Meet the Authors
Sasha Abramsky is a freelance journalist whose latest book, a memoir, is titled the House of Twenty Thousand Books. Many of his books address pressing social issues such as Breadline USA: The Hidden Scandal of American Hunger and How to Fix (2009) and American Furies: Crime, Punishment, and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment (2007). His 2013 book, The American Way of Poverty, was listed by the New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year. Sasha’s work has appeared in journals such as The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Slate, the New Yorker online, and Rolling Stone. Originally from England and a graduate of Oxford University, he now lives in Sacramento with his wife, daughter and son.
In her book, And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple From High School to Jonestown, Judy Bebelaar tells the story of her time as a San Francisco public high school teacher where some of her students were involved in the tragic Jim Jones cult. Judy is co-author, with fellow teacher Ron Cabral, of a book about the students they came to know when Jim Jones, in 1976, sent all the Temple teens to the small alternative school where the two taught. The book follows the students the two knew best from San Francisco to their sudden departure to Jonestown. Most never returned. Judy taught for 37 years in San Francisco public high schools and found success helping her students find joy in writing about their lives, inviting poets into her classroom, and publishing student work in anthologies. She is also a widely published poet.
Cara Black is the national bestselling author of 19 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, which is set in Paris. Cara has received numerous accolades for her novels, including multiple nominations for the prestigious Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris–the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture. Her first ever standalone, Three Hours in Paris, comes out in April 2020. She’s a NYTImes and USATODAY bestselling author, a San Francisco Library Laureate, Macavity and three time Anthony award-nominee for her series, Aimée Leduc Investigations. Cara lives in San Francisco with her bookseller husband, Jun, and their dog.
Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels based in France, including The Vineyards of Champagne, The Lost Carousel of Provence, Letters from Paris and The Paris Key. She also writes the Witchcraft Mystery series and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a Masters in Anthropology and Social Work from State University of New York, Albany, Juliet is a former anthropologist, social worker, and professional artist. She is a California native who has spent time in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France and now lives in Northern California in a hundred-year-old house with extensive botanical gardens.
Lynn Downey is an independent writer, archivist, and historian and the author of Levi Strauss: The Man Who Gave Blue Jeans to the World, A Short History of Sonoma, and Arizona’s Vulture Mine and Vulture City. In her most recent book, Arequipa Sanatorium: Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women, Lynn tells the story of her grandmother’s experience in a northern California tuberculosis sanatorium called Arequipa, during the Jazz Age of the late 1920s. She writes about the institution itself, and the phenomenal doctors, artists, social workers, and society matrons who made the sanatorium possible, and gave hope and health to Bay Area women for forty-six years. Lynn is a member of the Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, PEN/America, the California Historical Society, the Society of California Archivists, and the Arizona Historical Society. She lives in Sonoma.
Nina G is a comedian, professional speaker and author of Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen, a personal story of her journey of how she became America’s first female stuttering stand-up comedian. She has been featured everywhere, from NPR’s 51%, BBC’s Ouch, Psychology Today, Tedx, multiple day time talk shows, Howard (Stern) 100 News and even the Stuttering John Podcast. She brings her humor to help people confront and understand Disability culture, access, and empowerment. When she isn’t performing at comedy clubs like the San Francisco Punchline or the Laugh Factory, she is playing colleges and presenting as a keynote speaker to children with disabilities and training professionals! Nina is part of the comedy troupe The Comedians with Disabilities Act, which brings laughter and awareness to audiences of all ages across the country.
Reece Hirsch is the author of five thrillers that draw upon his background as a privacy attorney. Black Nowhere is the first in a new series featuring an FBI Special Agent who investigates cybercrime. His first book, The Insider, was a finalist for the 2011 International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. His next three books all feature former Department of Justice cybercrimes prosecutor Chris Bruen. Reece is a partner in the San Francisco office of an international law firm and cochair of its privacy and cybersecurity practice. He earned his law degree from the University of Southern California and a B.S. degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Prior to law school, Reece worked as a journalist in Atlanta for several years, including a stint as an assistant editor of a business magazine. He also edited and published an arts and entertainment magazine in Atlanta.
Josie Iselin is a photographer and author whose books focus on those forms in nature we find at hand and in particular, at the beach. Her newest book, The Curious World of Seaweed, features sixteen visually rich narratives of our iconic West Coast seaweeds and kelps. Josie’s mission is to produce enticing, well-researched and well-designed books that combine art and science, leaving readers with new information about, and an appreciation for, the world around them. Her writing and art focusing on seaweed, kelp and sea otters puts her on the forefront of ocean activism, presenting and working with scientists and environmental groups to preserve the kelp forests of our Pacific Coast. Josie holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and an MFA from San Francisco State University.
Lucinda Jackson, scientist and corporate executive, spent eight years in academia and more than forty years with Fortune 500 Companies. After growing up on the West Coast, she received her PhD at Southern Illinois University and continued in science throughout her career, speaking worldwide on environmental topics, and serving on boards of academic, non-profit, and industry organizations. Her most recent book, Just a Girl: Growing Up Female and Ambitious, is the sensitive, personal story of the author’s ambition to become and succeed as a scientist during the “white man in power” era of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. After Peace Corps volunteerism in Palau and teaching science in Mexico, Dr. Jackson and her husband returned recently to their home near San Francisco. They have three sons who are scattered around the globe.
Meng Jin writes sentences that sometimes become paragraphs that once became a book called Little Gods. A story of migrations literal and emotional, spanning time, space and class, Little Gods is a sharp yet expansive exploration of the aftermath of unfulfilled dreams, an immigrant story in negative that grapples with our tenuous connections to memory, history, and self. Meng was born in Shanghai and lives in San Francisco with her partner Neel and her puppy Tofu. A Kundiman Fellow, she is a graduate of Harvard and Hunter College.
Matt Johanson writes about the outdoors for various publications and has hiked, climbed, and skied the Sierra Nevada his whole life. In his award-winning guidebook, Sierra Summits: A Guide to Fifty Peak Experiences in California’s Range of Light, he provides an accessible guide to the top hikes in the Sierras. Climb Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Hike to the top of Yosemite’s Half Dome or trek atop Mount Tallac, the majestic summit overlooking beautiful Lake Tahoe. The hikes he covers can each be completed in a day, and sometimes in just a few hours, with a minimum of experience and gear. Matt lives in Castro Valley. When he’s not hiking or writing, he teaches social studies and journalism at Castro Valley High School.
Carolyn Jung is an award-winning food and wine writer based in the Bay Area. Carolyn’s second book, East Bay Cooks, is an impressive collection of 80 signature dishes from 40 of the region’s leading restaurants. An uncomplicated taco with the power to stir the soul? A nourishing bowl of authentic Singaporean laksa? It’s all here. She is the recipient of a James Beard Award for feature writing about restaurants/chefs, a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism award of excellence for diversity writing, an award from the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors, and numerous honors from the Association of Food Journalists, and the Peninsula Press Club. In 2015, Carolyn was named an IACP finalist for “narrative food writing.” She has also judged a bevy of food contests, including the biggie of them all, the Pillsbury Bake-Off.
Born and raised in the UK, Mimi Lok is a writer and editor. Her most recent book, Last of Her Name, is an eye-opening story collection about the intimate, interconnected lives of diasporic women and the histories they are born into. Set in a wide range of time periods and locales, including ’80s UK suburbia, WWII Hong Kong and contemporary urban California, the book features an eclectic cast of outsiders: among them, an elderly housebreaker, wounded lovers and kung-fu fighting teenage girls. Last of Her Name offers a meditation on female desire and resilience, family and the nature of memory. Mimi holds an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Lucky Peach, Nimrod and Hyphen, among other publications. Mimi is the recipient of a Smithsonian Ingenuity Award and an Ylvisaker Award for Fiction, and is a 2020 National Magazine Award finalist.
James R. Moore, Jr. profiles an important local figure in his new book The Life of Robert Noble Burgess. The insightful biography explores the life of R.N., a pioneering land developer and financier whose remarkable career in the first two decades of the 20th century mirrored the social Darwinism of his era and helped to shape Contra Costa County as we know it today. James is a retired commercial real estate executive. His forty-five year career included work at Crown Zellerbach Corporation, Xerox, Cushman & Wakefield and Bedford Property Investors. He attended UC Berkeley, University of San Francisco and Golden Gate University and lives in Walnut Creek with his wife Sharon. His hobbies include reading, playing the piano, and flying.
In her first book and memoir, Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing, Christine S. O’Brien tells a story of family in turmoil and incessant hunger hidden behind the luxury and privilege of New York’s famed Dakota apartment building. Her explosively angry father was a TV and film executive. O’Brien’s calm and beautiful mother, Carol, was raised on a Midwest farm. One day, her mother collapses and spends a year in bed with doctors not able to identify a physical basis for her malady. Carol eventually resorts to increasingly bizarre nutritional habits, including the adoption of a rigid dietary regime consisting of celery juice and blended salads, which she insists her family follow as well. Christine earned a BA in English at UC Berkeley and holds a Double MFA from Saint Mary’s College in Nonfiction and Fiction, where she was awarded an Agnes Butler Scholarship for Literary Excellence. She is currently a part-time lecturer in the English Composition department at Saint Mary’s College and lives in Walnut Creek.
Anniqua Rana’s debut novel, Wild Boar in the Cane Field, is a celebration of the rural women of Pakistan whose indomitable spirit keeps them struggling despite all odds. Poignant and compelling, Wild Boar depicts the tragedy that often characterizes the lives of those who live in South Asia―and demonstrates the heroism we are all capable of even in the face of traumatic realities. Anniqua lives in California with her husband and two sons. When she’s not teaching English to immigrant and international students, she visits her family in Pakistan and England. The rest of the time, she reads, cooks, travels, and enjoys mystical music and poetry and does whatever it takes to keep her grounded and happy.
Elizabeth Rosner‘s first work of nonfiction was published in 2017, entitled Survivor Cafe: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory. It blends personal story, interviews, and extensive research on the complex subjects of epigenetics and the inter-generational aftermath of war and atrocity. Called “breathtaking” by Pulitzer-prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, the book offers a comprehensive and intimate portrait of both individual and collective inheritance of history. Survivor Cafe was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and named among the best books of 2017 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Elizabeth is a prize-winning poetry, short fiction, novel, and essay writer. A graduate of Stanford University, the MFA Program at U.C. Irvine, and the University of Queensland in Australia, she currently lives in Berkeley.
Bonnie Tsui lives, surfs, and swims in the Bay Area and in her most recent book, Why We Swim, she explores in depth the latter. Humans, unlike other animals that are drawn to water, are not natural-born swimmers. We must be taught. Our evolutionary ancestors learned to swim for survival; today we swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s former palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, even an Icelandic fisherman. A longtime contributor to the New York Times and California Sunday Magazine, Bonnie has been the recipient of the Jane Rainie Opel Young Alumna Award from Harvard University and a National Press Foundation Fellowship. Her last book, American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods, won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and Best of 2009 Notable Bay Area Books selection.
“Instead of trying to be famous,” Benjamin Wachs says, “I tried to be interesting.” His book The Scene That Became Cities: What Burning Man Philosophy Can Teach Us About Building Better Communities, is a practical and irreverent guide to the annual Burning Man spectacle in Nevada: its philosophy, why people do this to themselves, and how it matters to the world. Benjamin is an instructional writer, and has been a columnist, short-story writer, and novelist. At Burning Man, he’s the house philosopher, going by the name of “Caveat Magister.” He’s traveled the world, lived in a Buddhist Monastery, covered global nightlife for Playboy.com, met Russian mobsters and Turkish gangsters, and been a village minstrel. Benjamin lives in San Francisco, where he is the Chairman of the Board of the San Francisco Institute of Possibility, anon-profit arts production and education organization. His business cards describe him as a “Fascinating Stranger.”
Bruce and April Winship were young and newly married when they decided to go looking for a little adventure. With little to no experience they hopped on a sailboat bound for Tahiti, and after two years of crewing on different boats throughout the South Pacific, Central and South America, they returned home with a burning passion to rediscover paradise on their own boat… this time as a family. Set Sail and Live Your Dreams is the story of how Bruce and April overcame adversity, financial hurdles, and a steep learning curve to create the adventure of a lifetime for themselves and their two young daughters. After working on several aerospace projects including the Space Shuttle launch complex and the Titan 3B missile program, Bruce took a 2-year hiatus from his work as an engineer and began hitching rides on several sailboats across the Pacific and back with his wife April. A native Californian, April spent her childhood in New South Wales, Australia and has had a spirit for travel and adventure ever since. Throughout their cruising years, she wrote articles featured in local sailing magazines highlighting the unique challenges and rewards of cruising with their 2 young children on a small sailboat.