Tucson Book Festival Returns to University of Arizona Mall

After two years of planning around COVID-19, the Tucson Festival of Books returns to campus March 12-13.

Since its inception in 2009, the festival has gained a national reputation, attracting over 130,000 visitors each year. Attendees can stop by to attend panel discussions, book signings, or grab a bite to eat from an array of food vendors set up along the expansive University of Arizona Mall. Entrance to the festival is free.

The Pima County Public Library, one of the festival’s sponsors, will host 18 authors in the Nuestras Raíces room. Over the past six months, a small library committee has sought out various authors with recent publications to showcase in their tent.

Margie Farmer, Literary Arts Librarian at the Pima Library, explained the search for authors.


“We want to bring something new to the public. It’s a great way to showcase authors who aren’t well known to the general public,” Farmer said.

The library hosts Latino and Indigenous authors, including newcomers Jaime Cortez and Yuyi Morales. Morales is the first Latina to receive the Caldecott Medal awarded to illustrators of children’s books.

Crowds gathered at the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona Mall. Courtesy of James Wood

Cortez’s recent collection of short stories, “Gordo”, was released in August 2020. Set in a migrant worker camp, Cortez uses humor to explore Mexican-American identity, sexuality, and self-expression.

“I’ve been working on these stories for years, which feels like a lifetime,” Cortez said. “I want to capture the fullness of the characters, and I don’t need any of them to be heroes or villains. I want them to be completely rounded off, with all the ups and downs that come with that.

During three-hour talks on Saturday and Sunday, Cortez will talk about his writing style and how he encapsulates complex relationships in his descriptive short stories.

“I am thrilled to attend both as a panelist and as a listener,” Cortez said. “I will present myself with the knowledge that I have, but also be in dialogue with other authors. I can always assume the writers have something interesting to say to reflect on.

Morales will be at his side starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. As a best-selling children’s author and illustrator, she will talk about her new children’s book “Bright Star”, the story of a young fawn traversing a beautiful desert landscape, exploring plants, animals and insects.

“Tucson is very important to my job,” Morales said. “It’s a great place to connect with the Latinx community and create a connection with my readers.”

Throughout his writing, Morales focuses on the theme of celebrating “who we are, what we love, and what we fear.” She condenses complex concepts in children’s literature, embracing their youth and imagination.

In addition to author talks, the Nuestras Raíces Room will feature live music from Native American flutist Vince Redhouse, take-home crafts for kids, and book giveaways.

“There’s something so special about being in physical space with books and other writers,” Cortez said. “That still matters and always will.”

If you are interested in going:

The Tucson Book Festival, now in its 14th year, will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13 at the University of Arizona Mall. For more details and author information, visit tucsonfestivalofbooks.org.

*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

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