Going by the book – The Ninth Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair has authors and artists share their stories


Author Lysley Tenorio reads excerpts from his book “Monstress,” the 2014 One Book, One San Diego selection in V-101 during the Ninth Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair Oct. 16. Photo credit: Miguel Cid

Miguel Cid

On Oct. 13 City College began its ninth annual international book fair. The week long event ran until Oct. 20 and featured new and returning writers taking part in readings and discussions throughout the campus.

The event not only held panels and readings with the authors but included a film screening, performance poetry, live music, VAMP showcase and a book release from City Works Press.

Returning author Reyna Grande drew a large turnout in the Saville Theatre. She read from “The Distance Between Us,” a memoir about living in Iguala, Mexico and immigrating to Los Angeles, which required leaving her mother behind to live with her father and attend school.

A panel titled Chicana/o Poetics, had presenters who addressed social issues in the country including a discussion of the prison system by Leilani Grajeda-Higley and a song by professor Angel Sandoval’s with infused, self-proclaimed “Chica-now” poetry.

Sonía GutÍerrez, professor and author of “Spiderwoman La Muejer Arana” read some previous work along with newer poems, including one that touched on the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.

Central Valley writer Manuel Paul Lopez returned to participate; reading unpublished short stories and answering questions about characters from his book.

After the Poetics panel, Virginia Escalante, the coordinator behind the fair, commented on the event.

“It has been spectacular—every session has been truly outstanding. I am very pleased at the attendance. Everyone has something special to offer. Each panel is unique.” Escalante said.

“The Mango Bride” author Marivi Soliven read from her book and turned the discussion into one addressing domestic violence; touching on how much harder it is for undocumented citizens to ask for help. Soliven also discussed the process of getting “Mango Bride” running, and talked about how many Filipino people in a way lose their culture in the United States.

Lysley Tenorio, author of “Monstress,” left the audience laughing, using comic book slang and science fiction terminology to keep ears open. In a response to the question why he writes fiction, Tenorio replied, “I write fiction, because my life isn’t that interesting.”

Ella deCastro Baron, writer and author of “Itchy Brown Girl,” started her panel by reading a creative nonfiction piece. The story included themes regarding the racism she’s faced being a Filipina American and finding love with fellow City College professor Chris Baron; a story she admitted took over 10 years to write.

For the second year So Say We All’s VAMP showcase collaborated with City College staff and students. The showcase consisted of 10 students who performed original creative nonfiction revolving around one theme: borderlines.

Students were picked from over 100 submissions and paired with performance and writing coaches and participated in a writing workshop to prepare.

They shared their experiences in front of an audience at the San Diego Central Library. The stories ranged from immigration and family separation due to deportation, interracial dating and childbirth, military identity, sexuality and gender identity and a local protest story that took place in ’76.

Michael Billingsly, a student writer, was able to share the experience and process with his son who watched him perform one of his pieces, “My son was here with me, that was one of the best things. He actually did all my typing and emails and helped me with my edits. It was half his project—I owe him a lot.”

The week ended with a City Works Press book release event, celebrating author Tamara Johnson and the début of “Not Far From Normal.”

Other panels at this years book fair include Pelayo “Pete” Garcia, Zohren Ghahremani, Judy Patacsil, Ray Wong and Maceo Montoya.