CCJCC bookfest returns with record 22 authors

Book festival chair Bilha Sperling says the first festival included only 10 authors.

"Now it flows," Sperling said. "We've already started working on next year."

This year's lineup kicks off with a preview reading by Israeli-based novelist Naomi Ragen. At 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, Ragen will discuss her latest book, "The Ghost of Hannah Mendes."

At 11 a.m. that morning, the festival will host a glatt kosher champagne brunch in Ragen's honor for festival donors.

The German-born Blumenthal will deliver the festival's keynote address at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7. He has written an account of the Holocaust and German Jewry called "The Invisible Wall: Germans & Jews; A Personal Exploration."

The book includes his own story of fleeing the Nazis via Shanghai before arriving in the United States orphaned and penniless. He later became CEO of Burroughs Corp. (now Unisys) and is currently president of the recently opened Berlin Jewish Museum.

Mack, who has written a cartoon history, "The Story of the Jews: A 4,000-year Adventure," will speak at noon Monday, Nov. 16.

Diamant, whose latest book, "The Red Tent," is the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, following a havdallah and dinner for donors.

The Brooklyn-born Ragen, who wrote "Jephte's Daughter," is one of Israel's best-selling authors. Her latest is the story of a dying grandmother and her two grown granddaughters who together resolve whether they should carry on with the faith and rituals of ancestors.

Other writers scheduled include former Marin resident Carol Matzkin Orsborn, whose new nonfiction work, "Return from Exile: One Woman's Journey Back to Judaism," was released earlier this month. She will speak at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13.

Mystery Night, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11 will feature Rochelle Krich ("Fertile Ground") and Janice Steinberg ("Death in the City of Mystics") in a discussion with local book critic and author of "California Street" Donna Levin.

Zillah Bahar, Jewish Bulletin food columnist, will lead a talk on lowfat cooking at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 12. She will discuss her cookbook, "Kosher Light: Your Traditional Favorites Cooked Healthy."

Children are not being left out of the program. Walnut Creek children's writer Deborah Lee Rose will do several readings throughout the event, and Berkeley's Randy Perrin and his two young daughters, Hannah and Tova, will read from the book they co-wrote, "Time Like a River," at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11.

The fictional work, geared toward ages 9 through 14, is about a young girl, who, just before her bat mitzvah, must deal with her mother's potentially fatal illness.

The festival features a number of local writers, including Elaine Starkman of Walnut Creek, co-author of "Here I Am," a collection of short stories, with Marsha Lee Berkman, and Berkeley therapist Elayne Savage, author of "Don't Take It Personally! The Art of Dealing with Rejection." Starkman and Berkman will speak at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9. At 7:30 p.m. that day, Savage will speak.

The lobby at the CCJCC will be transformed into a bookstore for the duration of the festival, featuring works by all the festival authors, as well as a few hundred other selections.

Most of the events are $5 to $10. Those who contribute $500 will receive reserved seating at all lectures, tickets to the brunch with Ragen and a havdallah and dinner with Diamant, where they will receive signed copies of her latest book. Those who contribute $125 will receive the same privileges, with the exception of the dinner event.