wooden card catalogs provide recognition for library donors. And a massive, unabridged Webster’s sits on display, its pages just waiting for the next wordsmith to wander by.

What to read: In 1958, in response to the controversy over Nabokov’s “Lolita,” Burlingame City Librarian George P. Lechich said:

“People should be allowed to read what they want.” Not a Nabokov fan? The library is known for its sizable collections of poetry, largeprint books and out-of-print mysteries.

Details: Open Monday-Saturday at 480 Primrose Road; www. burlingame.org/library.

SAN FRANCISCO LIBRARY, PRESIDIO BRANCH

When counterculture author Richard Brautigan used this small, but stately Andrew Carnegie-funded building as inspiration for his novel, “The Abortion: An Historical Romance,” he imagined patrons weren’t just stopping by to borrow books. Brautigan described the 1901 Italian-Renaissance-style building standing

9 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
Above: Books, including everything from James Patterson best-sellers to historical nonfiction, line the shelves at the Burlingame Main Library, below, which opened in 1931. SHAE HAMMOND/STAFF

in a large lot, sloping down from Clay to Sacramento streets, as overgrown “with tall grass and bushes and flowers and wine bottles and lovers’ trysts.”

These days, there are no wine bottles or lovers’ trysts in sight, probably because the library’s well-heeled Pacific Heights neighbors wouldn’t approve. The tall grass has been replaced by a manicured lawn and carefully tended gardens, but Brautigan’s description nailed the “ancient electric lamps, friends of Thomas Edison, mounted on tall asparagus stalks.”

Today the library, designed by Bay Area architect G. Albert Lansburgh, stands as a beautifully re-

stored example of the 2,400-plus libraries built around the world during Carnegie’s library philanthropy effort in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Presidio branch, with its tall, arched windows, high ornamental ceilings and book collections, is one of the few Carnegie buildings to retain its library function, thanks to a $4.1 million renovation project completed in 2011.

What to read: Catch up on Brautigan memorabilia in the basement.

Details: Open Tuesday through Saturday at 3150 Sacramento St.; https://sfpl.org/ locations/presidio.

10 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Above: Ian Johnson’s “Western Edition Skateboards” is just one of the artworks on display at the Walnut Creek Library. RAY CHAVEZ/STAFF Right: The Italian Renaissance-style Burlingame Main Library was designed by architect Col. E.L. Norberg. SHAE HAMMOND/STAFF

AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM AND LIBRARY, OAKLAND

A $50,000 Carnegie grant gave Oakland its first main library in 1902 at the corner of 14th Street and what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The Carnegie building was deemed outdated a few decades later, and Oakland replaced it with a new main library in the early 1950s. But by 2002, the old library had gained a vital new purpose as the city’s African American Museum and Library.

The expansive second floor, with its tall windows and elaborately decorated ceilings, houses the museum’s displays of photos, documents and oral histories sharing nearly a century of local history. The first floor library holds a unique collection of nonfiction that focuses solely on American and world history, culture and the arts, written by or about the perspectives of Black people.

What to read: Books can’t be checked out, but visitors can browse through the beautiful shelves and find a large selection of books on jazz, dance, film and legendary performers such as Paul Robeson and Ethel Waters. The history section is filled with books on Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panther Party and more.

Details: Open Monday-Saturday at 659 14th St.; https:// oaklandlibrary.bibliocms.com.

MILL VALLEY LIBRARY

As you enter Mill Valley’s library, it’s easy to imagine these book-filled rooms being overtaken by an enchanted forest. The building stands in a large grove of towering redwoods in Old Mill Park.

Built in 1966 by the San Francisco firm Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons, the building itself has an even more Old-World feel, with a fireplace in the main room that could belong in a medieval castle. A more recent addition extends the building further into the redwood grove, creating picturesque fiction and children’s reading rooms that feel like you are floating above the trees.

Bolinas master woodworker Arthur Espenet Carpenter created more than 100 bespoke pieces for the library, including bookcases, reading tables and lounge chairs. His son added more original pieces, including a love seat, for a 2009 remodel.

Where or what to read: The Lucretia Little History Room offers an extensive collection of photographs, personal papers and city records that document Mill Valley’s history, including the Mill Valley Film Festival and Dipsea Race. Need book ideas? The librarians post their staff picks online.

Details: The building is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 375 Throckmorton Ave; www. millvalleylibrary.org.

Views of large trees await patrons of the Mill Valley Public Library. The library was built in 1966 and is nestled in a grove of redwood trees.

11 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

Wisdom and warmth from Alice Walker: Seek out the sweetness in everyone

For nearly half a century, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker has touched millions around the world with her words.

But she insists that she is just like everyone else, a claim that doesn’t sound quite as far-fetched when she notes that at the moment, she’s trying to figure out Google Meets on her laptop. Her Yorkie, Eddie, and her grandson’s Chinese rescue, Mushu, yip away in the background. Bears have recently invaded Walker’s garden orchard in Mendocino County’s rural Philo, and smoke from the Caldor Fire has “The Color Purple” author concerned about the state of our planet.

Walker, 77, has just debuted her sixth children’s book, the big-hearted “Sweet People Are Everywhere” (Tra Publishing). The story about globalism and humanity is based on a free verse

poem from Walker’s 2018 bilingual poetry collection, “Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart.”

Next year, Simon & Schuster will publish five decades of her journals as “Gathering Blossoms Under Fire.” Edited by Valerie Boyd, it’s an intimate look at everything from marching during the civil rights movement to defying laws that barred her interracial marriage to a Jewish lawyer.

QIn the last line of “Sweet People Are Everywhere,” you tell the reader, “We are lost if we can no longer experience how sweet human beings can be.” What do you mean?

AIn a way, this poem is similar to my 2007 poem, “Why War Is Never a Good Idea.” It is our duty as the adults of the world to teach the young that they can be

friends with all people.

QYou have a deep relationship with nature. What role has it played in your writing life?

AEverything. I was just talking about this with the (International Council of) Thirteen Grandmothers of Indigenous People. (Grandmother) Flordemayo was telling me about wanting to know how much of her physical inheritance is from her indigenous heritage by doing a genetic test. I feel so connected and embedded with nature itself that I don’t feel a need to do that. It has taken me all these years to put it into words. I wish everyone could feel this way, because if you did, you couldn’t harm anything.

QCan you explain the meaning behind the “Gathering Blossoms Under Fire” title?

Alice Walker’s newest picture book, “Sweet People Are Everywhere,” is based on a poem she wrote three years ago.

AIt’s from a poem that I wrote for my husband while we were living in Mississippi. We were married illegally. We had a big garden, and we were always conscious that our love, which was the biggest flower, was under threat. That’s where a lot of the world is now. There is so much trouble in the world that you have to gather your blossoms under all kinds of circumstances.

QHow did you come to work with Valerie Boyd? Was it difficult to share your private journals?

AShe wrote “Wrapped in Rainbows,” the biography of Zora Neale Hurston, which endeared her to me forever. I honestly feel that my life isn’t any different than anyone else’s. Many people have married someone they loved, divorced someone they loved, raised a child, buried a mother. (My words) may have resonance in the lives of others, if they can go there.

Q Was there an entry you had forgotten or that surprised you when you rediscovered it?

A Everything. I have the worst memory. Writers don’t often have that kind of memory of what you wore and what you said. We are busy writing something from another world. I understand deeply that all of us have certain similarities. We seem to be hardwired to react in certain situations to the same thing.

I really feel, too, a responsibility — to younger women especially but also younger men — to be an elder. We’ve lost that to a large degree, but you must learn to grab elders where you find them. I really believe that.

12 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

5 book picks from Walker

“Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir” by Daniel Day

“Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America” by Linda Lawrence Hunt

“Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

“Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine” by Kelley Fanto Deetz

“The Deeper the Roots: A Memoir of Hope and Home” by Michael Tubbs

13 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

Bewildered or not, Daniel Handler knows when to get his Snicket on

If you are a child, have a child or were once a child, chances are you know all about Lemony Snicket and his “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” both the books and the Netflix series. This summer, Snicket released a new book called “Poison for Breakfast,” which begins with a note slipped under his door announcing that he has just had ... yep. What follows in this adventure tale for all ages are bewildering clues, beguiling mysteries and musings on creativity and mortality.

There might or might not be a crime in this book. But there are no tragic Baudelaire orphans. And it is most certainly not one of the novels by the writer Daniel Handler (which include “Why We Broke Up” and “We Are Pirates”), even though Handler is Snicket, and Snicket is Handler. Snicket is not married to book illustrator Lisa Brown and does not have a son named Otto, which Handler is and does.

Bewildered yet? Good, says Handler. That is just where you should be.

QThe pandemic has certainly been a bewildering time. Is “Poison for Breakfast” a product of that?

AThere were some last little edits that happened during the pandemic, but it was finished before anyone had any grasp that it could happen. I am a little embarrassed to say that I exist in a state of bewilderment. Pandemic or no pandemic, I never have any idea what’s going on.

QHow do you know whether to write as Daniel or Lemony?

AIt always seems perfectly clear to me. And although there was much talk on the publishing and marketing end about whether this book is for adults or for children, there was not a question about whether it was by Lemony Snicket or by me. I know pretty quickly what hat I’m wearing.

QYou’ve often said how much you enjoy writing in libraries. How did you manage during the pandemic?

“Poison for Breakfast” is the latest book written by Lemony Snicket, right, Daniel Handler’s alter ego.

ABetween libraries and cafés, which is how I write most of the time, it was a little tough. This is a little embarrassing, but I would pack up my stuff in my office. I would zip up my notebook in my little bag, and I would walk across my house to our breakfast table and sit down and put on music. I would kind of try to create the illusion that I had gone someplace, that I commuted. It wasn’t super successful.

QSan Francisco plays a role in some of your books — “Bottle Grove” in particular — but the aesthetic of that city is always with you. Do you think that’s part of your DNA as a writer?

AI think it can’t help but be, in many ways. I grew up here, and I have a pretty hysterical love for the city. I’m often saying things like, “Oh, you can’t get this anywhere but San Francisco!” And someone will say, “That’s wrong. That’s green tea. It’s actually from Japan, and you can get it anywhere.”

But I think there’s something about the physicality of the city, the terrain and the weather — and its spirit, for lack of a less

corny term. I grew up in a city in which many different cultures and subcultures were bumping up against one another and all trying their best, a city that was very open about love and sexuality. And I think that’s all very, very much part of who I am.

QWhat’s it like seeing your work adapted to the screen?

AFor something as enormously and lavishly done as the Snicket media, it’s very collaborative. Not just the writing of the screenplays, but there are people acting out words and building the sets, composing the music, playing and recording the music. Every little piece of it is immensely collaborative.

It was really nice to go to the set of Netflix and talk with some of the costume designers about how happy they were to get to make things up. One of them said, “I’ve done so many cop shows. Just the idea that now I get to build these ridiculous things — (It’s) what I’ve always wanted to do.” That’s really fun for me.

QWhat are you reading right now? What should we be reading?

AOh my goodness. (I’m reading) two books by a poet named Dorothea Lasky — a book of her poems called “Rome” that I’m rereading and a tiny little book called “Animal.” I think poetry is a great way to interact with your own brain and your own consciousness. So I’m always reading a book of poetry alongside whatever novel or whatever else I might be reading.

14 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Q&A
DAI SUGANO/STAFF

A public eye on the private eye

UC Berkeley curator keeps tabs on a collection of California crime fiction

about to interrogate, er, interview, Randal Brandt, who has the lowdown on a big, valuable stash of mystery books at UC Berkeley. And it’s so tempting to roll up a stogie full of Bull Durham tobacco, break out a fierce scowl and hit him with my best Sam Spade/ Humphrey Bogart impersonation.

“OK, wise guy, you look like you swallowed the canary. Now, don’t be a sap. Come clean and give me the straight dope!”

Brandt, to his credit, is willing to play along.

“I can get a big light and shine it in my face if you

Randal Brandt is the curator of the California Detective Fiction Collection at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

want,” he says.

Hmm. This guy ain’t no chump. He knows the game. And as curator of the Bancroft Library’s massive California Detective Fiction Collection, he has spent endless figurative hours hanging out in dark shadows while rubbing elbows with ruthless gangsters, ex-cons, tough dames, skid rogues and shady button men.

So maybe I’ll hold off on the chin music. Instead, we can just talk turkey. Friendly, like.

As for this California Detective Fiction Collection? It’s about 4,000 volumes and growing. And it’s a labor

17 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

of love for Brandt, whose main duties are heading up Bancroft’s cataloguing department.

“I collect mysteries in the broadest sense,” he says “There are a lot of different sub-genres. You’ve got the hard-boiled. You’ve got private eyes. Police procedurals. The cozies — amateur detective type stuff. I collect all of that. If it’s California, it doesn’t matter.”

Yes, the Golden State is key. To qualify for the collection, tomes must either be set in California (i.e., Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep”) or written by Californians who do their literary gumshoeing beyond state lines. Bay Area authors such as Cara Black (France) and Laurie R. King (England) fall into that category.

Bancroft’s literary loot is full of marvelous gems, including two first editions of “The Maltese Falcon,” Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade detective novel. The moody 1930 classic, set in San Francisco, inspired the Bogart film, which many movie buffs regard as the first real example of film noir.

What made Hammett and Spade such cool customers? They

were “so new and fresh and different,” Brandt insists.

“Now, so many writers have been influenced by Hammett, and they’ve developed characters that have traits of Sam Spade,” he says. “But at the time, there wasn’t really anything like Sam Spade — at least not outside the pulp magazines. Earlier (literary) detectives were much more in the armchair detective mode. Nero Wolfe. Hercule Poirot. The gentleman armchair detective kind of thing. Hammett took crime out of the drawing room and put it in the streets. And the writing is so spectacular — so bare. The story just keeps moving.”

Other highlights: Bancroft was able to acquire, via purchase, a vast collection of Erle Stanley Gardner (of Perry Mason fame) first editions and was gifted with most of the works of Ross MacDonald, creator of the Lew Archer detective series.

More recently, an “incredible gift” came from Oakland mystery writer Mark Coggins, who forked over a complete set of Chandler and Hammett first editions.

Talk about a big score. Coggins, known for his August Riordan private eye novels, which are also in the Bancroft collection, had been acquiring the books since the early ‘90s. He viewed himself as “sort of a custodian.”

“We all pass on eventually, and I thought Bancroft was the best place for them to go. It’s a great fit,” he says.

Coggins, who has studied and written extensively about Raymond Chandler, believes it’s

important to preserve examples of the genre for future researchers and/or publishers looking to produce new editions of certain works. He also thinks critics who regard the genre as a lesser art — unworthy of study — are “totally wrongheaded.”

“When done well, it’s every bit as good as what people consider to be literary fiction,” he says.

“Besides that, so many works of fiction contain elements of crime. Just look at ‘The Great Gatsby.’”

18 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP “
When done well, it’s every bit as good as what people consider to be literary fiction. Besides that, so many works of fiction contain elements of crime. Just look at ‘The Great Gatsby.’”
Oakland mystery writer Mark Coggins

It’s no wonder then that Coggins — a proud Stanford grad — handed over his treasures to Cal.

“Stanford has not chosen to elevate crime fiction in the same way,” he says with a trace of disdain in his voice. “Berkeley has simply shown better judgment in their literary acquisitions.”

Of course, there is always more to acquire. High on Brandt’s want list are a few first editions of James M. Cain, the author of a number of classic and influential

noir mystery novels, including “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Double Indemnity” and “Mildred Pierce.”

And then there’s Erle Stanley Gardner’s debut novel, “The Case of the Velvet Claws.”

“A first edition of that is going to have to come as a gift, because we’re never going to be able to afford to buy it,” Brandt says. “We’re talking, like, around $35,000. There aren’t that many out there.”

Whodunits and thrilling

page-turners have intrigued Brandt since his childhood years in the small San Joaquin Valley town of Reedley. Growing up there, he didn’t have easy access to movie theaters, so he became a voracious reader. His mother introduced him to Agatha Christie, and he eventually fell hard for the James Bond spy novels of Ian Fleming.

“Going to see a movie was a pretty big deal, and we didn’t do it very often,” Brandt recalls. “I

These crime fiction thrillers are all included in the California Detective Fiction Collection at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library in Berkeley.

found out that there were these James Bond movies out there, and they looked pretty cool. I couldn’t see them, but I discovered that the library had a whole bunch of books about Bond. So that was the next best thing.”

Brandt attended college just up the road at Fresno State, where he majored in English. He went on to earn his master’s in library and information studies from UC Berkeley in 1990 and began working at Bancroft in 2001.

After wallowing for years in enticing mysteries, does Brandt have the itch to write one of his own? Not really.

“I do like to write,” he says. “But more about authors and their books.”

To that end, he has written a great deal about the late David Dodge, his favorite author. A Berkeley native, Dodge penned “To Catch a Thief,” a 1952 romantic thriller that inspired the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. Brandt became a huge fan years ago while reading Dodge’s “The Long Escape” during a vacation in Mexico.

“I would love to write a fulllength biography about him,” says Brandt, who created a website devoted to Dodge, www.daviddodge.com.

So why are we so drawn to mysteries anyway? Brandt believes it’s all about escapism — and the chance to play backseat detective.

“I think there’s something very satisfying about the solving of crime,” he says. “When you read a book, or watch something on TV, it’s just satisfying and enjoyable to follow along and pick up on clues. People also love puzzles — and being surprised by fun twists.”

Spoken like a man who has spent many an hour cracking wise, talking tough and strolling the literary mean streets.

19 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

A Bay Area built by crime?

‘Murders That Made Us’ author bolsters his argument, case by case

Q&A

Who better to delve into the San Francisco Bay Area’s true-crime history than a writer whose mother was briefly a suspect in a bizarre 1959 Daly City murder? Turns out they had the wrong blonde. But Bob Calhoun of San Leandro parlayed this oft-told family story into a job writing true-crime columns for SF Weekly. Now the collection has led to a book, “The Murders That Made Us” (ECW Press), with the tantalizing subtitle, “How Vigilantes, Hoodlums, Mob Bosses, Serial Killers and Cult Leaders Built the San Francisco Bay Area.”

QHow many notorious cases does the book cover, from the Barbary Coast era to the present?

AI haven’t counted just how many crimes are in the book, but maybe 100? Sure, you have the notorious ones — Zodiac, Jim Jones, Dan White — and even Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, comes to San Francisco at one point. But so many of these stories are much smaller than that.

QSuch as? Which little-known, long-ago murder tales are featured?

AThe book begins with the murder of August Norry on San Bruno Mountain in Daly City in 1959. It’s in there because my mom was briefly a suspect in the case. She was questioned by cops

Not much has changed in San Francisco, says truecrime author Bob Calhoun, “I’m seeing scandals unfolding in the city that could have happened back in 1865.”

and everything. It was a brutal murder. Norry was dumping lawn clippings on the mountain. He met a young woman, and she shot him 18 times with a revolver. She had to reload the gun twice! My mom matched the description of the woman fleeing the scene, and my family lived down the street from the Norrys back then.

Then there’s the lynching in San Jose in 1933. These two lowlifes, Jack Holmes and Harold Thurmond, kidnapped and murdered this local department store heir, Brooke Hart. People stormed the jail and hanged both of them right in St. James Park. Jackie Coogan, the guy who played Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family,” was part of the lynch mob! A Merc reporter, Harry Farrell, wrote a great book on the case in 1992 called “Swift Justice,” but

that was 30 years ago, and a lot of people in the South Bay don’t know about it.

QFilm noir expert Eddie Muller has called your book a “Whitman’s sampler of wickedness.” So what’s the cherry cordial in this collection?

AThe tale of Little Dick, the girl hoodlum. Definitely a crowd pleaser at the live readings I’ve done.

QWhich unsolved San Francisco case fascinates you?

AThe murder of Valerie McDonald in San Francisco in 1980. Speaking of Eddie Muller, he calls her San Francisco’s Black Dahlia but — unlike Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles — McDonald is pretty much forgotten here.

QIn the end, what does this “170-year saga of madness, corruption and death” reveal about San Francisco?

AI’m not sure anything’s really changed there. I’m seeing scandals unfolding in the city that could have happened back in 1865. The big difference is that newspaper publishers are no longer shooting it out on Market Street. And Jack Dorsey and Marc Benioff haven’t revived the city’s proud tradition of dueling ... yet.

QDo you have another book in the works?

AThe next book idea hasn’t hit me yet, but I do have some interest in this one from TV producers. True crime is hot right now, so maybe I’ll finally win that Netflix lottery. Keeping my fingers crossed.

20 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

5 book picks from Calhoun

“True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee” by Abraham Riesman: This biography of the impresario behind Marvel Comics is totally riveting.

“Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco” by Alia Volz: It’s amazing how Volz weaves together a memoir of her mother’s pot brownie business in the ’70s and ’80s with a history of San Francisco.

“Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson” by Jeff Guinn: The author never loses sight of the human side of the people who find themselves in the thrall of monstrous people.

“Monsters” by Barry WindsorSmith: This graphic novel by the legendary comics artist is a modernized Frankenstein tale of human experiments gone horribly wrong. A masterwork.

“Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976-1980” by Rick Perlstein: The final chapter in Perlstein’s quadrilogy on the American conservative movement has me wanting more, even though we’re seeing how this thing ends in real time.

21 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

Discover some obscure oddities about Bay Area literary lights

Who knew?

literary roots run deep — and unexpectedly broad.

Although it’s really no wonder.

For decades, established and aspiring authors have used the Bay Area’s versatile settings — the foggy streets of San Francisco, the golden hills of the East Bay and the edgy architecture of Silicon Valley — to spur their imaginations, feed their characters and simmer their plots.

Here’s a look at some of the people and places that are now part of the Bay Area’s literary landscape.

Flowers are left outside City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco at a vigil held for the literary figure Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Feb. 23, 2021, one day after his death at age 101.

22 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Ina Coolbrith

Ina Coolbrith might not be on everyone’s bookshelf, but the poet, writer and librarian influenced a host of well-known writers and was the first laurel-crowned poet of California.

Known as the “Sweet Singer of California,” Coolbrith came to San Francisco in 1862 after a brief failed marriage and sensational divorce. Already a published poet, she met writers Bret Harte and Charles Warren Stoddard and formed the “Golden Gate Trinity.”

She later moved to Oakland, where she supported herself as the city librarian and where she mentored both Jack London and Isadora Duncan. Coolbrith later returned to San Francisco, where the Bohemian Club hired her as its librarian.

She was so beloved, San Francisco named a park after her at the corner of Vallejo and Taylor streets. It offers some of the best views of the city she loved. She also is honored on Berkeley’s Addison Street Poetry Walk. And a stairway connecting Berkeley’s Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Miller Avenue is named Ina Coolbrith Path.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost may have pondered diverging roads and New England woods on a snowy evening, but he was born in San Francisco in 1874 — an Aries, in case you wondered — and spent half his childhood here on Nob Hill, back when it was a stretch of wilderness and squatters.

Frost and his family moved east after the 1885 death of his father, a San Francisco newspaperman and member of the Bohemian Club, but Frost revisited these landscapes in his poetry — in “Auspex,” “A Peck of Gold,” “Once by the Pacific” and others. Frost is remembered with a plaque in Robert Frost Plaza, just outside the Embarcadero BART station at the corner of Drumm and Market streets.

“I know San Francisco like my own face,” Robert Frost once said. “It’s where I came from, the first place I really knew.”

David Dodge

Alfred Hitchcock optioned the rights to “To Catch a Thief” before the book by Berkeley-born David Dodge had even been published. The 1955 movie, which starred Grace Kelly and Cary Grant as a former cat burglar, went on to major box office success. So did Dodge’s writing career, which he began as a playwright for San Francisco’s Macondray Lane Players, a side gig he began while working as a certified public accountant..

After spending a rained-out vacation reading terrible novels, he bet his wife $5 that he could do better — and won. In 1941, Macmillan published his first novel, “Death and Taxes,” about a San Francisco tax pro-turned-detective.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou knows why the caged bird sings — and how the street car bell rings, too. The future poet and civil rights activist was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent her early childhood there and in Arkansas, but when she was 14, Angelou and her brother moved to Oakland to live with their mother.

Angelou became San Francisco’s first Black female street car conductor at age 16. “I saw women on the street cars with their little changer belts. They had caps with bibs on them and form-fitting jackets. I loved their uniforms. I said that is the job I want,” Angelou told Oprah Winfrey during a 2013 interview.

Angelou might have wanted the job, but the job didn’t want her. She was denied an application initially, but she just kept showing up every day to ask for one, until she finally got it — and the job.

Robert Louis Stevenson

There’s a Robert Louis Stevenson elementary school in San Francisco, a Robert Louis Stevenson State Park in Calistoga and a Robert Louis Stevenson Museum in St. Helena. It’s not a coincidence.

The Scottish author of such books as “Treasure Island,” “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and “Kidnapped” got married and honeymooned in Napa County and lived for a while in Monterey and San Francisco. That pirate ship you see in San Francisco’s Portsmouth Square commemorates the honorary Bay Area writer.

24 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
A plaque honoring the poet Robert Frost greets visitors to Robert Frost Plaza near the California Street cable car line in San Francisco. KARL MONDON/STAFF
25 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

Chin Yang Lee

Chin Yang Lee was born in Xiangtan, Hunan, China, but came to the United States as a young man, eventually landing in San Francisco, where he worked for two Chinatown newspapers, Chinese World and Young China. He also began work on a short story, which became a novel, about a young man, Wang Ta, who is at odds with his elderly father and the tradition of arranged marriage.

Farrar, Straus and Cudahy publishers sent the manuscript to one of its readers for evaluation. When the reader, an elderly man, was found dead in his bed, the manuscript was beside him. Before he died, he had scrawled the words “Read this” on the copy.

The company published the novel, originally called

“Grant Street,” under the title, “The Flower Drum Song,” in 1957. Adapted by Rodgers and Hammerstein the following year, the Broadway production was the first to feature Asian actors. A 1961 movie adaptation launched the careers of several actors, including Jack Soo, Nancy Kwan and James Shigeta.

Jack London

Jack London was born John Griffith Chaney in San Francisco in 1876. Before his death in 1916 at age 40, London cut quite a swath as a member of the radical literary group, “The Crowd.”

London is known for such adventure novels as “The Call of the Wild” and “White Fang,” both set on

the unforgiving Alaskan frontier during the Klondike Gold Rush, and “The Sea-Wolf,” which begins in the Bay aboard a ferry called Martinez.

You’ll find plenty of homages to the author, including Jack London Square on Oakland’s waterfront, where his cabin has been re-created; Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Historic Park, where he was buried; and the small Jack London Park on Rose Drive in Benicia. But to go back where it all started, check out the bronze marker at 601 Third St. in San Francisco, which marks the place where he was born.

Allen Ginsberg

When Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of San

26 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Above: A monument to Robert Louis Stevenson includes a metal sculpture of a ship and stands high above busy Portsmouth Square in San Francisco. KARL MONDON/STAFF

Francisco’s City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, heard Allen Ginsberg read his poem “Howl,” he sent Ginsberg a note that read, “I greet you at the beginning of a great career. When do I get the manuscript?”

Ferlinghetti published the poem and other Ginsberg works in the 1956 “Howl and Other Poems.” The response to the book was immediate, although perhaps not the one the men expected. The book was labeled obscene, and volumes were seized by U.S. Customs and the San Francisco police.

By the time the lengthy trial played out, with a parade of poets and professors convincing the court that it was not obscene, the book was more popular than ever, heralded as an opus for the Beat Generation and called the most influential poetic work of the postWorld War II era.

Did it change generations to come? Judge for yourself. Make a pilgrimage to City Lights Books, 261271 Columbus Ave. in San Francisco and stroll Jack Kerouac Alley, too, which runs alongside the store.

Philip K. Dick

Imagine Harrison Ford in his iconic role as Rick Deckard, hunting down rogue androids through the streets of San Francisco in 2021. That was what the original version of “Blade Runner” called for. Moviemakers changed the setting to Los Angeles, but Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” was born and bred in the city by the Bay. Dick was born in Chicago but moved to the Bay Area as a boy, attended Berkeley High School and, for a brief spell, UC Berkeley. In his early 20s, he began writing science fiction, finally finding success with his 1962 novel, “The Man in the High Castle.” He followed the Hugo Award-winning novel with “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and a string of other acclaimed short stories and books.

“Androids” was adapted into “Blade Runner” in 1982. Other book-to-movie adaptions include “Total Recall” — twice — and “Minority Report.”

Eugene O’Neill

Author, poet and playwright Eugene O’Neill’s life is steeped in illness, tragedy, betrayal, abandonment and depression, but his penultimate home atop a hill in Danville is a counterpoint to all that darkness.

The Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site celebrates the life and work of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. By the time O’Neill moved there, he’d already lived in 35 places, but he called Tao House his “final home and harbor.” It was here that he wrote perhaps his best plays, including “The Iceman Cometh,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “A Moon for the Misbegotten.”

And it was where he eventually stopped writing, after developing deep tremors in his hands due to Parkinson’s disease.

Tours of the house are available by reservation (www.nps.gov/euon), with shuttle bus transportation to the estate.

27 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
The Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site is the home dubbed “Tao House,” where the Nobel-winning playwright lived from 1937 to 1944 and penned his final works. PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL PARK SERVICE The spot where Jack London’s childhood home was once stood is now occupied by a commercial building on a busy stretch of Third Street near South Park in San Francisco. KARL MONDON/STAFF

Otto — and Pip the pup — are kid lit author Jon Agee’s palindromic heroes

Hang on, back up a second — or go forward. It really doesn’t matter, since you’ll end up in the same place anyway.

5 book picks from Agee

“Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig: A donkey accidentally turns himself into a rock, and there is no way he can turn back unless somebody wishes he was a donkey again. A testament to the power of love.

exposure or shiny trophies — yet!

Such is the pleasure of a palindrome — a word or phrase that reads the same fore and aft. And award-winning San Francisco author/illustrator/palindromist-extraordinaire Jon Agee, whose children’s books include “It’s Only Stanley” and “Milo’s Hat Trick,” leads us through some wild and wacky wordplay in his debut graphic novel, written to and fro in palindromes.

“Otto: A Palindrama” (Dial Books) will be out Dec. 31, so you have that to look forward to. Or look back on, depending.

It’s for kids or kids-at-heart — a comic-strip-style story about a boy named Otto who loses his dog Pip and their ensuing adventures. Agee starts us off slow with an “LOL” here and a “Wow!” there. Then he ramps it up with proper names and full sentences like “Dale Vargas is a grave lad” and “No one made killer apparel like Dame Noon.” Yup, all palindromes. There are 200 in the book.

QHow did you pal up with palindromes in the first place?

AYears ago at a restaurant, a friend of mine mentioned that he’d been creating palindromes. He wrote out a couple. They were odd looking, nonsensical phrases, but when he drew pictures to go with them, they became coherent and kind of funny. I liked the way absurdity and logic were intertwined. So, I started creating my own.

QOnce you get going, do you start seeing them everywhere?

AEverywhere! You might be stuck in traffic behind a Subaru, and you notice that backwards, it spells “urabus.” So, you add a “d” in the middle and get Subaru Durabus, a very durable

Jon Agee’s newest children’s book, “Otto: A Palindrama,” offers an extravaganza of palindromes.

all-terrain minivan. On a restaurant menu, you’ll notice that desserts backward spells stressed, which may inspire: “Stressed was I, sad, alas, to order a red root salad as I saw desserts!”

QWow. (There, I did it!) For a full book, do you start with a long list of palindromes and build a story around them or start with a story or just wing it?

AA long list is essential. I also reach out to my fellow palindromists for material. “Otto” was formed from a group of random scenes. In one, Otto is on a beach (and) a large rat — in sunglasses and swim trunks, carrying a boogie board — walks by. Incredulous, Otto turns to his dad: “Was it a rat I saw?” His father responds: “No, son.” Meanwhile, Otto’s dog Pip has chased after the rat. Otto jumps up in quick pursuit, and the story is on its way.

QYou won a Symmy award in January — I had no idea there was such a thing. They don’t get the play of the Oscars, at least for the less literate, apparently.

AThe Symmys is the annual contest for best original palindromes. Sadly, there is no TV

QIn your website bio, you said you were surprised when someone mentioned one of your early books, “Ellsworth,” was about something — about being oneself. Did it change your approach? Do you look for ways to put morals in your stories?

AI still approach picture books the way I did with “Ellsworth” — to write something engaging and original, which keeps me satisfied to the very last page and which, I hope, makes me laugh. I don’t write with a message or a moral in mind. It would kill the experience and the book.

QYou’re also a librettist? Do you write palindromic operas?

AA palindromic opera! No, I’ve never written one, but I like the sound of it. It could have romance (Revolt, lover!), high drama (Beware, kayaker: a web!) and controversy (Wonton? Not now!). My libretto-writing was in the 1990s. I wrote the book and lyrics to two musicals for children for the Tada! theater company in New York City.

QWhat’s next for you?

AA picture book titled “I am a Tree.” It’s a beautiful day, and a little girl who wants to stay outside all day long pretends to be a tree — because that’s what trees do. She also recruits her dad to join her. It turns out he is much better at being a tree than he’d hoped.

“Poison For Breakfast” by Lemony Snicket: A memoir and philosophical journey, beautifully told from first to last line.

“We Found a Hat” by Jon Klassen: Zen-like wisdom in this wonderfully droll, perfectly paced, elegantly illustrated picture book.

“A Wreath of Roses” by Elizabeth Taylor: Not to be confused with the famous actress. A subtle, ominous drama that Hitchcock could have directed.

“A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” by George Saunders: A loving, offbeat analysis about what makes a story work.

28 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Chef Bryant Terry’s joyous ‘Black Food’ goes beyond recipes to celebrate African diaspora culture

Chef and activist Bryant Terry’s newest volume isn’t only a cookbook. Yes, “Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from the African Diaspora” (4 Color Books) includes 60-plus recipes, from Terry’s own Dirty South Hot Tamales to chef Dadisi Olutosin’s elevated Poulet Yassa Osso Buco and Erika Council’s Buttermilk Biscuits. But the book is also an anthology that combines scholarly essays, poems, a playlist and art from more than 100 culinary minds and thinkers. Terry calls it a “communal shrine to the shared culinary histories of the African diaspora.”

QWhy did you choose an anthology approach?

A“Black Food” was inspired by the work that I’ve done at the Museum of the African Diaspora as chef-in-residence. Since 2015, I’ve been creating programming, along with my colleagues at the museum — from panel discussions to intimate conversations with authors, from book signings to dinners — where we’ve had a multilayered conversation around food, the African diaspora, Blackness and culture.

For a long time, I thought about creating a book like this. But last year, there was a strong impetus that came out of the historical moment post-Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s murders by the state, and the subsequent uprisings and important conversations around the ways in which Black folks in this country have been historically and contemporarily marginalized.

I felt like this was the moment to give us voice. I was very clear when I pitched this book to its contributors that I didn’t want it to be about the

ways in which Black people have been marginalized, oppressed and exploited. We’ve heard that story hundreds of times. I wanted this book to be about joy and celebration. We’re inviting the world to listen in, make our recipes, read our words, enjoy, be moved, be forced to think about things differently.

QIs there a section in the book that’s particularly exciting to you?

AMany of the book’s chapters come from programming at MoAD, including “Land, Liberation & Food Justice” and “Black Women, Food & Power.” It was important for me to start my residency by lifting up the contributions of Black women, historically and contemporarily, to the production, distribution and consumption of food and food knowledge. Malcolm X talks about Black women being the most disrespected people in America. I’ve been very intentional about using my position, platform and power to uplift Black women — and most of “Black Food”’s contributors are black women.

QCan you tell us about the art and poetry in the book?

Five book picks from Terry

“Burnt Toast and Other Disasters” by Cal Peternell

“Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappé

Chef and author Bryant Terry says his book, “Black Food,” was inspired by work he had done at the Museum of the African Diaspora as chef-inresidence.

AThe book’s first chapter, “Spirit,” feels like a beautiful way to start: grounded in the unseen, in our connection with divine creative intelligence. I tapped different artists to contribute pieces to open the chapters, and Daniel Minter insisted he create an original work for “Spirit.” I’m so glad that he did. The piece that he created is literally layered; you could sit with it for hours. It evokes that energy that I hoped it would — the spirit world, the ancestors, our sacred staple ingredients like okra and black eyed peas and symbols like cowrie shells. The piece is followed by the Rev. Marvin K. White’s prayer poem. Marvin and I collaborate often, since he’s here in the Bay Area. I’ll often have him open up my events with a prayer or invocation to help focus the energy.

QAre there dishes in “Black Food” you might recommend for less experienced home cooks?

AForthe novice, something simple, like the Jollof Rice with Beans. If you can boil a pot of water, you can make that dish.

I often talk about African American cuisine being the original modern global fusion cuisine. Classic dishes made their way from Western Central Africa to the Americas, intermingling with the indigenous foods and flavor profiles of the Americas and European cuisine. All these came together to create something new — and I feel like a rice-and-beans dish speaks to that.

Nana’s Sweet Potato Pie! It’s one of the best sweet potato pies I’ve ever had.

The cocktails: That’s an easy lift. I also love the Sweet Potato Snack by Dr. Howard Conyers. If one doesn’t make any other recipe in this book, make those sweet potato snacks!

“Creative Acts for Curious People” by Sarah Stein Greenberg

“Five Morsels of Love” by Archana Pidathala

“Afro-Vegan: Family Recipes from a British Nigerian Kitchen” by Zoe Alakija

31 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

The heart of rock ‘n’ roll beats in Bay Area landmarks

Mike Katz and Crispin Kott want to take you on a trip through Bay Area music history. If you’re game, pick up a copy of their “Rock and Roll Explorer Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area” (Globe Pequot). The cool new book details where music stars such as Jerry Garcia, Grace Slick and Tupac Shakur lived, walked and worked and includes a number of notable nonlocals, from Bob Dylan to Sid Vicious, who spent time in the Bay Area. Katz and Kott, who also wrote “Rock and Roll Explorer Guide to New York City,” have relocated to Northern California from the East Coast. Katz now calls Monterey home, while Kott lives in Oakland.

Crispin Kott, left, and Mike Katz’s new book, “Rock and Roll Explorer: Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area,” traces the region’s musical landmarks, including Jefferson Airplane’s San Francisco mansion just across the street.

33 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

QHow did the idea for the Explorer books come about?

Mike Katz (MK): I’ve always been fascinated by the history of cities, particularly what makes them culturally unique. I spent several formative years in New Orleans, where you can visit the actual places where jazz emerged as a distinctly American form of creative expression. Standing in those places and touching those buildings had a profound effect. It’s a powerful experience, not unlike visiting where the Declaration of Independence was signed or where Lee surrendered to Grant.

Many years later in New York, Crispin and I attended a panel discussion with the surviving members of the Velvet Underground and listened to Lou Reed recount the many unexpected places where he and the others met, worked and essentially re-created themselves. We had talked about writing a book about New York’s rock ‘n’ roll history, but this was a “eureka” moment.

QWhy did you decide to do the next book on the Bay Area?

Crispin Kott (CK): After New York, we knew we either wanted to tackle the Bay Area or Los Angeles. We went with the Bay Area in part because there was so much more to the story than what happened in the second half of the ‘60s. All that is in here too, but the Haight-Ashbury scene wasn’t the beginning of rock music in the Bay Area, and it wasn’t the end, either.

QA lot of people know about the S.F. rock landmarks — Fillmore, Haight-Ashbury, etc. But how much rock history exists outside of the 415?

MK: Lots! Oakland’s blues and R&B roots date back nearly a century, and Berkeley has an extremely diverse history encompassing folk, blues, rock and R&B, as well as some pioneering record labels. San Jose, Santa Clara, Stanford, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and various other sites up and down the Peninsula were both critical proving grounds and important performance locales for many

important artists of the ’60s and beyond.

QThe biggest city in the Bay Area is, of course, San Jose. Is there a lot of rock history to find in the land that gave us the Doobie Brothers?

MK: Yes indeed. The house that Tom Johnston lived in when he founded the Doobies was recently given historic status. Beyond that, San Jose can also boast the first gig by the Grateful Dead, under that name, at one of Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests on December 4, 1965. That event was reportedly attended by Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Brian Jones following their own gig at the Civic Auditorium.

San Jose was a key location in the critically important folk music circuit of the mid-‘60s as well, attracting the young Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Janis Joplin, Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen.

Kantner was a student at San Jose State and worked with Kaukonen at Benner’s, a local music store. Jorma even made extra money teaching guitar lessons there for quite some time. There’s plenty more, but I can’t give it all away here.

QWhat were some of the biggest surprises that came about while doing this book?

CK: I was constantly surprised by how often single locations turned up in seemingly disparate scenes, or how they were touched by important music and nonmusical history. (For example) 330 Grove Street in San Francisco was in 1978 both where the LGBTQ rainbow flag was created and the site of a punk show featuring Dead Kennedys and Avengers. And several years before that, it was the home of People’s Press, a crucial underground print shop. Unfortunately, where that building once stood is part of a parking garage now. But it’s still fascinating to think about what used to be there.

QThe title of the book says “Rock and Roll” but there’s actually a lot more than just that genre represented in this book, right?

34 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
The Grateful Dead lived in this San Francisco Victorian home from 1966 to 1968. JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO/STAFF

MK: We make a conscious effort not to create unnecessary boundaries between perceived music genres. Musicians typically don’t, and those appellations are often marketing tools anyway. Following our “inclusion is better than exclusion” rule, for example, we describe blues and R&B in the Bay Area before the so-called Rock ‘n’ Roll Era (roughly 1955 and beyond), because to exclude those artists would rob them of their place in history as the progenitors for so much of which followed and be a gross distortion of history. In those days, blues, rhythm & blues and rock ‘n’ roll were often considered variations of the same thing but for different audiences. The “classic rock” sound of the ’60s is different from the punk sound of later years, but they are part of the same musical continuum, and we enthusiastically cover them both. We don’t cover hip-hop extensively, but we do write about Tupac Shakur, because he is such a towering figure

that has influenced musicians and fans across all demographics. We’ve even got Johnny Mathis in there, because he’s one of the

most popular singers of all time and is inescapable. He even went to the same high school as Marty Balin.

QCrispin, what’s your favorite piece of rock history you discovered while doing this book?

CK: Neal Schon confirmed a hilarious story about an incident with a fire extinguisher when Journey was recording “Infinity” at His Master’s Wheels in San Francisco. And Joel Gion of the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s story about getting hired to work at the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theater is great, too.

QSame question to you, Mike.

MK: One dramatically unpleasant eye-opener I learned is that one can draw a direct line from the forced internment of Japanese Americans at the outbreak of World War II to the rise of the Fillmore Auditorium as the premier venue of the San Francisco sound of the ’60s.

The Black Americans that repopulated the district — one of the very few places that would rent to them — transformed it into an entertainment destination, and impresario Charles Sullivan established the Fillmore as its biggest and best venue in the early ‘50s. When “urban renewal” set in some time later, and many of the Black inhabitants of the area were forced elsewhere, audiences dwindled until Sullivan began to share the space with a young Bill Graham. Sullivan died under tragic circumstances not long after, and the transformation was complete.

QWhat are your all-time favorite — top five — Bay Area music acts? Bonus points if you rank them in order.

MK: Not in any order, because that would change on a regular basis: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Etta James, Santana.

CK: In order: Grateful Dead, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Sly and the Family Stone, Green Day, Dead Kennedys. That’s as of right now and is subject to change, depending upon a variety of factors. Jefferson Airplane and Cool Ghouls are bubbling just under the top five.

35 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
Above: Sly and the Family Stone posed atop the “Mid-Century Monster” sculpture at Oakland’s Lake Merritt for the cover of their 1968 album, “Dance to the Music.” Right: Janis Joplin lived in this San Francisco Victorian in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO/ STAFF

These 10 tuneful landmarks offer a glimpse of Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll history.

1 The Metallica Mansion

3132 Carlson Blvd., El Cerrito

The top-selling Bay Area band of all time lived here from late 1982 through 1986, ironing out much of the material that would end up on the amazing “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets” albums.

2 Green Day house

2243 Ashby Ave., Berkeley

Before they hit multiplatinum heights, the Green Day guys lived in this communal space –where the video for “Longview” was filmed.

3 “Mid-Century Monster”

Lake Merritt area, Oakland

The 1952 Robert Winston sculpture, located off Bellevue Avenue near Lake Merritt, was featured on the cover of the 1968 Sly and the Family Stone album, “Dance to the Music.”

4 Tupac Shakur’s Apartment

275 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland

The talented rapper moved into this apartment complex in 1991, the same year he released his debut album, “2Pacalypse Now.”

5 Grateful Dead house

710 Ashbury St., San Francisco

This is arguably the most famous address in Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll lore, drawing countless tie-dyed tourists to see where the beloved jam band lived in the 1960s.

6 Jefferson Airplane house

2400 Fulton St., San Francisco

The address might ring a bell. It was used as the title of the band’s 1987 compilation album, “2400 Fulton Street.”

7 Janis Joplin house

635 Ashbury St., San Francisco

The legendary vocalist lived in a number of different locations in the City by the Bay, including a second floor apartment in this lovely Victorian located just steps from the famed HaightAshbury intersection.

8 Grace Slick house

1310 Greenwood Ave., Palo Alto Slick (who was known as Grace Wing at the time) lived in this house with her family from the early 1950s until she left for college at the University of Miami.

9 Eagles birthplace

4926 El Camino Real, Los Altos

Linda Ronstadt put together a very special backing band – including Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Randy Meisner – for a show at the Los Altos venue, Chuck’s Cellar, in 1971. Those three men, of course, went on to form the Eagles.

10 Doobie Brothers house

285 S. 12th St., San Jose This spot, where the Doobies got their start, was designated a historic landmark by the San Jose City Council in August.

5
6
ILLUSTRATION
BY PEP BOATELLA
4 7 8 9 10 1 2 3

Santa Rosa’s Somalia-born soccer mom pens memoir of life in the desert

With a suburban Santa Rosa home, a nursing career and three kids she carts to soccer games, Shugri Said Salh leads a vastly different life from the one she expected as a young girl. As she recalls in her new memoir, “The Last Nomad” (Algonquin Books), Salh began herding goats in the desert of central Somalia when she was 6. Her mother, who had nine children, sent her to live with her grandmother, one of the few female camel tamers at the time. Salh was taught to survive in a perilous, parched landscape, where drought, hunger and predatory lions, hyenas and scorpions were constant threats.

Salh, 47, is the last in her direct line to have lived this nomadic life, where arranged marriages strengthened clan alliances and a bridal future meant surviving a particularly extreme form of female circumcision at 7 or 8 to be made “clean,” a ritual performed on the ground by a clanswoman using an unwashed knife.

After her mother died in 1980, her father could only care for some of the 23 children he had with multiple wives. For several years, Salh lived in an orphanage in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, run by the first White people she had ever encountered, then with an older married sister. By 1990, with Somalia plunged into civil war, Salh’s extended family fled to Kenya. As a refugee, she resettled in Canada, started college, met and married her Ethiopian-born husband, a software engineer, and arrived in Sonoma County in 2000.

QWhen did you start writing?

Shugri Said Salh’s new memoir retraces her experiences from Somalia to Sonoma.

AIn November or December 2015, I started writing short stories that I would put on Facebook. I don’t have a literature background, but I always knew I was a really good storyteller. Somalia is a nation of poets and storytellers.

QSome of the book’s most beautiful passages are early in the book, when you write about being in the desert. You describe dinners of camel’s milk and dried meat, gathering around the fire at night to tell stories or climbing tall termite mounds to get a lay of the land.

AI love writing about the desert. When I look back, it’s just that young girl, standing on the mound, looking into the distance and thinking that the earth and the sky have a meeting point.

QYour adult self condemns the practice of female genital mutilation, but your book puts readers into the perspective of a young Somali girl who saw it as a rite of passage.

AI had to keep this liberal progressive woman away. It may have given some readers the idea that I was OK with it. But I had to embody that little girl to (show the cultural mindset). I would have really felt out of place in my culture had my grandmother not done what she did to me.

QYou wrote that “something inside you died” during the civil war, when you looked through cracks in the wall of your home and witnessed a murder. A young man randomly shot an older Bantu man who was leading his donkey to get some water.

A(The shooting) wrenched my heart. I didn’t think we were capable of that: a Somali just killing another Somali. That brought home the reality. That’s a nightmare I’ve dealt with for some time.

QAs we’re doing this interview (in late August), people are fleeing for their lives in Afghanistan. Does it affect you to see other people going through that?

AFor those of us who have been in a war, it’s such a trigger. Once, when I was hiking with my daughter, I told her, “I’m hiking with you, and we can pretend there are no problems (in other parts of the world).” Maybe that’s how it was for some Americans, when I was (in Somalia) and in chaos and turmoil, there were people taking their walks and not knowing there was a problem.

QHave you been back to Somalia?

ANot yet. I literally flew out of my country in terror, like a bird whose nest burned down. I want to sift my fingers through the soil and feel the warmth of Mogadishu when it’s not shattered by bullets. Somalia and I owe each other a visit. We need to reconcile.

38 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Q&A

Poet, painter, philosopher, naturalist Obi Kaufmann casts a reimagining eye upon our vibrant California

Hiking near his home in Crockett, Obi Kaufmann, a charismatic literary voice in modern ecological science and environment, wanted to emphasize a point. Marveling at how mycorrhizal fungi have survived the six mass extinctions that began 445 million years ago, Kaufmann bent down and scooped up some leafy dirt from below a valley oak, one the author had named Big Auntie.

“There’s more microscopic life in this handful of soil than there are people on the planet,” he said. “That’s how small this life is. So tell me where you stop and where it begins, because life doesn’t work like that. It’s not only interconnected — it’s singular in

40 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
At age 30, artist Obi Kaufmann returned to the East Bay and began painting with watercolors while exploring California nature as much as possible.

my dreaming world.”

This is a preamble to a complex set of questions about what it means to be a Californian at this particular moment in time. At the stressful juncture of drought, fire, virus and climate change, along comes a larger-than-life figure challenging our well-worn perceptions with a mixture of hope and admonishment.

The author of the innovative “The California Field Atlas” and other illustrated books on the Golden State, Kaufmann excavates emotional truths about where we live while painting outside its borders.

I can’t quite define it. Artist, poet, nature philosopher — and conservationist, Kaufmann lives on the corner of imagery and science, inviting readers to reimagine the state through maps and charts of the diverse topography.

“He is talking, exploring and educating about California nature in an open-minded, open-hearted and inspirational way,” said Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary of natural resources. “He is catalyzing a conversation that I don’t see other people doing.”

The depths of insight and expression in words and watercolor sketches on the page, in geologic charts and timetables of human behavior, revealed themselves at Crockett Hills Regional Park, where Kaufmann, photographer Karl Mondon and I celebrated the first day of fall with a morning ramble above the Carquinez Strait.

Kaufmann, 48, arrived wearing cuffed denim jeans, a faded blue short-sleeved shirt and a widebrimmed straw hat that looked similar to portraits of Ansel Adams. Both arms were covered in geometric tattoos. The hands, from right to left, say “Coyote” and “Thunder,” a nod to the late nature writer Barry Lopez. Tattooed fingers spell out “Wild Life.”

We hadn’t left the parking lot before Kaufmann began ruminating about the natural beauty

42 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Obi Kaufmann tucks his watercolor kit into his rucksack whenever he explores California’s trails, so he can paint during his treks.

before us, hopping from fragment to fragment like a jackrabbit.

“This one little corner of woodland is a guardian of an ancient legacy,” he said.

It’s as if Muir, Darwin, Emerson and Van Gogh had been cross-pollinated with a 21st-century sensibility.

maps of the state’s ecosystems are beautiful artwork and stories unto themselves. They have less to do with cartography than an intellectual dexterity that paints California in unparalleled scope and scale. His watercolor paintings of wildlife, plants, trees, mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers capture sensual scenes of nature.

Kaufmann’s nomadic lifelong journey into the backcountry has led to sharing observations of California in absorbing prose and paint.

“All day long I do four things: I walk, I write, I read, I paint,” he said. “I have a one-to-one-to-oneto-one ratio. You have to read as much as you write.”

Kaufmann guesses he consumes about 20 books a month, including scientific texts. A mastery of fact-based research gives him the linguistic skill to publish textualized atlases steeped in science but filled with imagination.

Marie Antoine, a coast redwood botanist from Humboldt State University, said Kaufmann “has created a powerful voice for himself on behalf of the wild places.”

“The California Field Atlas” (Heyday Books, 2017) is a solid scientific volume written in spare poetic elegance that gets to the heart of the matter in an accessible way a research text never would.

His hand-painted variegated

Every California household should have a copy of the 608page atlas. It’s not designed as a linear page-turner. I’d start with Kaufmann’s introduction, because it encapsulates the author’s relationship with the landscape he so dearly loves. From there, read it frontward, backward or according to whatever topic piques an interest.

“This might sound funny for a book calling itself an atlas, but I’ve never been interested in the exact where of things,” Kaufmann said. “I’m more interested in the quality of the story across the land. My books don’t tell you where anything is. But they do lay out in great detail the how. How is the layout constructed?

Not the what of a field guide. Not the where of a road atlas. And not even necessarily the why of some history of California. Rather, how these larger systems I’ve organized by the Platonic elements of earth, air, fire and water might tell a better story.”

Kaufmann has burrowed deep into the state’s rich biodiverse core. And then he has gone further. The author followed the atlas with “The State of Water” and “The Forests of California.”

43 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
Writer Elliott Almond describes Obi Kaufmann, author of “The California Field Atlas,” as if Muir, Darwin, Emerson and Van Gogh had been cross-pollinated with a 21stcentury sensibility.

“Forests” is the first of a trilogy that includes “The Coasts of California,” coming in 2022, and “The Deserts of California,” in 2023.

He has sidestepped the trap door of machismo backcountry storytelling that has gained popularity in the past three decades. In all of our conversations, the only anecdote he shared was facing wild pigs on Mount Diablo, where he spent his childhood.

“It’s the one animal I’m afraid of,” Kaufmann said. “They’re just jerks.”

In June, the author took Crowfoot on an overnight outing in the Sierra Buttes. The men spent 18 hours talking about the preservation of natural resources in what became a documentary produced by Wildboundlive.

“He breaks down the beautiful complexity of California nature,” Crowfoot said. “His role is to identify a positive, proactive vision of what California’s nature can return to and then inspire people to help it do so.”

Kaufmann told me he tries to bring together the truth of humanity with the truth of the humanities and physical sciences to create a plausible narrative that underscores what is at stake as our trees smolder and aquifers go dry.

William J. Kaufmann IV was born in Los Angeles, where his father, William III, was director of the Griffith Observatory on the slope of Mount Hollywood. The family moved to Danville in 1977, when he was 4 years old. His father, an astrophysicist, wrote popular books on astronomy and his mother, Lee Johnson Kaufmann, built a clinical psychology practice.

Obi displayed artistry by

44 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Obi Kaufmann shows off work being done on his next field guide at his studio.

age 3, his mother recalled. The Kaufmanns sent their son to Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek and later the Athenian School in Danville at the foot of Mount Diablo. Kaufmann spent his leisure time combing the steep slopes of Diablo to explore the natural wonders just beyond the door. He mapped the mountain while emulating J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth depictions.

His mother, who now goes by Jeffre TallTrees, encouraged her son’s artistic predilection. But Kaufmann mostly recalls coming home to calculus homework.

“Dr. Kaufmann’s son was going to be a mathematician,” Obi said. “To him, mathematics is the language of reality.”

He attended UC Santa Barbara as a marine biology major but quickly switched to fine art — and went from Bill to Obi, a nickname his grandmother gave him.

He studied oil painting, drummed in a punk rock band called Glitch and skipped classes to explore the Santa Ynez Mountains above Goleta. Kaufmann discovered Chumash pictographs on those treks in the Los Padres National Forest. The visceral connection to the ancient artwork expanded his boundaries as a painter and philosopher.

Sitting on the dirt trail now with a watercolor pan, Kaufmann shared a postcard-size painting of a coastal live oak that he calls Sunbasket. “I wonder if I showed this painting to Chumash artists 500 years ago, if they would be as bewildered by my depiction of the lines of this life as I am of theirs,” he mused.

After graduating college in 1995, Kaufmann got involved in the Pacific Northwest gallery scene of Seattle and Portland. At age 30, he returned to the East Bay, met his partner, Alli Darling, and transitioned into watercolors while exploring California nature as

much as possible. He also worked as a tattoo artist in Oakland.

At Kaufmann’s cramped studio in downtown Crockett, the author yanked titles on fire topics from his wooden bookshelves, when the conversation turned to the blaze burning in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Kaufmann plans to publish “The State of Fire: How, Where and Why California Burns” in 2024. He criticized prevailing methods of thinning trees, saying emerging science is focused on California’s historical relationship with fire.

I confessed my utter frustration as wildland fires have eaten up the state’s forests with an insatiable appetite. Kaufmann stopped me. Californians, he said, have the tools, if not much time, to change course as climate change impacts accelerate at an alarming speed. “You have to love fire as a natural, beautiful part of this,” he said.

He has faith that we will protect what we consider sacred.

To do so, Kaufmann insists we expand our horizons beyond the California hood ornaments of Yosemite Valley, the General Grant sequoia and fairytale forests along Avenue of the Giants. We have to fall madly in love with the oak savannas of the Coastal Ranges, the desert sage, the concrete-imprisoned Los Angeles River.

We must embrace our blemishes as much as our beauty marks, if we’re going to find our way out of this mess.

Kaufmann has provided a roadmap without signposts or trail markers to guide us on this urgent artistic, spiritual and ecological trek toward salvation.

It’s past time to join him.

45 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

Bestow some book-linked fun on your favorite eager readers

Looking for the perfect gift for the literati in your life — besides, you know, books? Here are a few suggestions for book-adjacent fun, from Herman Melville cocktail glasses to a Sherlock Holmes puzzle.

Bibliophile notecards

Yes, we’re about to sound like Miss Manners. But these colorful notecards by illustrator Jane Mount are so charming, they’ll turn anyone into a sender of handwritten notes — even if the only thing you scrawl inside is “Hi! Text you later!”

The notecards depict 20 different stacks of books — a dozen or more at a time, all painted by Mount — in genres that range from beloved fiction (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Beloved,” “The Great Gatsby”) to poetry, sci-fi and children’s literature. A colorful stack of cookbooks — perfect for writing a post-dinner party thank you, if we ever have dinner parties again — even includes “The Pizza Bible,” by the Bay Area’s pizza maestro, Tony Gemignani.

Details: Order the cards ($15 for 20 notecards printed on lightweight matte stock or $17 for 50 postcards ) via the New York Public Library shop — a fun browse at any time — or Mount’s IdealBookshelf.com,

which also offers themed bookshelf prints for every literary niche ($34 and up).

Well Told literary glasses

Sure, your favorite bookworm can read “Ulysses” or “Pride and Prejudice” with a cup of tea. But wouldn’t it be more fun to pair a classic volume with a cocktail glass homage? This glassware quartet includes passages from such literary masterworks as “Don Quixote” and “Moby Dick.” Readers can toast Ishmael, for example, with a neat whiskey on the rocks or go full seafarer with a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. (Pour 2 ounces Gosling’s Black Seal rum and 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice over ice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with 1 giant squid.)

Details: These 11-ounce rocks glasses are available in Herman Melville, James Joyce, H.G. Wells and Miguel de Cervante versions for $16 each, or as a Jane Austen-Charlotte Bronte duo for $30 through www. uncommongoods.com.

Tequila Mockingbird

Literary gift possibilities include Herman Melville-inspired cocktail glasses (with a copy of “Moby Dick,” of course), Sherlock Holmes puzzles and a punfilled “Tequila Mockingbird” mixology guide.

This tongue-in-cheek best-seller by San Francisco native Tim Federle gives your favorite books a mixology twist. The 65 drink recipes range from The Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose to Romeo and Julep and A Rum of One’s Own. Plus cocktail bites, such as Prawn Quixote.

It’s not just a drinking guide for English lit majors, it’s a fun read for anyone who enjoys drinks, snacks or literary puns.

Details: Your favorite indie bookstore can order this book (Running Press, $15) for you, if they don’t already have it in stock.

The World of Sherlock Holmes

Is that Mycroft sulking near the Diogenes Club? The great hound at Baskerville Hall? A speckled band slithering into a room in Surrey?

The game is afoot, and a puzzle — all 1,000 pieces of it — lies just ahead for Sherlock Holmes fans looking to spend a cozy evening or two fitting it all together. (OK, it took us two weeks. We kept taking time out to reread mysteries.)

Half the fun of this Holmesian jigsaw is spotting Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade amid the

Victorian London cityscape. Romeo, Juliet and Macbeth more your style? Or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy? There are “Worlds of...” puzzles for Shakespeare and Jane Austen-o-philes, too.

Details: The Sherlock Holmes puzzle ($19 plus shipping) is available from several bookstores, including the Bay Area’s Book Inc.net e-store and Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore.

Ultimate Sherlock Holmes Puzzle Book

Six classic Holmes stories inspired this collection of 140 puzzles of all sorts — cryptograms, crosswords, logic puzzles and other brainteasers. Holmes’ brother, Mycroft, poses his signature stumpers, including one involving bicycles, unicycles and tricycles. A diamond thief and would-be assassin meets with fellow villains and assorted henchmen on three occasions, and it’s up to you to sort out which crook goes with which accomplice. It’s nerdy fun for any fan of detective fiction or puzzles.

Details: This paperback volume (Wellfleet, $20), written by Pierre Berloquin with puzzles by Bernard Myers, was published in June. Find it at BooksInc.net or your favorite bookseller.

47 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
48 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Two book lovers, working miles apart, collaborate on a ‘Bibliophile’ guide that will diversify your reading list

That artist Jane Mount and Bookstagrammer Jamise Harper, who live in different parts of the country and move in entirely different circles, would ever meet, let alone collaborate on a book, is a plot twist of the headiest sort. The pair, co-authors of “Bibliophile: Diverse Spines” (Chronicle Books), have yet to meet in person, even though they’ve spent the past year researching and writing the ultimate pick-me-up-andthumb-through book on authors, titles, bookstores and all things bookish involving marginalized authors and bookstore owners.

“We’ve done everything through Zoom and Google Chat, emails and phone calls,” Mount says, “but you’d never know it. It could not have gone better.”

“Diverse Spines” is a sequel to Mount’s first book, “Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany,” an irresistibly colorful 2018 collection of authors, trivia and details. Both books are illustrated with Mount’s distinctive artwork depicting book covers and book stacks showing off their spines.

The original was the offshoot of Mount’s artwork and her love of books. At the time, she and her husband were living in a tiny Manhattan apartment, where her art “studio” doubled as kitchen table and office. Instead of painting the large figurative canvases she was then known for, Mount had to scale back on her chosen medium.

“One day, I was sitting at the table with a blank piece of paper in front of me,” Mount recalls, “and I had to draw something to make this paper not blank.”

She started sketching her bookshelf, drawing in the books and their titles. Her husband’s friend stopped

Bookstagrammer Jamise Harper, top, co-authored “Bibliophile: Diverse Spines” with artist Jane Mount, above, through a long distance relationship that included researching and writing the ultimate pick-me-up-and-thumb-through book.

@HARPNOIR;

49 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

by, saw the four or so drawings she had made and was intrigued. He offered to buy them on the spot.

“I thought, ‘Hey, maybe there’s something to this,’” Mount says.

She started drawing friends’ bookshelves, then decided to get more anthropologic — her major in college — by asking her friends to select their favorite books for the project, an exercise that provided insight into their lives and personalities. When she began posting the results on Instagram, the project took off. Custom paintings, prints and mugs soon followed — which is how she and Harper eventually connected.

“Curious George” was Harper’s first love. She remembers the feel of the book, the weight of it in her hands and, most importantly, the story. That sense of awe over storytelling never wavered. By adulthood, she was doing book and wine reviews for family and friends on Instagram and arranging her bookshelves in a similar vein. Some of her most recent favorite reads — “The Love Songs of W.E.B Du Bois,” “Unbound” by Tarana Burk, “How the Word Is Passed” by Clint Smith and “My Monticello” by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson — sit on a shelf just above some of her favorite wines. Among them: Black Girl Magic Rosé from McBride Sisters, a Chaos Theory red blend from Brown Estate and a rosé from Michael Lavelle Winery.

When her sister suggested she share her observations with the world, Harper created the hashtag #spinesvines and became a Bookstagrammer, a book-inspired Instagrammer.

Harper and Mount’s worlds intersected when Harper’s son ordered a Christmas present, a mug from Mount with some of his mother’s favorite book titles. Harper gushed about it on Instagram. Mount saw the post and checked out Harper’s book recommendations. And each started following the other.

Things might have rested there, but last year, Mount began talking with her publisher about a new “Bibliophile” title. As they bandied ideas about, one theme caught their attention.

“I said I’d love to do one on

50 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

how to read more diversely,” Mount says, “but I wanted to work with someone. I immediately thought of Jamise. She was already working on that, getting people to read books by women from all different backgrounds. I thought she would be perfect.”

Mount sent her a DM: “Hey, ever thought of co-authoring a book?”

Convinced Mount had accidentally DMed the wrong Bookstagrammer, Harper replied, “Are you sure you have the right person?”

Mount was very sure.

With COVID surging, there would be no in-person meetings. Mount was living in Hawaii, isolating in a bungalow. Harper was in Washington, D.C. So they burned up the phone lines and Wi-Fi as they laid out chapters and divvied up the work, choosing topics and authors. Harper, who loves historical fiction and poetry, volunteered to write those; Mount took cooking and illustrators, and they split the others.

Both women say it was important to them to celebrate great writing that transcends race, ethnicity and sexuality, highlighting the differences but more importantly, the similarities we share.

“For a long time, the stories have been there,” Harper says, “but they’ve been overlooked, not marketed or promoted. The writers have always been telling these stories. (Now) we want people to get out of their comfort zone and diversify their bookshelves. When they do, they open the space for compassion. People focus so much on our differences, but I guarantee you’ll find something you can relate to.”

The book has shown even Mount, who thought she was already reading a diverse array of authors, that there was so much more out there.

“A book is a little empathy machine,” Mount says. “It’s amazing how you can step into someone else’s life, and it might be very different from yours, but it expands your mindset. Reading diversity makes you realize how different we can be, but how the same we can be at the core. It makes you feel a sense of belonging. That’s what we’re looking for.”

51 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
“(Now) we want people to get out of their comfort zone and diversify their bookshelves. When they do, they open the space for compassion. People focus so much on our differences, but I guarantee you’ll find something you can relate to.”
Bookstagrammer Jamise Harper

Jane Mount’s 5 favorite books

“Men We Reaped” by Jesmyn Ward: This memoir is an agonizing, powerful look at conditions in the deep South, where men, like crops, are mowed down by the circumstances of life in poverty. Ward writes about the five young men she knew, including her brother, who died from drugs, accidents, suicide and bad luck, and asks why.

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi: The legacy of slavery, woven through the decades and generations, is told through the lives of two half-sisters, one sold into slavery and sent to the United States, the other who married a British slaver. The story travels through 300 years of slavery and its consequences in this country and warfare and British colonization in Ghana.

“The Street” by Ann Petry: A young Black woman in Harlem in World War II is trying to raise her son alone while dealing with poverty, racism, lack of opportunity and predatory men. Called a classic by book reviewers, (it reveals) sentiments and realities of its time that resonate today.

“The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin: Written in 1963 by the novelist, playwright, essayist, poet and activist, “The Fire Next Time” contains two essays: “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation” and “Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region of My Mind.” The title is this lyric taken from the Black spiritual, “Mary Don’t You Weep”: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign/No more water, the fire next time.”

“Bone” by Yrsa Daley-Ward: A visceral collection of poems that cut straight to bone on mental health, religion, sexuality, death, love, depression and life as a Black woman.

52 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Jamise Harper’s 5 favorite books

“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin: The first book in “The Broken Earth” trilogy is a dystopian novel about a future Earth where the continents have merged and humanity is left to navigate amid a roiling, disruptive nature. Certain people have an ability to control the chaos and to cause it, using natural disasters like weapons to create empires.

“Gingerbread” by Helen Oyeyemi: A fantastical novel about a family with a gingerbread recipe unlike any others, this tale travels through jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, real estate and, of course, that magical gingerbread.

“You Should See Me in a Crown” by Leah Johnson: Liz Lighty has dreams of getting out of Campbell, Indiana, attending the elite Pennington College, playing in their world-famous orchestra and becoming a doctor. Only one thing stands in her way – money. When her scholarship falls through, she seeks another offered to the king and queen of the prom, not something on the wish list.

“The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy: This beautiful, heartbreaking tale is set in India and centered on the family of two twin girls, who make their own world in the shadow of their dysfunctional one.

“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee: The saga of four generations of Koreans living in Japan is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition and loyalty. The story travels through the varied elements of society, from privileged and educated (circles) to the pachinko parlors, recounting the strength of women and the devotion of families.

“Bibliophile: Diverse Spines” includes a number of beloved bookstores, so you’ll always have places to visit when traveling. But you don’t have to look far to find one in our own backyard:

Oakland’s Marcus Books, at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, is the oldest independent Black bookstore in the nation. It was founded by Raye and Julian Richardson in 1960 during the height

of the Black power movement.

The store, named after political activist and author Marcus Garvey, is now owned and operated by the founders’ children, Blanche Richardson, Bill Richardson and Karen Johnson.

Other noted bookstores include Cafe Con Libros in Brooklyn, New York, a feminist book store, and Loyalty Bookstore in Silver Spring, Maryland, which specializes in LGBTQ and minority authors.

More reading suggestions from “Bibliophile: Diverse Spines”

Cree Myles, curator of “All Ways Black,” Penguin Random House publisher’s Instagram program featuring stories about Black experience, recommends “Wild See” by Octavia E. Butler.

“Octavia Butler was a god among (White) men, and while everything that she created flipped the science fiction genre on its head, ‘Wild Seed’ is her most magnificent creation.”

Christine Bollow, programs and marketing manager at Loyalty Bookstores in Maryland and Washington, D.C., recommends “America Is Not the Heart” by Elaine Castillo.

“This is a quiet yet powerful, character-driven story that follows Hero, a Filipina immigrant building a new life in America. I ask you to read this because I want my people, my culture, my family to be seen.”

Sasha Maria S., an Ojibwe Bookstagrammer, recommends “The Seed Keeper” by Diane Wilson.

“Diane Wilson (Dakhóta) is a stunning writer, and her character-driven fiction debut is a work of art. ‘The Seed Keeper’ is a stunning exploration of how a shared past, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, structures our present and future.”

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BOOK CLUBS FROM “BIBLIOPHILE: DIVERSE SPINES”

“The Girl with the Louding Voice” by Abi Daré

“Everything Inside” by Edwidge Danticat

“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid

“The Henna Artist” by Alka Joshi

“You Exist Too Much” by Zaina Arafat

“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett

“Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue

53 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH

Bay Area author’s multilayered ‘Henna Artist’ unveils the beauty and complexity of post-independence India

‘Downton Abbey’ heads East

After Bay Area author Alka Joshi moved to the United States from India at age 9, she quickly learned that Americans were mostly exposed to negative narratives about her birth country, often told from the perspective of British expats lamenting the end of colonial rule.

Joshi hoped to expand readers’ understanding with her 2020 best-selling novel, “The Henna Artist” (Mira Books), which portrays India in its post-independence exuberance.

The book was inspired by Joshi’s mother and set in 1955, the year her parents married. The novel follows 17-year-old Lakshmi, who leaves an abusive marriage and makes her way alone to Jaipur, the picturesque “Pink City,” where she becomes a henna artist and confidante to women in the city’s social elite, including royalty.

Joshi’s lyrical writing about class, family, romance and female empowerment captured the attention of Reese Witherspoon for her May 2020 Book Club pick. Indian star Freida Pinto will play Lakshmi in a limited series set to begin filming in early 2023. The series’ executive producer, Michael Edelstein, has said that Joshi’s multilayered storytelling could make her tales an Indian version of “Downton Abbey.”

“The Secret Keeper of Jaipur,” the second book in the Stanford alum’s “Jaipur Trilogy,” picks up Lakshmi’s story in 1969, with mystery and intrigue swirling around everything from Bollywood glamour and Himalayan gold smuggling to the ancient arts of healing.

QFreida Pinto has said she likes your books because they give a picture of Indian life Americans don’t often see. How was that important to you?

AI largely wrote “The Henna Artist” as an alternative life my mother would have had, in the sense that Lakshmi forges her own path. Women in India are very resilient. They will always try to find the happiness they desire.

What also was very important for me was to inform the world about what normal living was all about in 1955 or 1969. I want people to understand this phase

Five book picks from Joshi

of Indian history, how people feel after 200 years of domination, that they finally had a chance to have the country back in their own hands.

QWhat else was important to you?

AI got the chance to talk about the literary scene. Bring in boarding schools in India that were catering to young, wealthy kids, who were dancing to Elvis Presley and listening to the same rock and roll that people across the world were listening to. I wanted to explore the ancient art of henna. I also wanted to deal with the casteism, colorism and classism that still exist today.

QYou’ve mentioned a road trip to Idaho with your husband, fiction writer Bradley Jay Owens, launched your writing career ...

ATo entertain my husband, I started telling him stories about India. He said, “Why don’t you write those down?” It wasn’t until I was 51 that I started listening to him.

QWe’re talking the same week you’re off to Paris to research book No. 3. What do you hope to learn there?

Pacific Grove author Alka Joshi has just published a sequel to her best-selling novel, “The Henna Artist.”

ARadha (Lakshmi’s younger sister) is in the fragrance industry in 1974 Paris. I’ll be doing all this research into designers. And, of course, I’ll write about French and Indian food. Food is such a big part of our lives. It informs so much about culture.

QIndeed, “The Secret Keeper of Jaipur” offers recipes at the end for a curried vegetable dish and a Maharani Cocktail for one of the book’s characters.

AMy older brother helped design (the cocktail). He’s the family mixologist. I asked if he’d design this cocktail for the older maharani who likes to water her orchids with gin.

54 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker “The Blood of Flowers” by Anita Amirrezvani “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry “The Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler DENNIS L. TAYLOR/ MONTEREY HERALD
56 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Book B inding

B lending art , craft , design and expression is a thriving B ay a rea enterprise

Getting lost in the pages of a good book is easy. Making that book is a whole other story. ¶ Bookbinding, the act of folding, sewing and securing pages together, dates back 2,000 years to a time when palm leaves were bound together with twine. Today, trained artisans and devoted DIY-ers are keeping this labor-intensive craft alive, especially in the Bay Area, which has one of the largest and most dynamic bookbinding scenes in the world.

There’s the San Francisco Center for the Book on Potrero Hill, a hub for bookbinding classes and exhibitions of the book as an art form which is celebrating its 25th year. There’s the American Bookbinders Museum, which opened in San Francisco’s SoMa District in 2015 to preserve and promote the art and history of handbound books. It’s the only museum of its kind in North America.

Joining them is CODEX Foundation, which takes its name from the ancestor of the modern book. Since 2007, the organization has held one of the world’s largest biennial book fairs and symposiums, bringing together fine press printers and book artists in Richmond. And there’s Arion Press, which traces its origins back to 1919. Today, it publishes limited-edition, hand-printed books that are displayed in the British Library and the Getty Center and sought out by collectors around the world.

Chad Johnson, studio director and resident

BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH 57
Top: Judith Sims begins the book binding process during a book binding class at San Francisco Center for the Book. Bottom left: A job backer is used to bind books. Bottom right: A collection of art books are displayed at the Center for the Book.

instructor of the San Francisco Center for the Book, credits San Francisco’s rich history in printing as the foundation for today’s everevolving bookbinding culture.

“As we move further into the digital age, there is almost a stronger interest in the ways of analog and the phenomenon of making something with your hands,” says Johnson, as he tinkers with the crank of a heavy, cast-iron job backer, a piece of equipment used to create the shoulder on the side of a book-to-be.

Johnson, who holds a master of fine arts degree in book arts and printmaking, has taught here for the last 20 years. But over the last five or six years, he’s seen a rising interest in bookbinding, which he says grew out of the letterpress printing craze. SFCB classes began selling out, and they have become especially popular during the pandemic — both in-person and in online workshops — when people were looking for a quiet and meditative escape from their screens.

58 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Judith Sims makes a book during a bookbinding class at San Francisco Center for the Book.
“As we move further into the digital age, there is almost a stronger interest in the ways of analog and the phenomenon of making something with your hands.”
Chad Johnson, studio director and resident instructor of the San Francisco Center for the Book

“Let’s just say, (bookbinding) is not fading the way you think it would,” he says.

Hardly. Since the center’s inception, thousands of students have passed through the 7,000 squarefoot space, which has its own bindery. They come to learn a particular type of stitching or binding or for a weeklong intensive on the entire bookbinding process.

“Most of our students are enthusiasts who love books and just want to learn to make something,” Johnson says. “Others go on to get a formal education and become book artists, book conservators and formal bookbinders.”

They can do all of that in the Bay Area, which has several academic hubs for book art, including a comprehensive program at Mills College and library and book preservation departments at UC Berkeley and Stanford University.

Bookbinding is a subset of the book arts, a category that includes letterpress printing, paper making and other elements that go into the creation of a book. Artists’ books are unique artworks that take a book’s form but interpret it in artistic or even sculptural ways.

Julie Chen, who has been a book artist for 30 years, directs the Mills Book Art program. While the school’s undergraduate program focuses on the history, study and creation of various types of bound books — folded paper sewn together with linen thread, glued, shaped, covered and decorated — the MFA curriculum is centered around the book as a medium for artistic expression.

For an idea of the latter, look at Chen’s books, which are more like interactive structures. Her 2014 “Chrysalis,” a faceted oloid held together with magnets and housed in a box, is about the transformative nature of grief.

And “Half-Century,” which Chen created in 2018 and presents in a box with a magnetic closure, fans

59 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
Bookbinding supplies and metal letter stamps await the next project at the San Francisco Center for the Book.

out to a width of more than 14 feet, revealing a timeline illustrating significant life events.

“My focus is on how to use the material book and the structure of the book to create an immersive experience for the reader,” Chen says. “In theater, you’re watching the performance. With this, the book is a self-performative object. But you as the reader are also playing a part.”

E. Bond, an Alameda book artist and bookbinder who teaches classes on Creativebug.com, makes hand-sewn, one-of-a-kind journals and sculptural books. She is also drawn to unconventional structures and how they inform sequence.

“Iteration,” her 2015 Mills College graduate thesis, is a series of seven vertical hanging scrolls about the survivalism of California’s ancient redwoods and their relationship to humans and time.

“What’s older than a redwood?” says Bond, whose work appears in “500 Handmade Books: Inspiring Interpretations of a Timeless Form” and “1,000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art.” “I had to go back to the ancient pre-book form.”

She uses ancient binding techniques as well. In one scroll, Bond uses dragonscale binding, a Chinese technique dating back to the Tang Dynasty. A dragon scalebound book is still a scroll, but it contains pages that are pasted in by their edges. This effect, which allows for more stories to occur within the scroll, has a tree bark effect, Bond says. It helps the “reader” experience the trees and words in a nonlinear way and perhaps grasp just how long these beings have been around.

“Bookbinding allows me to control the entire thought,” she says. “Because of the freedom book art allows, I can take historical forms and think of ways they could evolve if we wanted them to.”

Bottom: This iron hand press, which is still used, dates back to about 1840.

60 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Above: Instructor Nina Eve Zeininge, left, offers helpful tips during a bookbinding class at the San Francisco center.

Learn more

You can find examples of bookbinding and book art at several libraries in the Bay Area, including on the sixth floor of the San Francisco Main Library at 100 Larkin St., in addition to the university libraries at UC Berkeley and Mills College. Here are more possibilities:

San Francisco Center for the Book: Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on weekends at 375 Rhode Island St. in San Francisco. Anyone can take classes at SFCB, which offers 300 workshops a year on topics ranging from accordion book structures ($185) and letterpress holiday cards ($70) to Bookbinding Core 1-4 ($850); https:// sfcb.org.

American Bookbinders Museum: Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. WednesdaySaturday at 355 Clementina St. in San Francisco. A new exhibit, “Standard | Deluxe | Design, Bindings of the Book Club of California,” runs through Feb. 26; https:// bookbindersmuseum.org.

Arion Press, Grabhorn Institute: Public tours of the institute’s “living museum” and educational center at 1802 Hayes St. in San Francisco are still on hold, but you can learn more about the press and order books, hand-bound journals and other items at www.arionpress.com.

CODEX 2022: See the work of more than 450 book artists and vendors representing 30 countries at this biennial international fair and symposium scheduled for April 10-13 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond. Tickets are $10-$40; www. codexfoundation.org.

61 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
Foil stampers, like these on display at the San Francisco Center for the Book, are used to add patterns and designs to a book’s spine or cover.

A child’s sadness over a dying star inspires a book about empathy

5 book picks from Lucianovic

“Too Many Birds” by author and illustrator Cindy Derby: What happens when one blustering Bird-in-Charge tries too hard to rule the roost? A delightful and hilarious exploration of community, expansion, forgiveness and pooping!

We all do it to some degree — feel empathy for inanimate objects, be it a favorite old T-shirt that has seen better days or a once-loved stuffed animal now relegated to the back of the closet. For the hero of Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic’s new “Hello, Star” (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), it’s a dying star that catches her imagination and heart. The picture book, illustrated by Vashti Harrison, is one of two new offerings from Menlo Park-based Lucianovic. Also out this month: Lucianovic’s “The League of Picky Eaters,” which is set in a town that takes its cuisine (and the residents’ ability to properly appreciate it) very seriously.

I said, “That’s it. I’m done.” So, yes, the same son made a heart out of paper and had written on it, “You write really, really, really good books. Please don’t give up.” I still have that heart. It’s on my wall. I look at it often when I am to the point again of just giving up.

QWhat inspired “Hello, Star”?

AMy oldest son, Henry, who at the time was in first grade — he’s now a seventh grader — was very into space. One night, he came to me and said, “Do you know that stars die? Isn’t that sad?” I thought about that empathetic thought that he had, that feeling of love or empathy or sadness for an inanimate object. (I) wondered what a child would do with that feeling. That night, I sat down and wrote the first draft of “Hello, Star.”

QThat was right around the same time you had almost given up writing books, right? But then Henry helped convince you to do otherwise.

AI didn’t have an agent at the time and was sending out a lot of queries and getting a lot of rejections. I was ready to give up. I had gotten a rejection from an agent that I actually thought was going to be a more positive situation, and I was so devastated that

QWhat’s the message of “Hello, Star”?

AI think there are several takeaways. One is the idea that when we are working toward a goal, there is a lot of hard work involved, and there is always going to be at least one time when you are tired and frustrated, but you just keep going. Look at that star. That is your guiding light to your ultimate journey’s end for that particular goal.

(The story) shows us just how far empathy can take us. Ultimately, a little girl is sad about a star. She has empathy for a star. She’s worried that the star is feeling lonely out there on its own as it’s dying, and that makes her upset. And that ends up putting her on the path of a lifelong career to be an astronaut.

QCan you tell me about “The League of Picky Eaters”?

AMy agent had been pushing me to write books longer than picture books. So, I had this idea of writing about kid picky eaters … and came up with the idea of what if you lived in a town founded as a foodie utopia? When you attend St. Julia Child Elementary and Middle School, one of your classes — along with science and math and history — is Eating, with a capital “E,” because the teachers and the parents in the community prize the educated palate just as much as they prize your math scores. Then I thought, “What if you are a picky eater in that town who failed her placement exam and was placed in a remedial eating class away from her best friends?”

“Moth & Butterfly” by Dev Petty, illustrated by Ana Aranda: A lovely story about the steadfastness of friendship that is sustained even after the most momentous of transformations.

“And Then It’s Spring” by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Stead: The book that made me want to write picture books.

“The Lost Package” by Richard Ho, illustrated by Jessica Lanan: A gorgeous and moving look at what the USPS’ work means to two families, but also the entire country. Don’t miss the incredible artwork under the dust jacket.

“The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy” by Anne Ursu: One of the most important middle grade novels of our time. When girls in a magic-hewn society are denied the rights of education, emotion and true existence by wizards, one girl finds her way to the truth.

62 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Q&A
63 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
Stephanie Lucianovic, author of the upcoming children’s book “Hello Star,” visits her local Books Inc. store in Palo Alto. KARL MONDON/STAFF

hen Bay Area author

Tina Folsom completed her first paranormal romance novel in 2010, she was sure it contained all the right juicy hooks: pages dripping with passion and intrigue ... dark secrets ... a pair of chilling murders ... hot vampire sex.

Unfortunately, more than 30 literary agents rejected the titillating “Samson’s Lovely Mortal.” Moreover, Folsom was told by so-called experts that vampires were dead. Like really dead … as a genre. Her response?

“OK, screw this. I’ll do it myself.”

In the years that followed, Folsom became a self-publishing dynamo. She has written 43 books, most of them entries in her lusty Scanguards Vampire series, and total sales have surpassed 2 million copies. She figures her writing career has netted her around $4.6 million. She and her husband recently purchased a home with an ocean view in San Clemente.

“This whole writing business has given us security and freedom,” says Folsom, a former accountant and finance manager for UC San Francisco. “I realize that I am incredibly lucky.”

Of course, not everyone is so lucky — or industrious. But a growing number of authors — both new and established — are brazenly taking things into their own hands. And thanks to the Internet, along with the rise of self-publishing tools, platforms and communities, they’ve been able to fulfill their literary dreams without the aid of traditional publishing houses.

Count San Rafael resident Anthony Lee Head among them. A former trial lawyer, he self-published his first novel — “Driftwood: Stories from the Margarita

65 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH ADOBE STOCK

Author Tina Folsom, a former accountant and finance manager for UC San Francisco who has written 43 books, most of them entries in her lusty Scanguards Vampire series, with total sales surpassing 2 million copies.

Author Anthony Lee Head, a former trial lawyer, who self-published his first novel — “Driftwood: Stories from the Margarita Road” — last fall. Head teamed with his wife, Cheri, to produce and market the novel.

66 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
This whole writing business has given us security and freedom. I realize that I am incredibly lucky.”
“I’ve heard horror stories about big publishing houses dramatically changing the content, the title and more. That’s a huge turnoff.”
ARIC CRABB/STAFF
JANE
TYSKA/STAFF

Road” — last fall. The book follows modern-day nomads looking to escape the rat race for a fresh start in a tropical paradise.

Head, who teamed with his wife, Cheri, to produce and market the novel, is thrilled with the results. But he admits he had to get past a lot of “old-school thoughts” about the publishing world before embarking on the do-it-yourself journey.

“I just figured that you get an agent and go from there,” he says. “The publishing house gives you a big chunk of (advance) money and flies you around the country to market your book. But things have changed dramatically. There’s only a limited amount of bookshelves and a limited amount of marketing dollars. Publishers are inclined to spend much more money promoting Stephen King than some unknown author, because they know that with Stephen King, they’re guaranteed of getting a return.”

That change in the publishing industry is just one of the factors that make self-publishing an appealing alternative for some. They tout the creative freedom they have with their writing, as well as the control over how it is marketed.

“I’ve heard horror stories about big publishing houses dramatically changing the content, the title and more,” says Head. “That’s a huge turnoff.”

San Jose’s Patty Flores Reinhart agrees. Her self-published first novel, “High Water,” is a comingof-age story that follows a young woman who confronts racism and sexism in the theater arts world. The book is part fiction and part memoir, and Reinhart, a stage actress herself, balked at the idea of ceding control to a traditional publisher.

“Why would I put this labor of love into the hands of someone who doesn’t get me?” she asks.

But Reinhart had another reason for taking the independent route: immediacy. Released early this year and set in the summer of 2019, “High Water” delves into, among other issues, the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements.

“I felt it was very timely,” she

67 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
DAI SUGANO/STAFF
Why would I put this labor of love into the hands of someone who doesn’t get me?”
Patty Flores Reinhart, author of “High Water,” a coming-of-age story that follows a young woman who confronts racism and sexism in the theater arts world. The book is part fiction and part memoir, and Reinhart, a stage actress herself, balked at the idea of ceding control to a traditional publisher.

says. “So I didn’t want to wait around and be rejected (by agents and publishers) over and over. I wanted to get the story out there as soon as I could.”

These days, independent authors are emboldened by the fact that the stigma once associated with self-publishing has largely vanished. And rousing success stories in the form of E.L. James (“Fifty Shades of Grey”), Amanda Hocking (“Switched”), Lisa Genova (“Still Alice”) and William P. Young (“The Shack”) provide plenty of dreamy-eyed inspiration.

It’s no wonder then that they’re rushing to digitally format their own books, hire editors and cover designers and lean into self-publishing services provided by Amazon and other platforms that lure users with access to a global market and royalties of up to 80 percent.

Still, breakout successes are the exception, not the rule, and indie authors warn newbies that going your own way is not for the faint of heart.

“Writing a book is hard, but marketing a book is even harder,” says Concord resident Marie Estorge, who has independently published a novel and three memoirs, the latest of which is “Then There Was Larry,” a cautionary tale about duplicity and betrayal among friends and lovers.

Estorge should know. In an effort to get the word out about her books, she has, among other things, created her own media kits, taken out ads in trade publications, bought booths at book expos and made many a visit to local bookstores.

“You’ve got to knock on doors,” she adds. “You have to be confident — or at least pretend to be confident. And you have to be persistent. If you’re not willing to be persistent, your book is only going to be read by family and friends.”

Betty Ann Bruno has learned this the hard way. Last year, the Sonoma resident and retired KTVU reporter self-published “The Munchkin Diary,” a candid,

68 BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
ARIC CRABB/STAFF
Writing a book is hard, but marketing a book is even harder. … If you’re not willing to be persistent, your book is only going to be read by family and friends.”
Concord
resident Marie Estorge, who has independently published a novel and three memoirs, the latest of which is “Then There Was Larry,” a cautionary tale about duplicity and betrayal among friends and lovers.

wide-ranging memoir that delves into her experience as a child actor in Hollywood (including a stint in “The Wizard of Oz”), her years as a TV journalist, the terror of seeing her home destroyed in the 1991 Oakland firestorm and much more.

Bruno is heartened by sales of the book in the Bay Area, where she has spoken to several book clubs and was profiled by local newspapers. But a wider reach has thus far eluded her, largely because marketing was an afterthought.

“Things don’t sell themselves,” she says. “I was so naive, so unprepared. And I’ve never been good at self-promotion. Apparently, you have to learn to blog. You have to learn to post on social media. I didn’t even know what those words meant.”

Bruno since has met with a marketing consultant and is setting up a personal website. She has given herself a year to make a concerted promotional push for “The Munchkin Diary.”

“Now, I realize that a lot of authors launch their marketing six months to a year before publishing their book,” she says. “I never thought about anything beyond getting it into print.”

Those who have taken the self-publishing route offer plenty of tips. A good, strong editor, is a must, they say. So are positive reviews from fans and other readers. And make sure that cover design is striking, because visual first impressions are vital.

“You have to approach everything with a high degree of professionalism, if your book is going to have any value,” Head says. “If your cover is crappy, and you don’t have solid proof-reading, you’re just going to give the process a bad name.”

Yes, it sounds like a lot of hard work, but even if self-published authors fail to strike it rich, the journey can still bring its share of rewards. Reinhart still glows when she thinks about the day she spotted her book displayed in the front window of Books Inc. in Campbell.

“My heart skipped a beat,” she recalls. “I was so excited and so proud.”

69 BAY AREA NEWS GROUP BOOKISH
DAI SUGANO/STAFF
“ Things don’t sell themselves. I was so naive, so unprepared. And I’ve never been good at self-promotion. … Now, I realize that a lot of authors launch their marketing six months to a year before publishing their book. I never thought about anything beyond getting it into print.”
Betty Ann Bruno, author of “The Munchkin Diary,” who has since has met with a marketing consultant and is setting up a personal website. She has given herself a year to make a concerted promotional push for her book.

19 fantastic Bay Area bookstores for bibliophiles to explore

The Bay Area is home to scores of bookstores. Here’s just a sampling of family owned or independent shops to explore.

Alibi Books: Vallejo’s indie bookstore, which stocks both used and new volumes, is open Monday-Saturday and the first Sunday of the month at 624 Marin St.; alibibookshop.com.

B Street Books: This decade-old San Mateo shop specializes in used, collectible and antiquarian books. Open Wednesday-Sunday at 301 S B St.; bstreetbooks.com.

Berkshire Books: Find used books, audiobooks, collectible music and videos at this Concord shop. Open Tuesday-Saturday at 3480 Clayton Road; berkshirebooks.com.

Books on B: This Hayward book shop offers new and used books, rare reads and special orders. Open TuesdaySaturday at 1014 B St.; booksonb.com.

Books Inc.: Independently owned and operated, Books Inc. has 10 Bay Area locations in Campbell, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Alameda, Berkeley and San Francisco. Hours vary by location. Find details at booksinc.net.

Bookshop Santa Cruz: This large independent bookstore is a multigenerational family business that’s open daily at 1520 Pacific Ave.; bookshopsantacruz.com.

East Bay Booksellers: This Oakland neighborhood institution is open daily for in-store shopping and frontdoor pick-up at 5433 College Ave.; ebbooksellers.com.

Flashlight Books: This Walnut Creek indie is all about books for kids and teens. Open daily at 1537 N. Main St.; flashlightbooks.com.

Half Price Books: This 45-year-old, family-owned bookstore, known for its support of community groups and literacy programs, has locations in Berkeley, Concord, Fremont and Dublin. Hours vary. hpb.com/books

Hicklebee’s: Founded 41 years ago as a children’s bookstore, this San Jose shop has since expanded to adult offerings, too. Open Tuesday-Sunday at 1378 Lincoln Ave.; hicklebees.com.

Kepler’s Books: This Menlo Park mainstay offers literary events, a knowledgeable staff and every book genre. Open daily at 1010 El Camino Real, Suite 100; keplers.com.

Leigh’s Favorite Books: This Sunnyvale shop stocks 40,000 new and used books, as well as cards and gift items. Open Monday-Saturday at 121 S Murphy Ave.; www.leighsbooks.com.

Marcus Books: Named after political activist and author Marcus Garvey, this Oakland shop is the oldest independent Black bookstore in the nation. It was founded by Raye and Julian Richardson in 1960. Today it’s run by the founders’ children, Blanche Richardson, Bill Richardson and Karen Johnson. Open daily at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way; www.marcusbooks.com.

Moe’s Books: This Berkeley landmark stocks new releases, but it’s known for its astounding collection of used books. Open daily at 2476 Telegraph Ave.; moesbooks.com.

Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts: New owners Eric and Jessica Green bring years of bookselling experience to this Berkeley shop. Open daily at 2904 College Ave.; mrsdalloways.com.

Orinda Books: This Orinda bookstore stocks a diverse range of books, from fiction to current affairs, art, poetry, science and travel. Open Monday-Saturday at 276 Village Square; orindabooks.com.

Pegasus Books: This neighborhood bookstore, with two locations in Berkeley and one in Oakland, hosts author and literary events. Hours vary by location. www.pegasus bookstore.com.

Rakestraw Books: This beloved Danville bookstore caters to book lovers of all ages and hosts a wide array of author events. Open daily at 3 Railroad Ave.; rakestrawbooks.com.

Reasonable Books: Betty and Rudy Winnacker’s cozy Lafayette bookstore is open Tuesday-Saturday at 3645 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite C; reasonable.online.

Opposite: A book about Audrey Hepburn sits on a shelf at the Rinconada Library in Palo Alto. DAI SUGANO/STAFF

GETTY IMAGES

Looking for more fun things to do this weekend?

Delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday morning, the free Weekender newsletter offers up seven suggestions for awesome things to do at home, from the latest streaming movies, quirky TV and online theater to virtual wine tastings, cooking classes and museum tours.

72
BOOKISH BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
BayArea NewsGroup
Subscribe at https://bayareane.ws/Weekender

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook

Articles inside

19 fantastic Bay Area bookstores for bibliophiles to explore

2min
pages 70-71

A child’s sadness over a dying star inspires a book about empathy

8min
pages 62-69

Book B inding

5min
pages 57-61

‘Downton Abbey’ heads East

2min
pages 54-56

More reading suggestions from “Bibliophile: Diverse Spines”

1min
page 53

Jamise Harper’s 5 favorite books

1min
page 53

Two book lovers, working miles apart, collaborate on a ‘Bibliophile’ guide that will diversify your reading list

5min
pages 49-52

Bestow some book-linked fun on your favorite eager readers

2min
pages 47-48

Poet, painter, philosopher, naturalist Obi Kaufmann casts a reimagining eye upon our vibrant California

6min
pages 40-46

Santa Rosa’s Somalia-born soccer mom pens memoir of life in the desert

3min
pages 38-39

These 10 tuneful landmarks offer a glimpse of Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll history.

1min
pages 36-38

The heart of rock ‘n’ roll beats in Bay Area landmarks

5min
pages 33-35

Chef Bryant Terry’s joyous ‘Black Food’ goes beyond recipes to celebrate African diaspora culture

3min
pages 31-32

Otto — and Pip the pup — are kid lit author Jon Agee’s palindromic heroes

3min
pages 28-30

Who knew?

6min
pages 22-27

A Bay Area built by crime? ‘Murders That Made Us’ author bolsters his argument, case by case

3min
pages 20-21

A public eye on the private eye

5min
pages 16-19

Bewildered or not, Daniel Handler knows when to get his Snicket on

3min
pages 14-15

Wisdom and warmth from Alice Walker: Seek out the sweetness in everyone

3min
pages 12-13

Landmark libraries

7min
pages 5-11
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.