The Festival of Books and Ideas serves up a 5-day buffet of ideas for Dallas

Special Contributor

Video Player is loading.

Play Video


Loaded: 0%

Remaining Time -0:00

This is a modal window.

Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.


Font Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall Caps

Reset restore all settings to the default valuesDone

Close Modal Dialog

End of dialog window.

The fifth annual Dallas Festival of Books and Ideas delivered an extravagant buffet of thought.

Ideas overflowed, like the flash floods caused by downpours during the festival’s final day on June 1. The talking points flitted from caring for the city’s elderly to Dallas’ cultural and racial diversity, to its need to be more welcoming, to its emerging status as a beacon of science and technology.

As a kind of dessert to the main course, the festival also treated us to a candid look at Dallas’ growing identity as a haven for people who write books.

Speakers ranged from poets and novelists to scientists and architects, who over five days pondered a range of topics, underscoring the theme "The Open City."

Emi Kiyota discussed aging in the city during The Physical City discussion, a Dallas Festival of Books and Ideas event at UT Dallas Center for BrainHealth, Brain Performance Institute on May 28, 2019.
The Physical City

When Emi Kiyota goes to work designing housing for seniors, she thinks about her own grandmother, who died in a nursing home where the staff knew her room number, 14B, but not her name.

Now an acclaimed expert in her field of architecture and community planning, Kiyota’s goal, she said at the Dallas Festival of Books and Ideas, is to make old folks feel at home, regardless of the challenges they face with age. At the community centers she’s helped created in Japan, Nepal and the Philippines through her organization Ibasho, elders work with adults and youngsters to pass on their wisdom. "Older people should be caring for others," she said, "not always being cared for."

Joining Kiyota on stage May 28 were architects Leonard Volk and Lawrence Speck; the director of UT Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth, Sandra Bond Chapman; and Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster. "What would it take to build a place like this in Dallas?" asked Lamster. To some degree, we’ve already started, said Speck.

He highlighted the pockets of walkable, mixed-use development now cropping up around town as great for older locals who want to remain active in their communities but who struggle to venture far from home. Those few scattered neighborhoods, however, aren’t nearly enough. "We’ve got to make more cities where you can gracefully, easily, naturally grow older," Speck said.

— Dan Singer

Liz Cedillo-Pereira (center), director of the city of Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs, speaks as Jin-Ya Huang (left), founder of Break Bread, Break Borders; Keven Ann Willey (second from right), former vice president and editorial page editor at The Dallas Morning News, and Alfredo Carbajal (right), managing editor of Al Dia, listen during "The Welcoming City" discussion at the Dallas Institute in Dallas on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.
The Welcoming City

The Dallas-Fort Worth area attracts more net newcomers than any other major region in the country, according to a Bloomberg analysis of 2017 census figures. So when people get to Dallas, how welcome do they feel?

Keven Ann Willey has lived in Dallas for 17 years, with the exception of one. In March 2018, she and her husband set out to spend a year traveling the edges of the country in a travel trailer. Willey, former vice president and editorial page editor at The News, spoke of a journey that offered a glimpse into welcoming — and unwelcoming — cities.

During the May 29 session, Willey offered her own suggestions for creating a more welcoming city, such as smiling at passers-by, offering free Wi-Fi and tackling public education reform.

— Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Brandi Cantarel speaks on the Science in the City panel during the Dallas Festival of Books and Ideas at UT Southwestern in Dallas on May 30, 2019.
Science in the City

There’s no such thing as perfect data. That’s what Samantha Cheng learned as a grad student studying marine biodiversity and the conservation of squid. Her data was biased, which she knew — data is never going to be perfect, she said, which is why the right questions are so important.

Cheng, a scientist at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, spent May 30 at the Dallas Festival of Books and Ideas discussing the years she dedicated to analyzing big data.

She was part of a panel that included Southern Methodist University’s Jo Guldi and UT Southwestern Medical Center’s John F. Brooks II, Brandi Cantarel and Gaudenz Danuser.

"This is a really exciting time to be a geek, in any field," Guldi said. "Because there are so many methods being exchanged."

— Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Panelist Sanderia Faye (center) speaks at the The Dallas Festival of Books and Ideas event, The Literary City, at Interabang Books in Dallas on May 31, 2019. Other panelists were Oscar Casares (left) and and Ben Fountain.
The Literary City

When Sanderia Faye, author of Mourner’s Bench and co-founder of the Kimbilio Center for Fiction at Southern Methodist University, moved to Dallas in 2006, she chose the Arts District, where she thought she could meet and see other artists. She found none there.

Dallas is a business town, she says, where people care more about money and the outfits they buy. So, given this view of the city, how can one answer the central questions posed on the fourth night of the Dallas Festival of Books and Ideas on May 31 at Interabang Books in North Dallas: What makes a literary city, is Dallas one and if not, how can it become one?

Panelist Sarah Hepola, the author of Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, a New York Times best-selling memoir, called Dallas "disconnected [and] disembodied."

At the same time, panelist Ben Fountain, who penned the award-winning Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, believes the city is a good home for writers because "Dallas gives you a lot to push against."

— Tim Diovanni

Jessica Alvarado (left) interviews Heresy author Melissa Lenhardt during the Summer in the City discussion as part of the Dallas Festival of Books at the Dallas Public Library on June 1, 2019.
Summer in the City

New author Tonya Ward-Blackshear summed up the importance of literacy and reading by answering a question during the panel discussion "Must-Reads by African American Authors," which took place June 1 at the Dallas Public Library, during the Summer in the City event.

“Reading gives you knowledge," she said.

"The world is bigger than the cocoon you are in," added Eartha Gatlin, author of the novella The Chronicles of Bria Twon.

Other panel authors — DJ Lawrence, Claudette Esmerelda and Jasoe Sharpe Hargrove — echoed these statements as they spoke about the power of reading to transport the reader to new worlds and provide insight into real-life problems.

— Audrey Eads

D-Day Girls author Sarah Rose speaks as part of The Inspired City session during the Dallas Festival of Books at the Dallas Museum of Art on June 1, 2019.
The Inspired City

Held June 1 at the Dallas Museum of Art, The Inspired City showcased such authors as Etaf Rum, whose debut novel is A Woman is No Man, and University of Texas professor Oscar Cásares, who wrote the border novel Where We Come From.

Dallas musician Rhett Miller, of the alt-country band Old 97’s, and bestselling artist-illustrator Dan Santat launched the day with a lively session. This interactive event introduced Miller’s and Santat’s first collaboration: No More Poems: A Book In Verse That Just Gets Worse, a children’s book of wacky poems that Miller said he wrote initially to make his kids laugh.

"Don’t ever think that something’s impossible," he said.

— Audrey Eads

Never miss news on Dallas’ cultural resurgence again. Get insightful coverage delivered directly to your inbox each week.

Source Article