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Tucson Festival of Books returns to University of Arizona Mall

Crowds+gathered+at+the+2019+Tucson+Festival+of+Books+on+the+University+of+Arizona+Mall.+%26nbsp%3B%28Courtesy+of+James+Wood%29

Crowds gathered at the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona Mall.  (Courtesy of James Wood)

After two years of planning around COVID-19, the Tucson Festival of Books is returning to campus on March 12 and 13.

Since its start in 2009, the festival has gained quite the national reputation, attracting over 130,000 visitors each year. Attendees can stop by paneled discussions, book signings or grab a bite to eat from an array of food vendors set up along the sprawling University of Arizona Mall. Admission to the festival is free. 

The Pima County Public Library, one of the festival’s sponsors, will host 18 authors at the Nuestras Raíces venue. For the past six months, a small library committee has been looking for diverse authors with recent publications to be featured at their tent. 

Margie Farmer, Pima library’s literary arts librarian, explained the search for authors.

“We want to bring something new to the public. It’s a great way to highlight authors that aren’t well-known by the general public,” Farmer said.  

The library is hosting Latino and Indigenous authors including newcomers Jaime Cortez and Yuyi Morales. Morales is the first Latina to receive the Caldecott Medal awarded to children’s book illustrators.

Crowds gathered at the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona Mall. (Courtesy of James Wood)
Crowds gathered at the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona Mall. (Courtesy of James Wood)

Cortez’s recent collection of short stories, “Gordo,” was released in August 2020. Set in a migrant workers camp, Cortez uses humor to explore Mexican-American identity, sexuality and self-expression.

“I have been working on these stories for years, what feels like a lifetime,” Cortez said. “I want to capture the fullness of characters, and I don’t need any of them to be heroes or villains. I want them to be fully rounded, with all the ups and downs that come with being it.” 

During three hour-long discussions on Saturday and Sunday, Cortez will speak about his writing style and how he encapsulates complex relationships in his short, descriptive stories. 

“I’m excited to attend as both a panelist and as a listener,” Cortez said. “I am going to show up with knowledge that I have, but also be in dialogue with other authors. I can always assume that writers have something interesting to say to reflect on.” 

Morales will be alongside him beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. As a best-selling children’s author and illustrator, she will discuss her new children’s book “Bright Star,” the story of a young fawn making her way through a beautiful desert landscape, exploring the plants, animals and insects. 

“Tucson is very significant to my work,” Morales said. “It’s a great place to connect with the Latinx community and create a connection with my readers.” 

Throughout her writing, Morales centers around the theme of celebration of “who we are, what we love and what we fear.” She condenses complex concepts into children’s literature, embracing their youth and imagination. 

In addition to the author discussions, the Nuestras Raíces venue will include live music from Native American flutist Vince Redhouse, grab-n-go crafts for children and book giveaways. 

“There’s something so special about being in the physical space with books and other writers,” Cortez said. “It still matters and it always will.” 

If you’re interested in going:

The Tucson Festival of Books, now in its 14th year, will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13, on the University of Arizona Mall. For more details and author information, visit tucsonfestivalofbooks.org.


*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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