Meet the Moderator – Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist

Will you be attending the Tucson Festival of Books on March 4 and 5? We hope so! A number of PCPL staff will be moderating panels with award-winning authors. Let's meet them!

Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist will moderate "A Family Affair."
Student Union Santa Rita
Sunday, March 5 from 10 to 11 am

Panelists: Beverly Jenkins, Priscilla Oliveras, Erica Ridley

Tell us a bit about yourself and which panel you are moderating.

I am a library associate at the Richard Elías-Mission Library, where I work primarily in services for tweens and young adults, but I love working with all our patrons and staff. The panel I am moderating is called “A Family Affair,” and focuses on the big, messy, and wonderful families in romance. I am so excited!

Share a bit about your history with the Tucson Festival of Books, and how it aligns with the work you do within the Tucson community.

I have attended the Tucson Festival of Books since the beginning, but almost always in my role as Mom to my three kids, spending most of our time in the (awesome) children’s and teens areas. Since working at the Pima County Public Library, I’ve been able to connect with other library workers and community members who love the romance genre as much as I do, and I am thrilled and honored to be serving as a moderator for the first time to chat about romance with some authors I simply adore. Long before I was a library worker, I admired how wide-reaching and diverse PCPL’s romance collection is, and the incredible line-up of authors at the festival reflects that so well. I read romance because it makes me happy, and because people of all backgrounds and identities deserve happily-ever-afters, and I can’t wait to share my enthusiasm during the Tucson Festival of Books.

Give a short synopsis of the book you are highlighting (alternatively, discuss the central themes of the panel as a whole).

Our panel, A Family Affair, will focus on some of the wild and wonderful families in recent books by the panel’s authors, including: a family of con artists with a mission to find a stolen copy of the Declaration of Independence (To Catch a Raven, Beverly Jenkins), a loyal and devoted group of siblings dedicated to covert missions to right society’s wrongs (Nobody’s Princess, Erica Ridley), and an all-female mariachi band of sisters ready to take the world by storm (Kiss Me, Catalina, by Priscilla Oliveras). All three books focus on themes of found family, the importance of finding people who see and love us for who we are, and the need to sometimes bend or break the rules for the people we love and the ideals we believe in.

Give a short synopsis of the book you are highlighting (alternatively, discuss the central themes of the panel as a whole).

My reading was full of unique experiences, but one comes to mind first. In her Wild Wynchester series, Erica Ridley has created a diverse group of siblings (in regard to race, but also sexual and gender identity, neuro-diversity, and physical abilities) not often seen in historical romance set in England (think Bridgerton times!). The Wynchesters are a dynamic and immensely talented group of adults who were all adopted into one glorious and quirky family as children, and what’s so special about these books is that the siblings accept one another without question. They are simply seen and loved for who they are. They find power together in that acceptance and extend that love to others. And while this book is set in the past, it made me think about the future I see at work in my children’s lives, where the unique qualities and identities held by themselves and their friends aren’t a topic for angst or debate (as they might have been “back in my day”), they simply are, and each person is known and celebrated and supported.

Describe something that felt familiar about one of the texts - who or what can you relate to?

I was so thrilled to find that Priscilla Oliveras’s books focus on mariachi music and culture! We have such a thriving mariachi culture here in Tucson that I felt immediately connected to musical tradition that serves as a background to her work, and it made me recall working on a PCPL project to share the joy of mariachi virtually through our Global Arts Showcase. I think folks in southern Arizona will connect deeply with Oliveras’s work, and I hope she has time to stay a little and see the amazing mariachi groups we have here in town!

Share a favorite quote from one of the books.

My favorite quote was in Beverly Jenkins’ To Catch a Raven, and sorry, but it is not safe to share at work!!!

To Catch A Raven

Nobody's Princess

The Duke Heist

Kiss Me, Catalina