“The pursuit of truth and the passion to share it widely” is the overarching theme of the Arizona Daily Star pavilion at the Tucson Festival of Books, says John M. Humenik, a festival co-founder and member of its board of directors.
The Star is among the venues that will fill the University of Arizona Mall Saturday and next Sunday, March 11-12, for presentations, panel discussions, workshops, book signings and other book-centric activities.
“We have a great need for journalists to write books that blend their skills for digging for the truth, storytelling, and their compassion for people who struggle and overcome great odds,” says Humenik.
The Star is offering singular lineup of journalist-authors who rely on deep reporting, muscular writing and down-to-earth humor to find truth and tell stories.
David Maraniss will kick off the festival as the keynote speaker during the authors table dinner Friday, March 10. He says his speech “will be about the search for truth and its importance in America today.”
The winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, an associate editor at The Washington Post, and author of several books including “Barack Obama: The Story,” “When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi,” and “Once in A Great City: A Detroit Story,” Maraniss will be in the Star tent at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 12.
He says he will have a conversation on his life and times as a journalist and author, what he believes, what obsesses him, how he does it.
Saturday, March 11
Joe Conason gives the real story behind fake news at 10 a.m.
A veteran political journalist, founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo, his newest book is “Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton.”
“To me, fake news means provably false information, relevant to current concerns and purposely misrepresented as factual for propaganda aims,” says Conason.
“For instance, while reporting on Bill Clinton’s post-presidency and especially on the Clinton Foundation for ‘Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton’, I came across many examples of fake news, designed to influence the 2016 election.
“Some of those phony stories, unfortunately, were advanced by mainstream media outlets as well as more suspect sources. But all of this is nothing new — I’ve observed (and criticized) propagandists manipulating news organizations for many years,” he says.
“The difference is the role of social media networks in amplifying those stories and, in some cases, enabling propaganda to go around traditional news outlets,” Conason says.
Conason, as most of the Star authors, will be making presentations at other locations at the festival. Conason’s three other presentations include discussions on “clickbait” and freedom of the press.
Finding truth can be a process along unexpected paths. Ron Fournier will share the process of learning to love your children for their idiosyncrasies rather than in spite of them at 11:30 a.m.
Now publisher and editor for Crain’s Detroit Business, Fournier was a business and political writer who covered the presidency during the administrations of Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. He’s the author of “Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent’s Expectations.”
Fournier’s son, Tyler, has Asperger syndrome. After Tyler’s diagnosis, Fournier says his wife told him, “It’s time for you to step up.”
Fournier says he’d been covering the presidency, which kept him away from his family. When he realized Tyler needed to get out in the world and learn skills that were uncomfortable for him, Fournier and his son took road trips, meeting several POTUS along the way.
Over the course of these trips, Fournier says he began to see his son from the eyes of others. The title of the book comes from a comment made by former President Bush.
More presidential truths will come from history, when Douglas Brinkley, author of “Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America,” discusses the indefatigable environmental leader, who was the premier protector of America’s public lands at 1 p.m.
Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University, is CNN’s presidential historian and has written seven New York Times Notable Books of the Year.
Sometimes truth involves snorting from laughter. Like when Michael Perry speaks at 2:30 p.m.
“I’m a rural roughneck who wound up making a living as a writer and humorist,” says Perry.
“As such I spend a lot of time with my feet in two worlds. I’m a pickup-truck driving guy content at the dirt track stock car races but equally content at a poetry reading or modern dance recital (although I’m a total flop at yoga).”
A humor writer for numerous publications, including Esquire and the New York Times Magazine, his book “Roughneck Grace” is a collection of essays from his Sunday Wisconsin State Journal column.
“I’m nobody’s thought leader, and nobody’s ever asked me to be one, but I hope in some small way my work speaks to the idea that when we deprive ourselves of other cultures and other ways of seeing the world, we just wind up depriving ourselves, period,” Perry says.
Truths of the past can be relevant today, as Jonathan Eig’s new book shows.
Rather than an eye-opening biography, Eig says his latest book “The Birth of the Pill” is a story of rebellion.
Eig, who captivated readers with “Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig,” “Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season” and “Get Capone,” describes “The Birth of the Pill” as “a story about how four renegades set out to do something that should have been impossible (not to mention illegal) at the time — to create a pill that would give women a real shot at equality.
“The story has a lot to teach us today. It’s worth remembering that only half a century ago women couldn’t fully control their bodies and their lives. The invention of the Pill happened because a small group of people refused to accept the status quo.
Eig’s next book, a Muhammad Ali bio that required 500 interviews and four years of work, will be published Oct. 3. Eig speaks at the Star tent at 4 p.m.
Sunday, March 12
Laura Coffey will crank up the festival’s second day by trying to change perceptions of older shelter animals during her 10 a.m. session, “No Dog Should Die Alone.”
A journalist for more than 25 years who has worked as a reporter, columnist, and editor for msnbc.com (now NBCNews.com) and for Today.com since 2008, Coffey is the author of “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts.”
Singer, songwriter and former Tucson resident Neko Case wrote the foreword for “My Old Dog” in which she shares the story of how she adopted her beloved senior dog, Liza, from a shelter in Tucson.
“Senior dogs are wonderful,” says Coffey. “They’re calm, mellow, sweet and lovable, and — major bonus! — they’re usually already house-trained. Dogs in this ‘golden age’ — over the age of about 6 or 7 — often make ideal pets for people with busy lives or for people who simply want snuggly, tranquil companionship.
“That said, as great as senior animals are, they often represent the highest-risk population at shelters across the United States, where nearly 3 million dogs and cats are put down each year,” says Coffey.
“I love finding stories about people who are navigating major life transitions and then telling their stories in ways that are real and genuine,” Coffey says.
“Like the ‘My Old Dog’ book, the festival presentations will be vibrant and celebratory and life-affirming,” she says.
“Please bring photos of your dogs along with you. I’d love to see them!,” Coffey says.
The Star tent will be situated near the new monument to the USS Arizona on the UA Mall that outlines the actual size of the ship that was destroyed Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and launched the U.S. into World War II. The monument has 1,177 bronze medallions, each engraved with the name, birthdate and home state of a sailor or Marine who died on the ship.
It is a fitting setting for Steve Twomey, author of “Countdown to Pearl Harbor.” Twomey, who won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, will discuss events leading up to the attack at 11:30 a.m.
“The attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago has valuable lessons for us today,” says Twomey. “The mistakes that led to the disaster are mistakes that all of us make all the time.
“It was, essentially, a failure of management. For example, people assumed things, without verifying them. People let their hopes overcome new evidence,” he says.
“I know that sounds funny, but to a degree, Pearl Harbor happened because people couldn’t convey what they wanted in simple, unambiguous language.”
You can tell Amy Dickinson things. Plenty of people do.
The author of the syndicated “Ask Amy” advice column, which runs in the Star, and of the memoir, “The Mighty Queens of Freeville,” will be at the festival introducing her latest book, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things” at 2:30 p.m.
Dickinson is known for her plainspoken, precise, well researched and well reported advice. And, she’s is also a regular panelist on NPR’s popular comedy quiz show, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”
Dickinson will be playing the Star version of “Not My Job” — a blatant ripoff of the “Wait, Wait” game — at 2:30 p.m.
The Star lineup ends at 4 p.m. with a rollicking Tucson trivia game show hosted by the Star’s David Fitzsimmons.
Two teams will be selected from the audience. They will compete for amazing prizes and unparalleled glory and fame — yeah, right — by answering tough rapid-fire questions, Fitz says.
“Do you know Tucson? Do you know books? Come to the Star tent, prove your stuff and join the fun!” he says.