You know how certain subjects help organize periods of your life, like who your boyfriend was, what kind of car you drove or places you’ve lived?
Now that the Tucson Festival of Books is in its fifth year it has a history for me.
I don’t remember the first year of the festival. The second year, my friend Phyl, who teaches at the University of Maine, was here. The next year my friend Martha Dudman, who wrote “Black Olives” and “Augusta, Gone,” was here for a panel I set up on the ’60s.
Last year, my daughter, Brook Wilensky-Lanford, author of “Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden,” was here. Of course, I was bursting with pride.
(Did I say that I’ve been on the author committee for the past three years?)
This year I invited Mazie Hough, a historian from the University of Maine, who spoke on a terrific panel, “Pregnancy, Birth and Choice Across Cultures,” along with historican Mary Melcher and University of Arizona professor Patrisia Gonzales.
My friend Gwen, who’s also on the author committee, came up with the panel idea. We were faced with the onslaught on reproductive rights during the presidential campaign. Very scary stuff. (You remember the Republican rape buffoons, who didn’t understand the definition of rape.)
Today I thought about a woman in her 90s whom I recently interviewed and asked about how — as a feminist and sociologist — she saw her life. “I can’t believe we’re still arguing about contraception and abortion,” she said. “Didn’t we already fight those battles?”
Today I couldn’t get angry about retrogressive history. The festival has been such an enormous success. It’s become the fourth largest book festival in the country in a very short time; last year 120,000 people attended in two days.
I’ve heard people ask, “Who knew there were so many book-lovers in Tucson?”
Many pundits say books are dead but it’s hard to believe, looking at the lines waiting to get into panels at the festival. I was five minutes early for a session with Douglas Brinkley, a historian from Rice University who wrote “Cronkite,” an acclaimed biography of the once most trusted man in America.
There was already a sign posted on the door: “Session full.” The volunteer told me the room was packed with 300 people. That makes me happy.
All I could think of was how incredibly wonderful it is to be surrounded by so many people who love books — itching to be writers themselves, listening to authors, learning more about the world.