San Francisco Events

POSTPONED: Brad Balukjian - The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball's Afterlife (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Sunday, April 5, 2020 - 3:00pm

Please note: This event has been postponed due to concerns for the health and well-being of our community. For updates on this event and for additional event information, please subscribe to our e-newsletter.

Is there life after baseball? Starting from this simple question, The Wax Pack ends up with something much bigger and unexpected—a meditation on the loss of innocence and the gift of impermanence, for both Brad Balukjian and the former ballplayers he tracked down. To get a truly random sample of players, Balukjian followed this wildly absurd but fun-as-hell premise: he took a single pack of baseball cards from 1986 (the first year he collected cards), opened it, chewed the nearly thirty-year-old gum inside, gagged, and then embarked on a quest to find all the players in the pack. Absurd, maybe, but true. He took this trip solo in the summer of 2015, spanning 11,341 miles through thirty states in forty-eight days.

Balukjian actively engaged with his subjects—taking a hitting lesson from Rance Mulliniks, watching kung fu movies with Garry Templeton, and going to the zoo with Don Carman. In the process of finding all the players but one, he discovered an astonishing range of experiences and untold stories in their post-baseball lives, and he realized that we all have more in common with ballplayers than we think. While crisscrossing the country, Balukjian retraced his own past, reconnecting with lost loves and coming to terms with his lifelong battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Alternately elegiac and uplifting, The Wax Pack is part baseball nostalgia, part road trip travelogue, and all heart, a reminder that greatness is not found in the stats on the backs of baseball cards but in the personal stories of the men on the front of them.

Brad Balukjian is director of the Natural History and Sustainability Program and teaches biology at Merritt College in Oakland, California. He is also a freelance writer and has published articles in Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Slate, Discover, Smithsonian, Natural History, NOVA Next, and Islands.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

Marian Lindberg - Scandal on Plum Island (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 - 6:00pm

The carefree parties on Plum Island drew the ire of Maj. Benjamin Koehler, yet he would be the man later arrested and accused of “immoral conduct” at the end of 1913. Koehler, a West Point alumnus and Philippine War veteran, had been tasked with bringing discipline to the 700 men living at Fort Terry, a sprawling garrison on a beautiful island off New York’s coast. He lived on officers row with his sister, an educated and independent woman who, like her brother, was unmarried. Little did the devoted siblings know that Fort Terry would soon become the stuff of front-page headlines, with Ben Koehler at the center of them—and not for his patriotic efforts. The claims that Fort Terry’s commander had engaged in homoerotic behavior shocked the Army and Koehler’s many supporters, but the accusers were smart, triggering one of the first high-profile instances of federal legal process against an alleged homosexual.

Deeply researched, involving historical figures as contrasting as Theodore Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony, Scandal on Plum Island traces Koehler’s career from respected officer to vilified outcast and turns up provocative information about his defense. Moving from America’s heartland to New York City, the Philippines, San Francisco, the east end of Long Island, and government offices in Washington, D.C., his story is a warning about the high cost to individuals and society when people and governments police the sexual orientation of others who seem different. Involving a toxic mixture of egos, malice, and changing standards of masculinity [over a century ago], Koehler’s experience speaks directly to modern discussions of gender norms, damaging stereotypes, and the fundamental misunderstandings that divide our country.

A lawyer and award-winning journalist, Marian Lindberg spent several years researching the story of injustice told in Scandal on Plum Island while also working to open New York’s Plum Island to the public after the United States closes its classified laboratory located there. Lindberg’s previous book told of her search for the truth underlying a family story of murder in the Amazon (The End of the Rainy Season: Discovering My Family’s Hidden Past in Brazil.) She is a graduate of Vassar College and Columbia Law School and currently works for The Nature Conservancy.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

Stephen Haff - Kid Quixotes (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - 6:00pm

Through Kid Quixotes, Stephen Haff details an extraordinary program built through the love of teaching: Still Waters in a Storm. What started as a meeting in the upstairs of a local pizza shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn, from the urge to help children learn, soon saw the pizza shop bursting at the seams with more eager minds than it could hold.

Still Waters in a Storm, an after-school program praised for their guidance—and for being a space where undocumented immigrant parents knew their children, aged 5 to 17, would be safe after school in a complicated neighborhood, away from their home lives, where many of them dealt with the very real life struggles of immigration issues—soon grew into more. With Haff’s previous theatre experience, he selected Don Quixote as the first novel they would translate from most of the children’s first language of Spanish, which evolved into writing and performing their own interpretational songs based on the novel’s tale.

Through Haff’s eyes, he explores his own complex story of how he came to start Still Waters in a Storm, the previous high schoolers he taught before that inspired the program, and the children’s incredible journey that turned into performing their translated Don Quixote in front of dozens of crowds, across New York City and beyond. With Kid Quixotes, the empowering, heartfelt story of the children in the Still Waters in a Storm program are brought to light.

Stephen Haff is the founder of Still Waters in a Storm, a one-room school serving Spanish-speaking immigrant children in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Previously, he taught English at a public school in Bushwick for nearly a decade. He earned his MFA in Theater Studies at Yale, and has made a living directing plays and writing essays for the Village Voice and other publications. Stephen lives in Queens with his wife, children’s book author Tina Schneider, and their three children.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

POSTPONED: Souvankham Thammavongsa - How to Pronounce Knife (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 - 6:00pm

Please note: This event has been postponed due to concerns for the health and well-being of our community. For updates on this event and for additional event information, please subscribe to our e-newsletter.

In the title story of Souvankham Thammavongsa's debut collection, a young girl brings a book home from school and asks her father to help her pronounce a tricky word, a simple exchange with unforgettable consequences. Thammavongsa is a master at homing in on moments like this — moments of exposure, dislocation, and messy feeling that push us right up against the limits of language.

The stories that make up How to Pronounce Knife focus on characters struggling to find their bearings in unfamiliar territory, or shuttling between idioms, cultures, and values. A failed boxer discovers what it truly means to be a champion when he starts painting nails at his sister's salon. A young woman tries to discern the invisible but immutable social hierarchies at a chicken processing plant. A mother coaches her daughter in the challenging art of worm harvesting.

In a taut, visceral prose style that establishes her as one of the most striking and assured voices of her generation, Thammavongsa interrogates what it means to make a living, to work, and to create meaning.

Souvankham Thammavongsa was born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand and was raised and educated in Toronto. She is the award-winning author of four books of poetry and her fiction has appeared in Harper's, Granta, the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Best American Non-Required Reading 2018, and the O. Henry Prize Stories 2019. Photo credit Jennifer Rowsom.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

POSTPONED: Marisa Meltzer - This Is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World (and Me) (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 - 6:00pm

Please note: This event has been postponed due to concerns for the health and well-being of our community. For updates on this event and for additional event information, please subscribe to our e-newsletter.

In conversation with Windy Chien

Marisa Meltzer began her first diet at the age of five. Growing up an indoors-loving child in Northern California, she learned from an early age that weight was the one part of her life she could neither change nor even really understand.

Fast forward nearly four decades. Marisa, a contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Times, comes across an obituary for Jean Nidetch, the Queens, New York housewife who founded Weight Watchers in 1963. Weaving Jean's incredible story as weight loss maven and pathbreaking entrepreneur with her own journey through Weight Watchers, Marisa chronicles the deep parallels, and enduring frustrations, in each woman's decades-long efforts to lose weight and keep it off. The result is funny, unexpected, and unforgettable; This Is Big is a testament to how transformation goes far beyond a number on the scale.

Marisa Meltzer is a journalist based in New York who has contributed to the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York, The Guardian, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. She was born in Northern California and is the author of two previous books, How Sassy Changed My Life and Girl Power. Photo credit Sarah Schatz.

Artist Windy Chien is best known for her 2016 work, The Year of Knots, in which she learned a new knot every day for a year. Her work ranges in size from a knot that can fit in the palm of a child's hand to room-sized installations that are sought after by private collectors. Following long careers at Apple and as owner of legendary music shop Aquarius Records, she launched her studio in 2015. Select clients include IBM, the National Geographic Society, and the Kering Group, and her work has been covered by Wired, The New York Times, and Martha Stewart. Windy’s book about her work was published by Abrams in 2019.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

A.H. Kim - A Good Family (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 - 6:00pm

Beth is the darling of God Halsa, a pharmaceutical giant, and she's got the outrageous salary and lifestyle to prove it. Until she lands in white-collar women's prison, thanks to a high-profile whistleblower suit.

Sam, Beth's husband, used to be the town's most eligible bachelor, and he's never had to do anything for himself. Until his wife goes to jail, and he's left to raise two daughters on his own.

Lise, the au pair, is the whistleblower. But is she? Everyone knows she's not clever enough to have done it alone.

Hannah, Sam's sister, is devoted to her family. There's nothing she wouldn't do for them.

Eva, Beth's sister, is the smart one. (Read: not the pretty one.) Her life seems perfect on the surface, but sibling rivalry runs deep.

Martin, Beth's brother, is the firstborn, the former golden boy turned inside-the Beltway businessman. But what is he hiding?

Someone knows something. Someone betrayed Beth. This is the story of the Min-Lindstroms. This is the story of the all-American family as it implodes under the weight of secrets, lies and the unchecked desire for wealth and power.

A.H. Kim is an immigrant, graduate of Harvard College and Berkeley Law, lawyer, and mother of two sons. She lives in San Francisco with her husband. A Good Family is her first novel.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

Tanya Selvaratnam - Assume Nothing: A Memoir of Intimate Violence (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - 6:00pm

When Tanya met Eric, they fell quickly and effortlessly in love, fueling each other’s growing political ambitions. But their power dynamic soon took a dark turn, as he criticized Tanya and began to try to control her, even telling her that he would have to kill her if they broke up. Sex turned frighteningly violent. At a friend’s urging, she opened up to a domestic violence expert, who confirmed what Tanya, on some level, already knew: she was in an abusive relationship. She considered avenues for protection—an ethics complaint, a civil claim, going to the police. But a situation that would be dire for most women was even more dangerous for Tanya because her abuser was the attorney general of New York—the top law enforcement officer in the state. She feared he would be tipped off and that he would crush her.

Tanya’s story is harrowing, but not as rare as you might think. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly twenty people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. In Assume Nothing, Tanya uses her abuse at the hands of former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to expose the prevalence of intimate partner violence—and offers steps to recognize, expose, and end it.

Tanya Selvaratnam is the author of The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Vogue, CNN, Glamour, and McSweeney’s. She is an Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning filmmaker, who has produced for Aubin Pictures, Glamour Women of the Year, Planned Parenthood, and the Vision & Justice Project.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

Zeyn Joukhadar - The Thirty Names of Night (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 6:00pm

Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.

One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.

As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.

Featuring Zeyn Joukhadar’s signature “magical and heart-wrenching” (The Christian Science Monitor) storytelling, The Thirty Names of Night is a timely exploration of how we all search for and ultimately embrace who we are.

Zeyn Joukhadar is the author of The Map of Salt and Stars. He is a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) and of American Mensa. Joukhadar’s writing has appeared in Salon, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. The Map of Salt and Stars was a 2018 Middle East Book Award winner in Youth Literature and a 2018 Goodreads Choice Award Finalist in Historical Fiction and was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. He has been an artist in residence at the Montalvo Arts Center, the Fes Medina Project, Beit al-Atlas, and the Arab American National Museum.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

POSTPONED: Jillian Medoff - Pretty Bitches (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Monday, April 20, 2020 - 6:00pm

Please note: This event has been postponed due to concerns for the health and well-being of our community. For updates on this event and for additional event information, please subscribe to our e-newsletter.

Isn’t it good to be lucky? Professional? Effortless? We all know “bitch” is an insult, but when leading women writers were asked about words that have been used against them, they didn’t choose to write about “bitch,” “slut,” or “cunt.” They chose words like “nurturing,” “sweet,”“ambitious,” “mature,” “too.”

Their responses are collected in Pretty Bitches: On Being Called Crazy, Angry, Bossy, Frumpy, Feisty, and All the Other Words that Are Used to Undermine Women, edited by Lizzie Skurnick. Each essay offers an intimate, often counter-intuitive look at the influence of a specific word on a woman’s life or sense of self. Together, they are a powerful reminder of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that language can confine us—or set us free.

Katha Pollitt explains why “feisty” is a slight disguised as a compliment; Monique Truong takes aim at “sweet.” Jennifer Weiner grapples with “fat” and Meg Wolitzer with “funny.” Laura Lippman wonders why her impressive creative output makes her “disciplined” rather than, say, “ingenious.” Afua Hirsch takes on the troubling legacy and assumptions of “professional.” Amy C. Choi rails against the false promise of “effortless.” Glynnis McNichol explores how “lucky” subtly suggests that we’ve gotten more than we deserve. But as Rebecca Traister notes in her introduction, perhaps most stunning is the simple word “too” as revealed to us by Adaora Udoji. Udoji writes about a schoolyard encounter: “I didn’t yet know how easily that word could be weaponized against me as a woman, used against any woman, pulled from the ever-ready ‘stay in your place’ toolbox.”

The writers in this powerful collection refuse to stay in their places and they certainly refuse to be silenced. As Traister writes: “When the tools of expression are turned against you—from the extraordinary cunts to the ordinary toos, the intimate fucks to the bruising bitches, the basic nice to the glorious ambitious—what becomes clear is that the thing they want is for us to stop opening our mouths at all.” Pretty Bitches is an assurance that women writers—women everywhere—will do no such thing. It’s also a thought-provoking exploration of language that invites us to reconsider the ways we describe each other and, perhaps, ourselves.

Jillian Medoff is the acclaimed author of four novels. Her most recent, This Could Hurt, landed on many Best of/Must Read lists, including Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, NY Post, Real Simple, O Magazine, and People, among others. She also wrote the national bestseller I Couldn't Love You More, Good Girls Gone Bad, and Hunger Point, which was made into an original cable movie starring Christina Hendricks and Barbara Hershey. A former fellow at MacDowell, Blue Mountain Center, VCCA and Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain, Jillian has an MFA from NYU. In addition to writing novels, Jillian has a long career in corporate consulting. She’s worked for a range of employers, including Deloitte and Aon. Now, as a senior consultant with Segal Benz, she advises clients on communication strategies for all aspects of the employee experience.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

POSTPONED: Casey Schwartz - Attention: A Love Story (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 6:00pm

Please note: This event has been postponed due to concerns for the health and well-being of our community. For updates on this event and for additional event information, please subscribe to our e-newsletter.

Combining expert storytelling with genuine self-scrutiny, Casey Schwartz details the decade she spend taking Adderall to help her pay attention (or so she thought) and then considers the role of attention in defining our lives as it has been understood by thinkers such as William James, David Foster Wallace, and Simone Weil. From our craving for distraction to our craving for a cure, from Silicon Valley consultants and psychedelic researchers to the findings of trauma expert Dr. Gabor Maté, Schwartz takes us on an eye-opening tour of the modern landscape of attention.
Blending memoir, biography, and original reporting, Schwartz examines her attempts to preserve her authentic life and decide what is most important in it. Attention: A Love Story will resonate with readers who want to determine their own minds, away from the siren call of their screens.

Casey Schwartz is the author of Attention: A Love Story and In the Mind Fields: Exploring the New Science of Neuropsychoanalysis. She contributes regularly to The New York Times and lives in New York City.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111


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