Festival Becomes Eclectic

The tale of an orphan’s search for acceptance. A lawyer’s fantasy of a Holocaust survivor’s revenge. A book that may save your marriage.

These are just a few of the interesting choices made for this year’s People of the Book Festival.

Featuring more than 30 authors, including Nathan Englander, the very hot short story writer; Persian-Jewish novelist Gina Nahai; Alan Dershowitz and best-selling author Janet Fitch, the festival runs Nov. 10-21 at three Jewish Community Centers: West Valley (the Bernard Milken Campus), Westside and Valley Cities.

New for this year is the inclusion of the first women-authors panel discussion, “The Unbreakable Bond: Grandmothers, Mothers and Daughters,” which will showcase Fitch, the author of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club selection “White Oleander” and popular newcomer Hope Edelman.

“It just seems like something that would appeal to several generations of the family,” said Festival Coordinator Seville Porush. “So, we’re encouraging grandmothers to come with their daughters and granddaughters.” The panel, originally scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 17 has been changed to Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the West Valley JCC.

People of the Book is the brainchild of Porush, program director for the West Valley Jewish Community Center. For this, its third year, Porush said the Book Festival committee decided to make a few improvements based on their experiences running the event the past two years, along with suggestions from The Jewish Book Council of New York.

“For example, this year we are holding all of the events in our three largest [Jewish Community] Centers,” she said. “The past two years we did it at a number of synagogues and center locations, too many to manage. We weren’t able to form that bond that makes a JCC festival work. It seems to be jelling this year and we’ve learned a lot; hopefully the festival will continue to grow and expand.”

Porush and her committee strove to make the festival a well-balanced mix of local and national authors. Local luminaries include Rabbis David Wolpe and Steven Leder; psychologist Betty L. Polston (see page 13), Ellen Jaffe-Gill, author of “The Jewish Women’s Book of Wisdom” and Risa Munitz-Gruberger and Rabbi Jeffrey A. Marx, co-authors of “What’s Right, What’s Wrong? A Guide to Talking About Values for Parents and Kids.”

Marx and Munitz-Gruberger will host a parenting program and discussion at all three of the festival’s locations on Family Day, Sunday, Nov. 21. The Family Day programs are all free, although the centers are requesting parents call for reservations for the special Children’s Program on “Mr. Belinsky’s Bagels” which will include crafts and bagel-making, plus a visit from the “Mr. Belinsky” character.

Adults can take their pick of discussions: from the ethereal (“Spirituality for the New Millennium”) to the concrete (“Finance and Investment Options”) to the historical (“Oswego,” a staged musical reading about 1,000 Holocaust survivors brought to safe haven in the United States).

“Our main purpose is to feature books of Jewish content, preferably by Jewish authors, both new books in the field along with some of the old standards people may have not had time to acquire — in other words, something for everyone,” said Fran Shuster, a former librarian and current chair of the Festival’s book selection committee.

For those who love art as well as books, West Valley JCC is hosting two shows in tandem with the festival: the “Beacon of Light” display in the Finegood Gallery with items from the Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights and “Pages of My Life” in the Art Space on the Center’s first floor. “Pages” is a collection of photographs and watercolors by California artist Gay Wellington which are available for sale; a portion of the purchase price will be donated to the Festival and to the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles.

Costs for the festival range from as little as $2 for certain individual authors to the $18 program and kosher brunch for featured author Dershowitz. Series packages are available starting at $60.

For more information or a schedule of Festival events, call (818) 464-3300.

More Books in Orange County

The Jewish Community Center of Orange County launches its first Jewish Book Fair this year with several thought-provoking programs.

Nov. 7 at 2 p.m: A talk marking Kristallnacht with Marc Carrel, senior advisor to Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, examining the response of the Sacramento community to hate crimes. A portion of ticket sales will help replace books destroyed by the arson fires at Sacramento’s Congregation B’nai Israel.

Nov. 11 at 7 p.m: Israeli mystery novelist Batya Gur.

Nov. 14 at noon: author Nathan Englander.

Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m.: Lionel Okun, “Jews in Places You’ve Never Thought Of.”

Nov. 21: Susan Dworkin, co-author of “The Nazi Officer’s Wife.”

For information and reservations call (714) 755-0340.