Women Lit is a year-round event series dedicated to elevating women’s voices and igniting conversation. Working with a variety of partners, we bring the most exciting, in-demand writers and thinkers to venues across the Bay Area.

  • 2022
  • International
  • Literary
  • Women/Gender

Conversation with Jokha Alharthi, International Booker Prize Winner

Jokha Alharthi interviewed by John Freeman

Saturday, May 7

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

The first Arab writer to win the International Booker (in 2019 for her novel Celestial Bodies), Jokha Alharthi explores one of the most compelling topics in our time: how radical and breakneck social change plays out within families, and indeed how past and present elide within us. The context of Alharthi’s stories is Oman, which emerged from rural poverty (where slavery was legal until 1970 and few girls attended school) in a single generation to become an urban, oil-rich Gulf state where women are highly educated. Alharthi herself received her Ph.D. in Classical Arabic Literature from the University of Edinburgh.

She writes especially of women’s lives, and her new novel, Bitter Orange Tree, tells of a young Omani woman, Zuhur, studying at a British university but haunted by the memory of the just-deceased woman who raised her and whom Zuhur calls grandmother—a woman scarred by poverty and sacrifice. When home, elders, and the old ways are gone, who are we now? And what is “now” if not the holding of all that’s past?

Alharthi’s prose offers this very experience to the reader, moving smoothly between times and different characters’ minds even within the space of a paragraph—”the way starlight seems to flicker when we gaze at distant and nearer celestial bodies,” as critic James Wood wrote in The New Yorker. Come meet this global literary star.

The bookstore partner for this session is Eastwind Books of Berkeley! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Brower Center - Goldman Theater

Book signing information: East Wind Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at 12:15 PM

With the support of Words Without Borders and Peter Wiley

  • 2022
  • Literary
  • Women/Gender

Writer to Writer: Written on the Body

Alyssa Songsiridej, Shruti Swamy, moderated by Anita Felicelli

Saturday, May 7

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Bodies in motion and at rest, bodies in ecstasy or in pain, bodies in solitude or in relation to others—how do writers represent the physicality of the human body, in all its frailty and its grace? That’s one of the questions we’ll explore with debut novelists Shruti Swamy and Alyssa Songsiridej, whose coming-of-age novels share a thoughtful consideration of the intersections of the body with creativity and self-expression. Swamy’s The Archer follows a girl who discovers recovery from trauma through immersing herself in the rigorous study of kathak dance; in her writing, Swamy’s “words carry the visceral power of a dancer’s intersection with air,” as an NPR review raves. Electric Literature editor Sonsiridej also explores dance, among other forms of creative expression, in Little Rabbit, as a creative young woman finds herself in thrall to an older man, a choreographer, exploring through their relationship the boundaries between the self and others and between relationships and artistic integrity. Join these two exciting young writers for an electrifying conversation about writing the body.

The bookstore partner for this session is Marcus Books! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

The Marsh Berkeley - Cabaret

Book signing information: Marcus Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at in the park, 12:45 PM

  • 2022
  • International
  • Memoir
  • Women/Gender

The Secrets of Being an Extraordinary Woman: Three Authors on Ambition, Adventure, and Equality

Lara Bazelon, Mia Kankimäki, Eliza Reid, moderated by Cheryl Popp

Saturday, May 7

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Who says women can’t have it all? Get inspired by a powerful trio from Finland, Iceland, and the United States whose new books radically redefine pathways to happiness and a better society. In her research-based book, Lara Bazelon liberates working mothers from their fruitless attempts at a “balance” between “work” and “life”: prioritizing your career is good for your kids. Further evidence comes from Iceland, ranked #1 in gender equality by the World Economic Forum, where First Lady Eliza Reid (originally from small-town Canada) discovered “the secrets of the sprakkar”—extraordinary women—and the kind of society that makes them thrive. Finnish memoirist Mia Kankimäki traveled to Kenya, Japan, and Italy to trace the footsteps of unconventional female pioneers—like Karen Blixen, artist Yayoi Kusama, and forgotten Renaissance women painters—to discover her own inner adventurer. Go girls!

The bookstore partner for this session is Sausalito Books By The Bay! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

The Magnes - Auditorium

Book signing information: Sausalito Books by the Bay Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at 1:45 PM

With the support of FILI - Finnish Literature Exchange, the Finlandia Foundation National, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, Inspired by Iceland: North America, and the Icelandic Literature Center

  • 2022
  • Poetry
  • Race/Identity
  • Women/Gender

Let Her Tell It: Black Women Writing on the Body and Mind

Kira Lynne Allen, Natalie Devora, adrienne danyelle oliver, Kelechi Ubozoh, moderated by Jeneé Darden

Saturday, May 7

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Many Black women have a complex relationship with their bodies. Historically their bodies have been racialized, hypersexualized, exoticized, abused, exploited for labor and othered. Stressors in their lives affects physical and mental health. But Black women also nurture their bodies, celebrate their bodies, and give themselves permission to enjoy pleasure. These Black women writers will share poetry and stories about their bodies, while showing how physical health affects mental health and vice versa. Whether it’s fighting fibroids or reclaiming their bodies after harm—these writers are telling their stories to disrupt what they’ve been mistaught about their bodies. This panel is inspired by a retreat the writers attended where they created body maps: life-size canvases of their bodies that artistically express their perceptions of and experiences with their bodies.

The bookstore partner for this session is Eastwind Books of Berkeley! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Brower Center - Tamalpais Room

Book signing information: East Wind Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at 2:15 PM

  • 2022
  • International
  • Literary
  • Poetry
  • Women/Gender

“We Read in Order to Come to Life”: Grief, Joy, and the Magic of Literary Form

Claire-Louise Bennett, Victoria Chang, Pik-Shuen Fung, moderated by Sylvia Brownrigg

Saturday, May 7

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

How do writers assemble words in a way that lifts them beyond their literal meaning to speak what can’t really be said? These three writers are masters. In her novel Checkout 19, Claire-Louise Bennett (whose words are quoted in this program’s title) takes us on a breathless, kaleidoscopic ride around an unnamed female narrator’s life. The torrent of words protects “[t]he prized darkness at the center of the human mind, the place where whatever is really real about us resides,” The New Yorker notes. Best-selling poet and essayist Victoria Chang—the current poetry editor for the New York Times Magazine, and author of Obit—takes the opposite approach in her new, highly original poetry collection, The Trees Witness Everything: she turns to the compact form of Japanese waka to awaken the wordless experiences of longing and letting go. In her acclaimed debut novel Ghost Forest, Canadian author Pik-Shuen Fung explores the narrator’s grief for her “astronaut” father, one of many such fathers who remained in Hong Kong while the rest of the family emigrates. Ann Patchett says the book is “light as a feather” and “almost like reading poetry, but it’s a novel.” Enjoy this rare opportunity to hear three of our best writers discussing literature at its finest.

The bookstore partner for this session is Sausalito Books By The Bay! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

The Magnes - Auditorium

Book signing information: Sausalito Books by the Bay Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at 3:15 PM

With the support of the Consulate General of Canada San Francisco/Silicon Valley and Culture Ireland

  • 2022
  • Free
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Women/Gender
  • YA (Young Adult)

Werewolves and Monster Slayers: Transforming Horror in YA

Lily Anderson, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, moderated by Rex Horner

Saturday, May 7

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM

If you’re dying to read about a rag-tag team of powerful young women with a side of killer fun, you’re in the right place. In Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s graphic novel debut Squad, Becca longs to be popular at her new school, and winds up finding her place in a group of fashionable girls . . . who also happen to be werewolves. Lily Anderson’s Scout’s Honor is filled with tons of high-octane action and adventure as protagonist Prudence Perry is on a mission to steal an invaluable ingredient while taking on the hardest challenge of all: her legacy as a monster hunter. Be prepared for some chills and thrills in this empowering panel.

The bookstore partner for this session is Pegasus Books! Buy the books online on their website, on Bookshop.org, or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Residence Inn Berkeley - Ballroom 2

Book signing information: Pegasus Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at 3:45 PM

  • 2022
  • Literary
  • Race/Identity
  • Women/Gender

Talking Single Motherhood, Community, and Black Girl Magic with Novelist Jayne Allen

Jayne Allen, interviewed by Justin Phillips

Saturday, May 7

3:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Single mothers: they’ve been stigmatized, sidelined, and called superheroes and saints—sometimes in the same breath. Novelist Jayne Allen, with Black Girls Must be Magic, gives us a portrait of single motherhood by choice that upends all preconceptions. The latest installment in Allen’s Black Girls Must Die Exhausted series (she calls it “chocolate chick lit with a conscience”), this is the “timely and enjoyable” ( Kirkus ) tale of a sophisticated (if exhausted) working woman, Tabitha. Tabitha’s journey to prepare for a surprise role her doctors told her wouldn’t be biologically possible—motherhood—will resonate with everyone who’s ever been called upon to channel their inner magic, navigate unforeseen curveballs, and draw strength from the community they love.

The bookstore partner for this session is Pegasus Books! Buy the books online on their website, on Bookshop.org, or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Residence Inn Berkeley - Ballroom 1

Book signing information: Pegasus Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at 4:45 PM

  • 2022
  • Comics & Graphics
  • Women/Gender

Picturing a Life: Graphic Memoirs

Maureen Burdock, Rhea Ewing, Laura Gao, L. John Harris, moderated by Tasneem Raja

Saturday, May 7

3:30 PM - 4:45 PM

Blockbuster works like Fun Home, Maus, and Persepolis have made it clear that graphic memoirs are a game-changer in the world of literature. What makes this literary genre–-blending the disciplines of cinema, writing, and visual art—so gripping? These four memoirists will show us. Berkeley Renaissance man L. John Harris (My Little Plague Journal) and illustrator/author Maureen Burdock (a contributor to COVID Chronicles: A Comics Anthology) chronicle the pandemic with time capsules of words and art; while Rhea Ewing (Fine: a Comic about Gender, praised by Alison Bechdel) and Laura Gao (Messy Roots, about growing up queer in both Wuhan, China and Texas) subversively document self-acceptance, identity, and transformation. Let these multi-talented authors take you on an immersive journey filled with images as stunning and distinctive as their use of language.

The bookstore partner for this session is Eastwind Books of Berkeley! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Brower Center - Goldman Theater

Book signing information: East Wind Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at in the park, 5:00 PM

  • 2022
  • Comics & Graphics
  • Free
  • Women/Gender
  • YA (Young Adult)

YA: Growing Up Queer Then and Now

Jen Ferguson, Laura Gao, moderated by Cinnamongirl Kailynn

Sunday, May 8

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Discovering and embracing your identity as a queer young person can be joyful, confusing, or downright dangerous, depending on when and where you’re growing up. These three authors offer historical and more contemporary narratives of growing up queer. Jen Ferguson’s stunning debut novel The Summer of Bitter and Sweet focuses on a Métis teen who contends with myriad issues and questions—including racism, generational trauma, sexual identity, and first love—over the course of a life-changing summer. Laura Gao’s graphic memoir Messy Roots finds the author striving to define (in sometimes cringingly hilarious ways) both their queerness and their identity as a Chinese immigrant to America. You won’t want to miss this candid exploration of the messy, joyous process of growing up, hosted by Cinnamongirl Kailynn.

The bookstore partner for this session is Pegasus Books! Buy the books online on their website, on Bookshop.org, or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Residence Inn Berkeley - Ballroom 2

Book signing information: Pegasus Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at in the park, 12:45 PM

With support from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria

  • 2022
  • Environment/Nature
  • Travel
  • Women/Gender

Women in the Wild

Lauren DeLaunay Miller, Diana Helmuth, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, moderated by Rue Mapp

Sunday, May 8

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Three intrepid adventurers who have scaled mountains—and, for that matter, moved them—will show us why women belong in the wild. A survivor of severe trauma in childhood, mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado (The Shadow of the Mountain) grew up to become the first openly gay woman to complete the Seven Summits (the tallest peaks on each continent). Her story is being adapted for a film starring Selena Gomez. Avid climber Lauren DeLaunay Miller (Valley of Giants: Stories from Women at the Heart of Yosemite Climbing), noticing a lack of female representation in climbing literature, reached into the past to tell the stories of her foremothers. With the hilarious How to Suffer Outside, Diana Helmuth, a champion of inclusive hiking, removes barriers for beginners. Our fearless guide for this expedition into the wild is Rue Mapp, CEO of Outdoor Afro and author of the forthcoming Nature Swagger. This far-reaching group of gutsy women will lift us up with their grit, courage, and vision of wild spaces that are open to all.

The bookstore partner for this session is Eastwind Books of Berkeley! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Brower Center - Goldman Theater

Book signing information: East Wind Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at in the park, 1:45 PM

  • 2022
  • Outdoor (Free)
  • Race/Identity
  • Women/Gender

Shine Bright: Black Women in Pop Music

Danyel Smith, interviewed by Mariecar Mendoza

Sunday, May 8

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

From formerly enslaved poet Phyllis Wheatley to Mahalia Jackson to Tina Turner, brilliant Black women have been instrumental—indeed, foundational—in creating one of America’s most significant cultural contributions: its pop music. One of Oprah Daily’s most anticipated books of 2022, former Billboard editor Danyel Smith’s Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop is a long-overdue, passionate paeon to the songbird geniuses that have too often been hidden in plain sight. Said Publishers Weekly, “this lyrical and whip-smart work is cause for celebration.” In this conversation between Smith and Mariecar Mendoza, Senior Arts & Entertainment Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, we’ll celebrate a musical lineage as life-affirming as it is awe-inspiring. Don’t be surprised if you feel like breaking into song.

The bookstore partner for this session is Books Inc.! Buy the books online on their website, at Bookshop.org, or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

San Francisco Chronicle Stage in the Park

Book signing information: Books Inc. Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at in the park immediately after event

  • 2022
  • Literary
  • Race/Identity
  • Women/Gender

The Ruptures of Leaving: Women Writers on Migration

Gabriela Garcia, Masha Rumer, Shugri Said Salh, moderated by Susie Meserve

Sunday, May 8

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

How do immigrant mothers navigate the world, and what do they leave their daughters when they go? Join City of Berkeley Civic Arts Program grantee Susie Meserve in conversation with three Northern California writers whose work focuses on matrilineal lineages across countries and time periods: Gabriela Garcia, author of the New York Times bestselling novel Of Women and Salt; award-winning journalist Masha Rumer, author of Parenting with an Accent: How Immigrants Honor Their Heritage, Navigate Setbacks, and Chart New Paths for their Children; and Shugri Said Salh, author of the memoir The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert. We’ll discuss the ruptures caused by migration, the cultural threads that remain, and the power of storytelling to connect grandmothers to mothers to daughters even when they no longer share a nationality.

The bookstore partner for this session is Marcus Books! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

The Marsh Berkeley - Cabaret

Book signing information: Marcus Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at in the park, 2:15 PM

  • 2022
  • Environment/Nature
  • Health, Psychology & Spirituality
  • Women/Gender

Mother, Daughter, Collaborators (Plus the Book That Changed the World of Food): The Lappés

Anna Lappé, Frances Moore Lappé, moderated by Davia Nelson

Sunday, May 8

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Extraordinary mothers, extraordinary daughters: together, they can change the world. Frances and Anna Lappé prove that, when it comes to visionary thought and action, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Frances “changed how we eat” ( The New York Times) with her first book, Diet for a Small Planet, which has sold over three million copies and, in 2021, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special edition. She went on to publish 20 more books, and is a leading advocate for “living democracy”—which she describes as not only a government accountable to its citizens, but a way of living aligned with the deep human need for connection, meaning, and autonomy. Frances’ daughter, Anna Lappé, is also a bestselling author ( Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It), as well as an educator and expert on food systems. The New York Times proclaimed her a “Food Fighter,” and she has received a James Beard Leadership Award. Mother and daughter co-founded the Small Planet Institute and the Small Planet Fund, which spread an empowering understanding of living democracy via writing, social media, public speaking, and grantmaking; and in 2012 Anna founded Real Food Media, which furthers the food-justice movement through storytelling and critical analysis. This is an exciting chance to see one of today’s most successful and influential mom-daughter duos discuss how parents and children can be there for each other, boost each other’s dreams, and work together for a better world.

The bookstore partner for this session is Green Apple Books! Buy the books online at Bookshop.org or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Freight & Salvage

Book signing information: Green Apple Books in Freight & Salvage lobby immediately after event

In partnership with Bioneers

  • 2022
  • Women/Gender

Collective Book Studio Presents: Mother’s Day

Raquel Kelley, Meredith Rose Essalat, Kaitlin Soulé, Josephine Wai Lin, moderated by Cindy DiTiberio

Sunday, May 8

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM

Call up your mom, your grandma, your daughters, and your friends, and make plans to meet up for this heartfelt and funny session about the joys and absurdities of modern motherhood. In Where’d I Go?, Raquel Kelley has created a lift-the-flap book—not for babies but for their tired moms.Moms continue needing advice even after their children are babies; in A Little Less of a Hot Mess, family therapist Kaitlin Soulé urges moms to embrace their imperfections at every stage. And Meredith Essalet distills the tips she’s gathered from years as an educator and school administrator in The Overly Honest Teacher. All three authors are moms, too; join them for some honest, open, and sometimes hilarious real talk about what it’s like to be a mom today, moderated by Cindy DiTiberio, publisher of Literary Mama.

The bookstore partner for this session is Pegasus Books! Buy the books online on their website, on Bookshop.org, or purchase them in person at the Festival. More information here.

Residence Inn Berkeley - Ballroom 2

Book signing information: Pegasus Books Tent at the Bookstore Blv (corner of Allston & Milvia in the Outdoor Fair) at in the park, 3:45 PM

Sponsored by Collective Book Studio

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