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Popular author to read for peace

Part-time Tucsonan Barbara Kingsolver, author of "Prodigal Summer" and "The Poisonwood Bible" will be speaking at the Loft Cinema tonight.
By Biz Bledsoe
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 10, 2003

After almost three years' absence from the local scene, acclaimed author Barbara Kingsolver will reemerge tonight and read at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., from her latest work. The event is a benefit for the Tucson Peace Center, and is Kingsolver's first local appearance since 2000.

Sponsored by both Antigone Books and Reader's Oasis, the benefit begins at 7 p.m. and will consist of Kingsolver reading from her collection of essays titled "Small Wonder." Afterward, she will take questions and sign copies.

"She's a pretty famous local author, and any time a book of hers comes out, we hope to have her do an event," said Debbie Roller, the events coordinator for Antigone Books. The store has collaborated with Kingsolver in the past, and the author always chooses a local non-profit to receive the proceeds from the events, Roller said.

Kingsolver is a part-time resident of Tucson and a nationally recognized author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her previous works include "Prodigal Summer," "The Poisonwood Bible," "The Bean Trees" and "High Tide in Tucson: Essays From Now or Never." She is also a UA alumna, having graduated with a master's degree in biology and ecology in the early '80s.

When "Small Wonder" came out in its hardback version last year, Kingsolver did none of her usual publicity for the book. In fact, Kingsolver has done no local events since "The Poisonwood Bible" came out in 2000. Tonight's reading is to celebrate both this week's release of the paperback version of "Small Wonder," and Kingsolver's first local appearance in several years.

"This will be the only event Kingsolver will do in Tucson through the summer," said Jeff Yanc, the head book buyer for Reader's Oasis. "She does a very select few appearances, so this will probably be people's last chance to see her for a while."

The event is expected to attract 500 people, the Loft's full seating capacity. All ticket proceeds will go to the Tucson Peace Center, and copies of "Small Wonder" will be sold in the lobby to benefit Reader's Oasis and Antigone Books.

"She's always claimed that independent bookstores helped her start her career," Yanc said. "So she really supports the independent bookstores in Tucson."

Topics for the essays in "Small Wonder" vary, but all share themes of political and ecological justice.

"They're all political and ecological kinds of essays," Yanc said. "She also writes about patriotism in a time of war and about what patriotism means after 9/11. A lot of what she talks about relates to your role as an American during global conflict."

The Tucson Peace Center is a resource for local nonprofit organizations to post their activities. They publish a monthly calendar that lists events sponsored by nonprofits around Tucson that otherwise may go unnoticed, due to the organizations' lack of funds. Kingsolver has supported the Tucson Peace center in the past but is not an active member.

"Our purpose is to provide connections for Tucson peace, social justice and environmental non-profit organizations. We also put on the annual peace fair and music festival in Reid Park," said Lisa Stage, the president of the Tucson Peace Center's board of directors. "This is just a blessing for us because we're an

all-volunteer organization, and right now we don't even have a building. But an event like this will give us the money to get our message out there."

Stage sees a connection between Kingsolver's literary content and the Tucson Peace Center's mission.

"Barbara's an incredible author. She does a beautiful job of weaving together the small picture ¸ what's happening in our own lives and families ¸ and connecting it to what's happening in the big picture with the environment and the world's social situation," Stage said.

Kingsolver, in the introduction to "Small Wonder," comments on the book's intended subject matter.

"This book isn't meant to be a commentary on specific political policies," Kingsolver wrote. "Though inevitably the day's headlines Ě have provided for me anecdotal entry into issues of more general and enduring interest. The several pieces that open and close the book respond most directly to current events, while many of the others form a collection of parables and reveries on parts of the world that may seem at first very distant from the epicenters of global crisis ¸ a village at the edge of a Mexican jungle, for example, or my daughter's chicken coop. I ask the reader to understand that these essays are not incidental. I believe our largest problems have grown from the earth's remotest corners ¸ as well as our own backyards ¸ and that salvation may lie in those places, too."

Tickets for tonight's reading at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. $10 discount tickets can be acquired with the purchase of "Small Wonder" from Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave., or Reader's Oasis, 3400 E. Speedway Blvd. #114. Call 792-3715 for more details.

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