The power of the written word — on paper, online or both — to reflect and connect communities links this month’s lineup of luminaries. Whether telling stories or publishing them, they’ve found legions of receptive readers
The award-winning author of fiction for young readers is celebrating a year of seeing her work — and others’ — in a new way. This month, Perkins wraps up a yearlong Zoom book club based on her first work for adults, the nonfiction Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children’s Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls. September brings her fourth picture book (and 16th title), The Story of Us, illustrated by Kevin and Kristen Howdeshell; her third, Bare Tree and Little Wind, illustrated by Khoa Le, came out in February. A few months before, the Kolkata, India–born author had the “marvelous” experience of seeing the North American premiere of a Bangladeshi film production of Rickshaw Girl, her acclaimed 2007 young adult novel, at the Mill Valley Film Festival. “I am drawn to the mystery of creating space for another creative and watching in wonder as they add their vision and artistry to the story,” says Perkins, who lives in the East Bay with husband and fellow Stanford alum Rob Perkins, a retired Presbyterian minister.
Only 26 when he founded Embarcadero Media — publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly, the Almanac (based in Menlo Park) and Pleasanton Weekly newspapers, plus eight news and entertainment websites — Johnson says he’ll achieve his goal of retiring as CEO before turning 70 next May. Successor Adam Dawes, a fellow Palo Alto native who led Google News Initiative projects, starts in September, although “obviously I’ll continue to help him and show him where the bodies are buried,” Johnson quips. The father of two adult children with wife Terri Lobdell, a retired attorney, Johnson will also remain chair of the company’s board of directors and president of its foundation, which has distributed $8 million in local grants. “At a time when communities are struggling to have sustainable sources and independent voices of local news, we’ve somehow succeeded at overcoming all the challenges, and are doing what we can within our resources to serve our communities,” he notes. “It sounds kind of Pollyannaish, but it’s the legacy I feel I’m leaving behind.”
The prisoner rights activist and abolitionist says she never planned a career in journalism, but becoming editor of the Bay View (full name: San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper) in 2021 has helped her further the mission of longtime publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff and former editor Mary Ratcliff “to make sure that we do something about the prisoners,” Brown says. “The school-to-prison pipeline, the homelessness-to- prison pipeline are all issues in our community,” she adds, noting that the Bay View has long run free contributions by prisoners, “who are part of the dialogue.” A recently awarded $85,000 state grant for ethnic media outlets means the newspaper can now pay journalists “to go out and get these stories,” Brown says. “This is a movement newspaper, and we’re not going to budge from speaking unapologetically about what is taking place in our society.”
The home cook, baker and blogger behind eatchofood.com recently nabbed two James Beard Media Awards for her first cookbook, Mooncakes & Milk Bread: Sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries, which won the Emerging Voice and Baking and Desserts categories. Born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, where her grandparents ran several Chinese restaurants after immigrating from Hong Kong, Cho became an architect and moved to San Francisco’s Inner Richmond in 2013. Residing in such a diverse neighborhood and shopping its Asian markets “allowed me to feel comfortable living both sides of how I was raised,” she told Oakland’s Cut Fruit Collective last fall. Cho started her blog five years ago and eventually left architecture behind — but not architects — to focus full-time on food. Now living in the East Bay’s Richmond, Cho married Reuben Alt of Sutro Architects in June. “One of our earlier dates was actually driving up to Tomales Bay and buying oysters to enjoy on the beach,” she shared in a recent blog post. (The SF Public Library is presenting an event with Cho at its 9th Avenue location on August 20.)
Using a suitably high-tech metaphor, the veteran of national TV journalism calls her latest Silicon Valley–themed book from History Press, The Valley of Heart’s Delight: True Tales from Around the Bay, “an affectionate download from the heart.” The Los Altos native first began writing about the Valley for the Los Altos Town Crier after returning home to help care for her parents in 2009. Her first book, California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley, appeared in 2013, followed by profiles of the likes of Alta California healer and rancher Juana Briones, cannery pioneer Thomas Foon Chew and silent film star Charlie Chaplin in Historic Bay Area Visionaries in 2018. Chapman’s new anthology, published in late July, includes thoughts on reluctantly selling her parents’ home of 50 years, plus “different stories I’ve uncovered that I love to tell, from famous people to just the average guy from this region,” she says. (An author event is scheduled for Books Inc.’s Mountain View store on August 11.) Among the benefits of recently relocating to “more bohemian” El Granada on the coast: “I’m going to have a whole new area to explore.”