Shteyngart, Braff and more at local book fests

Take a break from “liking” authors on Facebook, and come like them in person. It’s time for some old-school social networking at Jewish book festivals and events across the Bay, as readers and authors come together for a heady blend of literature, history and comedy to celebrate national Jewish Book Month.

The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco will be the site of the annual one-day BookFest on Nov. 7. Lectures, conversations and panel discussions will feature nearly 20 authors, including Yann Martel, Joyce Maynard, Gary Shteyngart, Allegra Goodman, Ayelet Waldman and Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III.

In the East Bay, the 22nd Contra Costa Jewish Book and Arts Festival, which will run from Nov. 4 to Nov. 18, will present a diverse slate of authors and comedians, including Martin Fletcher, Joshua Braff and Carol Leifer. “I think we have a very good mix of authors and performers,” said festival chair Jo-Ann Jacobson.

At the JCCSF, Gregory Levey (“How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment”), a former speechwriter for the Israeli government, will share his thoughts about solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (though probably not in his bathrobe), while New Republic editor Ruth Franklin (“A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction”) appears with “Life of Pi” author Martel, whose latest (“Beatrice and Virgil”) uses a talking donkey and monkey to relay a postmodern Holocaust allegory.

In another session, novelists Myla Goldberg (“The False Friend”), Waldman (“Red Hook Road”) and Maynard (“The Good Daughters”) will share the stage, while attorney Stuart Weisberg (“Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman”) holds court nearby. Joshua Cohen (“Witz”), Sam Lipsyte (“The Ask”) and Shteyngart (“Super Sad True Love Story”) close out the day.

BookFest kicks off with a sold-out keynote address and interview Nov. 6 with composer Stephen Sondheim (“Finishing the Hat”), whom the New York Times described as “the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater.” Tickets are still

available for a simulcast to be held in an adjoining room. “Who wouldn’t be excited to present Stephen Sondheim?” said BookFest chair Stephanie Singer. “He’s Broadway royalty.”

The Contra Costa festival, with most events at the JCC in Walnut Creek, opens Thursday, Nov. 4 with a presentation by Fletcher, “who wowed our audience last year,” said Jacobson. He was NBC’s correspondent in Israel and its bureau chief for television news. Fletcher’s new book, “Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation,” is about his yearlong journey walking the Medi-

terranean coast from Lebanon to Gaza.

Joshua Braff (“The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green”) is back with “Peep Show,” a novel about a young man torn between his religiously observant mother and his father who runs a porn theater in New York. He will appear Nov. 8.

Another festival favorite, Bible by the Bay, will feature Richard Freund, who has appeared on “Nova,” CNN and the History Channel. The event takes place Nov. 14 at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette.

On the lighter side is a Nov. 8 talk by Joel Chasnoff on his memoir “The 188th Crybaby Brigade: A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fights Hezbollah” and a Nov. 11 presentation by U.C. Berkeley professor Mel Gordon about the 1940s comic book “Funnyman” by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, which featured a comic strip character who fought criminals in a clown suit with jokes and puns.

Leifer concludes the festival on Nov. 18 at Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville. The Emmy Award–winning writer and stand-up comedian is author of a book of essays entitled “When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win.”

The Oshman Family JCC in the South Bay and the Osher Marin JCC in the North Bay will host their own events, with National Book Award winner Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (“Hillel: If Not Now, When?”) in San Rafael on Nov. 7; and Israeli historian Tom Segev (“Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends”), journalist Peter Lovenheim (“In the Neighborhood”) and cookbook author Joan Nathan (“Quiches, Kugels and Couscous”) appearing in Palo Alto on Nov. 11 and 17 and Dec. 8, respectively.

Contra Costa Jewish Book and Arts Festival

Thursday, Nov. 4

Martin Fletcher (“Walking Israel”), 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 6

• Comedy hour with Jeff Applebaum, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 7

Ava Kahn (“Jews of the Pacific Coast: Reinventing Community on America’s Edge”), 1 p.m.

• “Wickedly Delicious…!” Broadway’s David Burnham in concert, 3:30 p.m.

Nov. 8

• Chai tea with Joshua Braff (“Peep Show”), 3 p.m.

• “Stand-Up! with comedian Joel Chasnoff (“The 188th Crybaby Brigade”), 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 9

• East Bay International Jewish Film Festival previews with moderator Riva Gambert, 10 a.m.

Fred Rosenbaum (“Out on a Ledge”), 7:30 p.m., Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland. Free.

Nov. 10

Sue Fishkoff (“Kosher Nation”), 10 a.m.

Nov. 11

Mel Gordon (“Siegel and Shuster’s Funnyman”), 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 12

• BookTalk: Conversations and lunch with local authors Noah Alper, Shoshana Eliahu, Deborah Lee Rose, Lisa Braver Moss and Cantor Linda Hirschhorn, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Nov. 14

• Bible by the Bay featuring Richard Freund (“Digging Through the Bible”), 1:30 to 6 p.m., Temple Isaiah, 3800 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette.

Nov. 18

Carol Leifer (“When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win”), 7:30 p.m. Beth Chaim Congregation, 1800 Holbrook Drive, Danville.

Unless noted, all events take place at the  Contra Costa JCC, 2017 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek.

$5-$20. Information or tickets: (510) 318-6453, [email protected] or

JCCSF BookFest schedule

Session I, 12:30 p.m.

(signings at 1:45 p.m.)

Yann Martel (“Beatrice and Virgil”) and Ruth Franklin (“A Thousand Darknesses: Lies & Truths in Holocaust Fiction”) in conversation, moderated by Stephanie Singer, Kanbar Hall.

Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III (“The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family”), Fisher Family Hall East.

Michael Krasny (“Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest”), Room 205.

Jennifer Gilmore (“Something Red”) and Allegra Goodman (“The Cookbook Collector”) in conversation, Gallanter Hall (Room 206).

Gregory Levey (“How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment”), Beit Midrash (Room 209).

Session II, 2:15 p.m.

(signings at 3:30 p.m.)

 • Myla Goldberg (“The False Friend”), Joyce Maynard (“The Good Daughters”) and Ayelet Waldman (“Red Hook Road”), in conversation with Barbara Lane, Kanbar Hall.

Lisa Brown (“The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming”; “Vampire Boy’s Good Night”), interviewed by Beth Lisick (“Everybody Into the Pool”), Fisher Family Hall East.

Damion Searls (translator, “Comedy in a Minor Key” by 100-year-old German Jewish resistance writer Hans Keilson), in conversation with S.F. Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Peter Stein, Gallanter Hall (Room 206).

Stuart E. Weisberg (“Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman”), in conversation with Judson True, Room 205.

Session III, 4 p.m.

(signings at 5:15 p.m.)

Joshua Cohen (“Witz”), Sam Lipsyte (“The Ask”) and Gary Shteyngart (“Super Sad True Love Story”), in conversation with actor, writer and filmmaker Josh Kornbluth, Kanbar Hall.

All events are 12:30 to 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at the JCC of San Francisco, 3200 California St., S.F. Each session concludes with a Q&A session and then book signings in the Pottruck Family Atrium. $5-$7. Information: (415) 292-1233 or