Sept. 28 2011 03:21 PM

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

Poets Austin Straus (left) and Wanda Coleman (right) and author Cris Mazza (center) will read from their latest works at this year’s book fair.

1. Opening minds 

Virginia Escalante, director of the San Diego City College international Book Fair, knows that San Diego isn’t known for its literary scene.

“Everybody’s into the Chargers and the air shows. We have stiff competition,” she says. “With Oktoberfest, people would rather drink beer than to read a book. Personally, I like to do both.”

But City College has done its part to boost the scene, putting on an annual book fair that attracts hundreds of attendees with readings and lectures from well-known writers like Chicano poet Luis Rodríguez and Le Thi Diem Thúy, the San Diego-raised Vietnamese author of the celebrated 2003 novel The Gangster We are All Looking For.

The goal is to champion diversity in literature. Both writers will be at this year’s edition, which goes down at City College campus (1313 Park Blvd., Downtown) from Monday, Oct. 3, through Saturday, Oct. 8. Other speakers include poet / visual artist Austin Straus, award-winning author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and El Cajon’s Benson Athiin Deng, a South Sudanese writer who documented his experiences as a young war refugee in the 2005 book They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The Story of Three Lost Boys From Sudan, co-written with his brother and cousin.

This year’s event also includes a panel featuring contributors to Wounded Border / Frontera Herida: Readings on the Tijuana / San Diego Region and Beyond, a new anthology published by City Works Press, City College’s nonprofit publishing arm.

To Escalante, it’s all part of an effort to expand readers’ horizons.

“Our society and the world is diverse. That’s the reality,” she says. “It’s not just wealthy, Caucasian people who populate our world, but a very diverse population—economically, culturally, politically, creatively. These voices deserve to be heard by everyone.”

2. Movie mania

Most film festivals don’t make it to 5, let alone 10, but the San Diego Film Festival kicks off a decade of independent films this week at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas. There are some high-profile entries, like the opening-night film, 50/50 (our own Anders Wright will moderate the Q&A afterward). Also on the bill is Ralph Fiennes directorial debut, Coriolanus; Like Crazy, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Anton Yelchin; and East Fifth Bliss, which stars Dexter’s Michael C. Hall. SDFF excels at documentaries, too, and its “Local Love” collection of shorts, all shot in San Diego or by San Diegans, improves every single year. And since SDFF throws some good parties, the full festival pass is worth considering. The fest runs from Wednesday, Sept. 28 to Sunday, Oct. 2. 

3. Backwards party 

If you spell the word “prom” backwards, it’s “morp.” If you party at a backwards prom, there’s no telling what that may look like. The folks at Circle Circle dot dot, a collaborative community theater group, are seeing what sort of tomfoolery can come from throwing a MORP from 7 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Sept. 30. Guests are encouraged to wear their most “un-promly” attire. Think a blood-spattered Carrie, Halloween goodness, Comic-Con nerdery and anything else that’s off-the-wall. Then dance the night away, enjoy beer and wine and maybe win a prize for your awesome costume. The event serves as a fundraiser for the theater’s next production. It happens at Space 4 Art (325 15th St. in East Village), and you have to be at least 21. $20.