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Ismail Muhammad

Bay Area Book Festival connects to campus

The annual Bay Area Book Festival takes place in the heart of Berkeley, a city perhaps best known as the home of the flagship campus of the University of California.

The festival and UC Berkeley share missions to make knowledge accessible, to engage people intellectually and creatively, to serve locally while reaching globally, and to foster community — indeed, as with Cal’s motto, to let there be light.

Because of these commonalities, in 2018 the festival significantly expanded its partnership with UC Berkeley, working especially closely with Berkeley Arts + Design, ASUC/Student Union, BAMPFA and UC Berkeley’s office of Government and Community Relations.

The festival moved its date from June (as in previous years) to April, allowing students, academics and teachers who would otherwise be scattered across the world on summer break to attend for the first time.

Berkeley Arts + Design has been at the helm of the partnership, sponsoring six author programs (see sidebar) and helping the festival connect with campus departments. What’s more, Arts + Design closes out its semester-long “BAMPFA Mondays” on April 30 with a special program featuring festival speakers (see

Several UC Berkeley departments, including Arts + Design, ASUC, and Cal’s official Student Store, have underwritten 1,000 wristbands for students, allowing general admission to the festival’s indoor sessions free of charge.

Students can pick up their wristbands at the outdoor Cal Pavilion hosted by the ASUC/Student Union. This lounge-like setting is open to the public to browse Cal-related books, hear student authors, and get a commemorative tote bag (see sidebar).

Students have been involved in planning the festival this year in hands-on ways. Through a course co-taught with the Department of Rhetoric, the festival created intensive internships in volunteer management, marketing, ticketing, and community engagement.

Finally, BAMPFA has partnered with the Bay Area Book Festival since the event’s second year, co-hosting a five-day film series around the festival weekend. This year’s series, entitled “Auteur, Author,” includes renowned films that “celebrate, adapt, or creatively reinterpret the written word and its practitioners.”

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ notes, “The Bay Area Book Festival has become one of California’s leading literary events, bringing tens of thousands of readers and a diverse set of writers to Berkeley for an annual celebration of the power of the written word. While our campus has supported the festival since it began, we’re excited to strengthen ties to this event, whose mission of promoting literary expression and creating forums for discussing topical issues is very much in line with our own.”


Festival Sessions Sponsored by UC Berkeley Arts + Design

Saturday, April 28

10 to 11:15 a.m.

Resisting Hate with Free Speech: Nadine Strossen interviewed by Erwin Chemerinsky (Freight & Salvage)

11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wrestling with the Devil: Ngũgi wa Thiong’o in Conversation: Ngũgi wa Thiong’o interviewed by Namwali Serpell (Freight & Salvage)

1:30 to 2:45 p.m.

Viet Thanh Nguyen on Art and Politics: Viet Thanh Nguyen interviewed by Karen Tei Yamashita(Freight & Salvage)

Sunday, April 29

10 to 11:15 a.m.

How Stories Make the World: Anthony Marra, Ismail Muhammad, Joyce Carol Oates, and Scott Saul, moderated by Joe DiPrisco (Veterans Memorial Building Auditorium)

11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet: Joan Halifax interviewed by Dacher Keltner (Freight & Salvage)

2:30 to 3:15 p.m.

Smart Activism: History and Hope: L.A. Kauffman and Rebecca Solnit (San Francisco Chronicle Stage in the Park)


Other Sessions Involving UC Berkeley Faculty and Alums

Saturday, April 28

3:15 to 4:30 p.m.

The Imperative for Truth: Academy Award-Winning Documentarian Errol Morris in Conversation with Edward Frenkel: Errol Morris interviewed by Edward Frenkel (Veterans Memorial Building, Auditorium)

2:30 to 3:45 p.m.

Income Inequality: A World Gone Mad, Mean and Immoral: Steven Clifford, Jeff Clements, Robert Reich (San Francisco Chronicle Stage in the Park)

7:30 to 9 p.m.

The Common Good with Robert Reich (Saturday Night Keynote): Robert Reich (Freight & Salvage)


Cal Pavilion

A pop-up lounge where visitors can browse and enjoy!

Student authors

Cozy reading and browsing

Books written by Cal faculty and about Cal itself

Cal-branded merchandise

Goodies, tote bags, surprise giveaways

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Ismail Muhammad
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