Books Win!

I’ve always had my kids, my dear friends and Mount Desert Island family,  and more recently Dan and his family. Now I have my Tucson Festival of Books family.

Roaming around the University of Arizona campus, or seeing fellow author committee members in the audience while I was moderating “Right On! Far Out! Looking Back at the Sixties,” made me smile. We knew what it took to make the festival happen — monthly meetings, hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and more meetings.

Guest authors and my history/memoir/biography committee members have been sending e-mails about the fantastic energy at the festival. It felt so safe.

It’s estimated that 100,000 people attended the festival this year. It’s  the fourth largest book festival — after Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami — in the United States.

How did we do it in a city where the Tucson Unified School District is in court trying to uphold its right to teach ethnic studies, in a state that’s 49th in per capita per pupil spending, with a Republican-dominated legislature that keeps cutting spending for higher education?

The festival’s great success is really pretty simple. We worked together toward a common goal, our love of books. Kudos to Bill and Brenda Viner for having the idea and following through. Nothing seemed to stop them and their co-founders. And now, what I hear so often is that the festival is “so well organized.”

I’m pretty sure the gun show that took place at the Pima County Fairgrounds this weekend didn’t have as large a crowd as the book festival. (If they did I don’t want to know).

I recall seeing the first photo of Jared Loughner, the shooting rampage suspect of Jan. 8, as a volunteer at last year’s Tucson Festival of Books. What happened to him between then and now? That’s another story, but it’s obvious that he wasn’t getting the support or care that he needed in his life.

Can’t we work together to reach some agreement on gun control? It’s pretty difficult when the head honchos the National Rifle Association refuse to even talk with the President of the United States.

I keep thinking about Mark Rudd’s mantra: “Don’t mourn. Organize.” I won’t soon forget it.

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