Alamo Heights Junior School teacher Stephen Briseño and his family proudly identify as “book nerds.” Year after year the avid readers excitedly make plans for the San Antonio Book Festival.
This year, Briseño’s wife and 8-year-old daughter will be in the audience, and he will be on the other side of the table.
As the author of a new children’s book, Briseño will join 100 other authors from around the United States for the 10th annual book festival. After a 2020 cancellation and an all-online 2021 version, the 2022 festival returns to its downtown footprint on Saturday, with a full day of programming from 9 am to 5 pm
faith and kindness
Briseño will make his first San Antonio Book Festival author appearance at 2 pm in the HEB Children’s Gazebo in the McNutt Garden on the Southwest School of Art campus to read from The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness from the Border.
“To say that I’m thrilled would be putting it lightly,” Briseño said. “I’m beyond excited and honored, and humbled to be a part of it.”
The Notebook Keeper tells the story of young Noemi and her Mama, who left their home in Mexico to seek a new life in the US When they reach the border, Noemi says, “we are not greeted with kindness.” They are told by a border guard to “Go find the Notebook Keeper … She will tell you when you can cross.”
The story arises out of a situation at the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana during the Trump administration, Briseño said. Though no one seems sure how the system originated, a person on the Mexican side of the border kept a ledger listing names of asylum seekers, who would receive a number and have to wait indefinitely for their names to be called.
After being inspired by a former student and his daughter to create his own picture book, Briseño said he’d found his subject through the “notebook keeper” and the story of a young girl’s migrant experience. In his book by him, Noemi and Mama are eventually met with an act of life-transforming kindness that bears out Mama’s words from her to her young daughter from her, “Have faith, mi vida.”
much to see
Once Briseño is finished with his author duties, he’ll join the other festival attendees strolling through the Central Library and Southwest School of Art campus to take in the many live readings and discussions, and online events in the new SABF Virtual Tent on Augusta Street .
He’s looking forward to seeing children’s book author Mac Barnett in particular, a New York Times best-selling author whose picture books are staples of the Briseño library — this time as a colleague.
In addition to national authors such as Barnett, Pulitzer Prize-winner Margo Jefferson, thriller writer David Baldacci, and recording artist/actor/author Janelle Monáe, the 10th version of the San Antonio Book Festival offers a plenitude of local authors.
Alongside Briseño, other San Antonio and Texas authors featured in the 2022 festival include David Bowles, Wondra Chang, Adriana Garcia, Xavier Garza, Stephen Harrigan, Marcia Mickelson, Harriett Romo, Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, William Jack Sibley, Jonny Garza Villa, and many others.
The full lineup of authors is available here, with brief biographies and information on their books.
A big ol’ thank you
SABF Executive Director Lilly Gonzalez said the festival really began Thursday evening, with a private celebration honoring San Antonio educators, Briseño included.
“It’s just a big old thank you party,” Gonzalez said, for the hard work teachers have put in over the past two years to adapt to constant changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s all about just letting them know that we see them, we recognize what they’ve been through, we want to thank them for being our allies and championing books for kids, and helping get kids excited about reading.”
The commitment to local school districts has also deepened in the festival’s 10th year, she said. Author visits to schools have been a regular part of the festival’s mission, but this year visits were recorded for distribution throughout San Antonio Independent School District and Edgewood Independent School District schools.
Reaching local students and presenting San Antonio authors are ways to deepen the festival’s commitment to its home city, she said.
When she and fellow organizers considered how best to celebrate the first decade of the annual festival, she said they were unanimous in “wanting it to very much reflect San Antonio, and being very celebratory about the local talent that we have right here in our city .”
More information on participating authors and events, and a downloadable map of the festival grounds, are available on the SABF website. Attendance is free.