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Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

April 23, 2005, UCLA Campus

A perfect day!  Well, what day wouldn’t be perfect if you are surrounded by acres and acres of books and having the chance to talk to, listen to or at least catch glimpses of favorite authors.  Add to that good friends and nice weather – what more could you ask for?

At 9:30AM Judy and I met Liz outside of the first panel of the day – no surprise if you’ve ever had to stand in line with Liz – she was first in line. :-)  Robin was at a SciFi panel.  The auditorium soon was filled with women of all ages.

“Scheherazade's Daughters: Women in the Middle East”

Moderator: Amanda Roraback,   She’s written a number of “nutshell books” on the Middle East – ie. “Iraq in a nutshell”,  Islam in a Nutshell” etc.  The panel guests were:

Afschineh Latifi, a NYC attorney and author of the memoir, “Even After All This Time : A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran 

Afschineh was 10 and her sister 11 in May 1979, when their father, a military officer under the Shah, was executed by Khomeini's soldiers. This is the story of her mother’s strength and courage as she sent Afschineh and her sister to Austria and finally to Virginia to escape the Khomeini regime and of the girls struggle to survive on their own and to grant one of her father’s final wishes - that his children, especially his daughters (she also has 2 brothers) would get an education.

Azadeh Moaveni, Times reporter and author of  “Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran”.

In contrast to Latifi’s book – this is the story of an American-Iranian returning to Iran.

Amazon.com:  Time reporter Moaveni, the American-born child of Iranian exiles, spent two years (2000–2001) working in Tehran. Although she reports on the overall tumult and repression felt by Iranians between the 1999 pro-democracy student demonstrations and the 2002 "Axis of Evil" declaration, the book's dominant story is more intimate. Moaveni was on a personal search "to figure out my relationship" to Iran. Neither her adolescent ethnic identity conundrums nor her idyllic memories of a childhood visit prepared her for the realities she confronted as she navigated Iran, learning its rules, restrictions and taboos—and how to evade and even exploit them like a local.  <Also read the reader’s review by Dennis Littrell .>

Asne Seierstad, Norwegian journalist and author of A Hundred and One Days: A Baghdad Journal  and The Bookseller of Kabul.

Baghdad Journal is about her experiences before, during and immediately after the invasion and fall of Iran.  The Bookseller is her account of her time spent living with a middle-class Afghan family

Excerpts from Amazon Reader Gretchen Coppedge (Dubai, United Arab Emirates):   ...I would still recommend The Bookseller of Kabul, Asne Seierstad's simple and well written account of one family in Afghanistan. Seierstad writes as an observer, a journalist, about a man and his relationship to the members of his family, their relationships with each other, and the family's relationship to the time and society in which they live. The author reports her observations; and her portrayal of Sultan Khan and his family allows the reader to react, judge, mourn, and celebrate on their own terms. She does, as well, share with the reader her own frustrations and anger with the Khans, but never without an underlying appreciation for them and the offer of their hospitality.

...I often despised Sultan Khan. I wept for Leila. I felt sadness for his sons. I was able to weep and to feel anger thanks to Seirestad's writing. She allowed me to form my own opinion. She offers an intimate look into the lives of one family, and like what we see or not, she provides the reader with an opportunity that should not be missed.

It was an interesting and eye-opening panel of three women with very different personal experiences of the state of women in Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq.  American’s tend to lump all the countries and the conditions of the Middle East as one in the same and from what they see in CNN’s Headline news.  It is really too much to re-tell in the hour long discussion.  A couple of impressions – Afghanistan is much more repressed and the culture or rather their traditional family and treatment of women much less westernized (for lack of a better term) than Iran.  It will be difficult to bring about changes in Afghanistan as the culture is so ingrained in the patriarchal society and in the women themselves.  In contrast it is not unusual for present day Iranian woman to get an education and work in professional jobs. One interesting audience question was on the recent Iranian Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. Moaveni commented that Ebadi is able to make strides by demonstrating to the Iranian women how to make changes within the boundaries of the Islamic faith.

Books, Books, and more Books!

After the panel we went to meet up with Robin and to buy! books and get autographs from the panelists.  I bought Latifi’s book but now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t pick up Moeveni’s also.

Unfortunately, this is when Judy discovered she didn’t have her wallet.  She didn’t know if she left it at home or if she lost it.  So of course this was on her mind the entire day, as it would be for any of us.  On the drive home, her daughter called and said her wallet was at home.  Whew.  :-)

By this time it was nearly noon and Judy went off for a Poetry Reading panel and Liz and I waited for Robin as he stood in line for a book to be signed.  Unlike Judy, Liz and I really are not into poetry.  Liz said "Unless of course it's a limerick.", to which I remarked... “So unless a poem begins with “There was a...” it’s not worth listening to?” 

As we waited, we wandered around a few of the booths.  Liz’s eyes and wallet flew open when she spotted a used cookbook booth.  As we continued, we decided to play the rest of the day by ear.  Although Liz and Robin had stood in a Ticktron line for 1.5 hrs for free tickets to various panels, we decided that if we made it to the other panels great, if not, no matter.  Needless to say, we didn’t make it to any of the other panels.  Which made it a relaxing, no pressure day of not having to be anywhere at a particular time.

The three of us hiked up the steps (I thought I had a picture of them) to even more booths.  WOW.  As far as you can see books, booths, books and about an equal amount of people as books.  I didn’t know so many people in LA read!  It was also nice to see a number of kids of all ages and ethnicities – girls and boys with bags of books and freebies in their arms.  The three of us had different interests that would stop us in our tracks -  Liz was drawn to cookbook and travel books, me to mystery book booths and Robin to SciFi, games and toys.  However, we all came to the conclusion that unless the book is old or to be autographed we weren’t going to buy any new books.  It wasn’t worth carrying around all day.  If you’ve never been to the UCLA campus – it is a very hilly campus.  You’ve got to be in good shape if you have to run across campus to make it to classes quickly.  :-) 

Many booths had 2-6 authors signing.  The longest lines we saw were block long lines for Ray Bradbury and at my local bookstore’s (Mysterious Galaxy) booth – for Eoin Colfer, the author of the Artemis Fowl books.  But most were not long at all, even at the official autograph booths.

All this walking we were ready to eat.  But the crowds around the eating areas were a bit much so we decided to go back down the steps to a taco stand that we knew wasn’t as crowded.  As we made it down we spotted Judy resting on the grassy hill – I know she was contemplating rolling down it with the other kids...  ;-)

Two Hot Tamales!

By the time we finished lunch it was about 1:45.  We were unsure of what to do next.  It was then I remembered a 2 P.M. talk I wanted to go to at the outdoor Cooking Stage – The Two Hot Tamales – Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.  They had one of the first Food Network cooking shows and they own The Border Grill and Ciudad Restaurants in LA & Las Vegas.  The cooking stage was just adjacent to where we were -  so off we went. 

Oh, my gosh.  I don’t think we laughed or enjoyed ourselves more that day.  Well, at least I did.  Their topic was “The Hot Tamales’ Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Cooking”.  The banter and tips were non-stop and 10 minutes and 30 tips later, they still hadn’t given us the first official tip!  They’ve been business and cooking partners for over 20 years – and more often than not they finished each other’s sentences.  It was a wonder to see them work as a team.  In fact they said they didn’t know if they would make it to the festival.  They were busy preparing (and nervous and excited) to go on “Iron Chef, America” vs. Bobby Flay in a few days.  I can’t wait and I hope to see them beat Flay!  Their enthusiasm, humor, and friendship was even more evident than I remember from their Food Network show.  They stressed – no stress cooking.  Just have fun.  And watching them was very fun.  Oh, their 10 tips – I can remember 6 of them.  There were so many so fast, I sometimes missed which was a main tip!  Hopefully, the other three can fill in the blanks.

  • Begin with a fresh mixed drink.  It wasn’t clear if it’s start cooking or start a meal with a drink.  They made Watermelon lemonaide (w/ or w/out alcohol).
  • Start with an easy appetizer – dips.
  • Use of marinades
  • How to make fresh salads and dressings
  • Eat Vegetables – quick sauté of mixed greens.
  • Easy chocolate dessert.

For an example of just a few of their tips, here’s a portion that I found on the web: 10commandments.pdf

So of course afterwards we went to go buy one of their books and autographs.  Well, I bought two.  One for me and one for my sister’s Mother’s day gift.  Kathy unfortunately was unable to come with us.  Next year for sure... 

Xena Kodak Moments!

After meeting them, we were thinking what to do next... did we want to see anything else, was there another Kodak Xena moment we should get?  Yeah, she came along with us.  I don’t know who’s idea it was, but someone said “How about a pic with the Hot Tamales?  Of course, me with the less nerve was balking.  But Robin said... look their line is almost empty... and so Liz and Judy dragged me over there and said, don’t worry you hold the camera, we’ll do the talking.  Now, I was really afraid!  Mary Sue (the blonde) even though she didn’t quite understand right away, agreed quickly.  Susan looked up from signing a book and said “Xena!.  My girlfriend is a big fan”.  Judy & Liz explained it was a tradition sort of like “Flat Stanley”.  Susan understood immediately, explaining that her nephew sent her a "Flat Daniel" (his name, if I remember correctly).  It’s a great picture!  Susan made us promise to send her a copy.  Which I will do.

Afterwards, we took a walk down to an area we hadn’t visited and spotted a large Bruin statue.  A Xena moment!  As we walked over, I was wondering how I would be able to take the picture with all the people sitting about it.  Robin said “Look!” Lo and behold, there was an older woman placing a stuffed animal at the paws of the large bear and taking it’s picture.  Of course Liz says to her – “It’s a Wisconsin Badger!”  The rest of us thought it was just a teddy bear.  The woman explained that her grandson was going to Wisconsin and that the badger had been all over the states getting his picture taken.  We explained we were doing the same thing as Liz pulled out Xena from my backpack.  The woman insisted we needed to take a picture of Badger and “Tina”.  :-).  What a crack up.  Sidenote: Xena is off to Hawaii with Liz and Robin in May/June. She should be back in time for a Southwest road trip I’m planning.

Robin said he wanted to pick up a free autographed Canadian cookbook for a friend (we had picked up copies for ourselves earlier in the day) – but they weren’t going to be available again until 4:30. So instead of walking more, braving the crowds and more sensory overload, we decided to pickup something to drink and sit and relax as we waited for 4:30 to roll around.  Sidenote:  Film Critic Leonard Maltin was sitting at the next table.  When we kept an eye out, we spotted a few celebrities. Though there was a lot of "They are someone, where have I seen them before?"  Robin got his book and we called it a great day!  I can’t wait for next year - I've already entered April 29-30, 2006 on my PDA.

LA Times article: Reading Between the Lines


Click on photos for a larger image and slide show.

ScheherazadesDaughters.jpg (29kb)
Panel: Scheherazade's Daughters

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Liz being pulled in by the force...
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Who knew this many people read in LA?
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Booth of dreams.
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More books.
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Now this takes guts to have a booth on a rival's campus.
Xena-LATBks05-1.jpg (34kb)
She's on her way to new adventures!
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Some of the lines for signatures.
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Robin checking the offerings.
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We passed. Too crowded. 
We discovered no matter if this is a classey literature festival - there are still attendees with hygine issues.  What's with that?
LATBks05-10.jpg (33kb)
Even the big guys attended.
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Film critic Leonard Maltin signing.

Two Hot Tamales!

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Knife skills & tips.
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Making a point.
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Answering questions.
HotTamales-4.jpg (26kb) HotTamales-5.jpg (31kb) HotTamales-6.jpg (27kb) ThreeHotTamales.jpg (75kb)
Three Hot Tamales!
Xena-LATBks05-2.jpg (28kb)
Fellow travelers
Xena-LATBks05-3.jpg (32kb)
"Let's go!  I think those Trojans are that away!
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Resting after a long, but good day!
Same time next year!

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