On the Border
Since the inception of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1981, winners have included such prominent names as T.C. Boyle, Don DeLillo, Annie Proulx, E.L. Doctorow (twice), and Philip Roth (three times). In 2013 Benjamin Alire Sáenz, an El Paso poet and novelist, became the first Texan and first Latino to win the award. Sáenz’s award-winning short story collection, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, focuses on growing up on the Texas-Mexico border. On Wednesday at the University of Texas at Dallas, Sáenz will read a selection of poems from “Meditations on Living in the Desert,” along with a piece from the short story collection titled “The Rule Maker,” which is about a boy from Juárez who one day meets his estranged father, a drug dealer living in El Paso. “I’m going to talk about how the border looms large in my imagination and how living [there] has utterly changed me and the way I look at the world and the country I live in,” Sáenz said in an email.
The University of Texas at Dallas, April 9, 7:30 p.m., utdallas.edu
A Summit Meeting
Fifty years ago this July, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ultimately forbidding discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Today, a common refrain is that we have come a long way but still have a long way to go. The power brokers convening at the three-day Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library will attempt to speed up the process. The main draw might seem to be the current as well as three former presidents—Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter—but the rest of the lineup could help push the conversation beyond politics. Those speakers include Mavis Staples, the Grammy-winning singer and activist; Jim Brown, the NFL Hall of Fame running back; and Tina Brown, the chief executive of Tina Brown Live Media. They intend to address topics like music as a catalyst for change, sports as a level playing field, and the glass ceiling that exists for women. Tickets are no longer available, but there will be a live stream on the library’s website.
LBJ Presidential Library, April 8-10, civilrightssummit.org
Musicians for Farmers
A mutual appreciation has long existed between farmers and musicians. Farmers rely on musicians to improve morale among workers after a long day in the field, and musicians respect farmers because of their work ethic and blue-collar values. Just as Farm Aid has raised money for farmers nationwide, Farmgrass Fest, a day of bluegrass music and food on the Simmons Family Ranch in Niederwald, looks to bring in money for local farmers. Talia Bryce, singer and guitarist for the Lost Pines, the Austin roots band, came up with the idea after spending time on the Simmons’s ranch after moving to Texas, in 2006, from Manhattan. Four other bands will join Bryce’s, and included in the fare will be Thai dishes prepared by Maew Simmons, a co-owner of the farm.
Simmons Family Farms, April 6, 2 p.m., farmgrassfest.com
The Arts Converge
Using Austin’s Fusebox Festival as a model, Karen Farber, the executive director of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston, has produced the inaugural CounterCurrent Festival, a free, five-day, multi-venue event featuring radical interdisciplinary projects from local, national, and international artists. The themes of language, transportation, and the environment will be explored through the prism of eleven collaborative, installation, and experiential pieces incorporating theater, dance, music, visual arts, film, and literature.
Various locations, April 9-13, countercurrentfestival.org
Given that there are no Texas basketball teams left in the NCAA Tournament to worry about, sit back and enjoy the Final Four and National Championship games being played Saturday and Monday at AT & T Stadium. Also, consider taking in a free Bruce Springsteen March Madness concert on Sunday at Reunion Park.
AT & T Stadium, April 5 and 7, ncaa.com/march-madness
Like Spain, For Less
You could spend thousands of dollars and many hours of travel time seeking out two of Spain’s most adrenaline-filled events, the running of the bulls in Pamplona and La Tomatina in Buñol, or for less than $150 you can do both in the same weekend in Ennis, near Dallas, at the Great Bull Run and Tomato Royale.
Texas Motorplex, April 5, 11 a.m., thegreatbullrun.com