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Cover | Karen Pearle

The Spirit of Unity (2008, mixed media mosaic). “I began this mosaic during the presidential election primary,” writes Oakland artist Karen Pearle. “It is a prayer for unity in our country—my yearning for an end of divisiveness and a coming together. The red and the blue theme symbolizes the red and blue states. The angel-like figure, who has no specific color or race, is the spirit that goes beyond differences. I use an ancient motif—the singular figure of a holy person as a unifying principle—a visual prayer in challenging times.” Pearle’s work explores color and form in the ancient, newly revived medium of mosaic. Upon seeing a contemporary mosaic several years ago, she says, “a bunch of nerve cells must have fired in my being”—and she hastened to study at the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland. Today, her innovative approach to the genre draws on her background as a painter (she holds a master’s degree in painting from Queens College in New York), as well as her passion for exploring three-dimensional materials such as stained glass, recycled glass, ceramics, mirrors, shells, and gems. Pearle is also a trained body worker in the practice of Chi Nei Tsang. For more info: or



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December 2009 Issue:
Table of Contents

Who says that no one reads anymore? On any given evening, bands of bibliophiles are shooting the literary breeze in living rooms, bookstores, libraries, and online around the East Bay. The draw is part social, part intellectual, and—let’s be honest here—often has a little something to do with thematic finger food. But caveat emptor: no matter how you choose to schmooze, there’s no such thing as a non-addictive book club. By JoAnne Tobias.  

Up Front | Latin Lover
Cuban-born, Oakland-based singer Bobi Céspedes just released a gorgeous album of traditional Cuban songs, but she’s probably best known for her work on various projects with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Also a Santería priestess, the multifaceted diva has been working her aural magic on Bay Area audiences for a good—no, make that an excellent—30 years. By Andrew Gilbert.  

East Bay Life |  It’s a Small World
Socially conscious investors are all about microlending these day, making small loans to help low-income entrepreneurs build their businesses and their communities. Contrary to popular belief, though, the beneficiaries don’t all live in Africa or Southeast Asia. Here in the East Bay, the San Jose–based Opportunity Fund banks on the success of hard workers who can’t get a break from conventional lenders, with gratifying results for all. By Maggie Fazeli Fard

The East Bay is just a short hop—a day trip—away from some of the world’s most scenic and interesting streets, neighborhoods, and small towns. Bay Tripping brings you the flavor of a nifty neighborhood—or sometimes just one cool street—by peeking into shops, restaurants, parks, bookstores, and more. This month, our Bay trip takes us toFairfax. Bay Tripping alternates monthly with Shop Talk. By Anna Mindess

The Kilduff File |  Ethan Watters
Ethan Watters, cofounder of the renowned San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, made a big splash with his 2003 tome, Urban Tribes: Are Friends the New Family? This month, the hipster-turned-family-man muses on the ever-blurrier distinction between our loved ones and our merely liked-a-lot ones—and why he, personally, is getting the heck out of town for the holidays.  By Paul Kilduff

Holiday Gift Guide
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Editor’s Note:
a look at this month’s issue and commentary on life in the East Bay

Letters: reader responses to The Monthly’s stories
Be East Bay: an introduction to interesting people, places and events in your community

Critics Choice: highlights of this month’s happenings in art, theater, film, dance and music

Boutique Bazaar: distinctive small shops in the East Bay

Food for Thought: local caterers and food and wine purveyors

Dining Guide: a selection of East Bay restaurants

Marketplace Home: a catalog of services for your home and garden

Marketplace Services: a catalog of personal and creative services

Kartoon Korner: editorial cartoons to entertain and agitate

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