The Bookshelf, The Parlor, The Young Texas Reader, and the Monthly

The Texas Bookshelf is different from the The Texas Parlor, . The Texas Parlor carries "general" bookish information and non-book information and even different Texana news and notes of use to the bibliographically challenged and other nosey folks intersted in historical, literary, and cultural observations. Will's Texana Monthly may carry material from either blog, but extends itself beyond those, especially for longer compilations or treatments. The Monthly, the Bookshelf and the Parlor are all companions. So, is the Young Texas Reader which specialized on books and such things for the youngest to the teenagers.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed - Orozco

The Feminist Review comments on Cynthia Orozco's new volume: 
The review begins:  "So often, when studying the history of civil rights in the United States in school, the curriculum concentrates on the struggles faced by African Americans and white women. The plights of other minority groups though, such as Asian Americans or Hispanic Americans, are often omitted from the textbooks. In those rare instances when these other groups are mentioned, their histories are condensed into a paragraph or side note. Cynthia E. Orozco attempts to shed some light on one of these ignored civil rights movements in her book, No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed. Her chronicle is a fascinating exploration at an overlooked chapter of American history." 
Now, everyone's allowed to read more about it at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Valleysong - Texas Rio Writers

A Book Hunter's Journal provides a review of VALLEYSONG: An Anthology Echoing the Rhythm and Cadence of Life in the Rio Grande Valley by the Texas Rio Writers.   The review begins with a colorful title:

Of Pollitos, Life, Swimming Holes & H.E.B.: The Echos of the Rio Grande Valley

     "The most important thing in any culture is stories, a history. Folklore that is passed from father to son across generations are essential. I don't know where I would be had it not been for the "camp fire" stories from my  grandfather, or those moralistic tales told by my grandmother. Valleysong is a collection of such stories, essays that remember the past of looking toward the future. 

And that is where my crux begins. How can both appreciate and frown upon a book?"  Read more of the review at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Derby Girl - Shauna Cross

Ambrosia Salad reviews Derby Girl (the movie's Juno) by Shauna Cross.  For YA and adult.  An extract from the review reads:
Bliss' "only friend is the beautiful Pash Amini who moved into town and shares the same indie rock spirit as Bliss. They spend most of their free time slaving away at the "Oink Joint," a gross barbecue restaurant that all the local hicks frequent. The only thing that gets them through the hell of small town Texas life is each other. That, and imagining finding the perfect rocker boyfriends whilest getting the hell out of Bodeen.// But everything seems to change when Bliss picks up a flier for Roller Derby while shopping in downtown Austin with her mother and sister one day."

Cibolero - Kermit Lopez

La Bloga and Charlie Vázquez: Latino Musings on Literature review the Kermit Lopez novel, Ciboleros.
La Bloga begins
"I'll start by going out on one of my habitual limbs to say I'd nominate this one for the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize. No, I don't think it's as passionately written as last year's winner, Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande, but hell, she raised the bar so high, authors are going to be scrambling for some time to catch up with her."  Read more at
Charlie Vazquez begins
"Kermit Lopez's Cibolero is the story of Antonio Baca, a retired cibolero (buffalo hunter) born and raised in 19th-century New Mexico via several generations of what were, at the time, Mexican citizens. But once the American Civil War is over, American expansion takes a turbulent turn, and what had once been New Spain and indigenous lands before that are violently incorporated into the United States of America. Antonio's family is ambushed by Texas Rangers while he's away. They try to kill his son and kidnap his daughter Elena. Determined to return her to his family, he sets out on a "hunt," tracking her vicious captors through the dramatic landscapes of the southwest territories, before it's too late."  Read more at

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jerry Bywaters, Lone Star Printmaker - Niewyk

   Jerry Bywaters, Lone Star Printmaker: A Study of His Print Notebook, with a Catalogue of His Prints and a Checklist of His Illustrations and Ephemeral Works.  By Ellen Buie Niewyk, Foreword by Ron Tyler, With personal reminiscences by Mary Vernon and Frances Bearden.  Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, dist by TAMU Consortium, 2007. 12x9. 208 pp. 5 color, 34 b&w reproductions. 22 b&w photos. 111 illus. Bib. Index. ISBN 978-0-87074-519-5,  cloth   $35.00

The collaborative team for this remarkable retrospective survey of  Jerry Bywaters' work includes Ellen Niewyk, curator of the Bywaters Special Collections housed in the Hamon Arts Library at SMU, Ron Tyler, director of Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum of Art, Mary Vernon, SMU art teacher, and Frances Bearden, Bywaters's secretary at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

Most artists do not combine the tasks of original artwork and the subsequent printing of copies, but Bywaters did just that.  Most artist's quixotic lives resist their self-documentation.  For over 10 years, 1935-1948 Bywaters kept a journal of his progress and techniques, and Niewyk deciphers that work to further illuminate his art, printmaking, art criticism via the Dallas Morning News, contributions as a principal originator of and Director of the DMA in Fair Park, and teaching at SMU.  His influence was enormous.  Needless to say, the coffee-table size volume is delightful.

Bywaters (1906-1989) was born to a Paris, Texas couple, began drawing early, came to Dallas with the family, and earned a B.A. from SMU in 1926.  After a period in Europe and the American Northeast, he returned to Big D and drew architectural images.  Dallas' State Fair became a recurring scene of activity and inspiration.  At the time Dallas was big on Texas, and Diego Rivera's interpretation of Mexico added to his natural inclination to interpret the American Southwest.  His early style reflected influences including Matisse and Braque.  Some rather engagingly playful.

Printmaking seriously engaged his life in lithographic printmaking after a visit of Thomas Hart Benton as Bywaters helped organize the Dallas Print and Drawing Collectors Society in 1935 and the circuit of Lone Star Printmakers in 1938.  By Mutual adoption Bywaters fit right into Texas's writing circles including Tinkle, Dobie, Webb, and the rest of the gang, but art was his life.

The book's photos are engrossing.  You see his printing press and stones, tools,  facsimiles of the journal, plus a casual photo of him outside at a gas station in the Big Bend.  But the bulk of the tome is a gallery of his prints, each with detailed annotations.

Gargantua, the Lomax Victorian home in its shambled condition, is dated 1935 evokes a feeling of Halloween grotesque.  Old Clown (1936) immediately projects the hard life of a Carnie.  Mexican Mother (1936) and Mexican Lily Vendor  draw heavily from Rivera.  The Surgeons (1940) is executed in sharp black and white planes.  On the Ranch (1941) is about as Daliesque as a Southwestern scene can be. 

The back section on "Ephemeral Works" demonstrates Bywaters' skilled book imagery.  He illustrated the first book of the SMU Press, Geiser's Naturalists of the Frontier (1937).  Private printings included Dobie's Juan Oso Christmas card.  The once very vigorous Tardy Publishing concern used him often as in Ehrenberg's With Milam and Fannin. Of course Stanley Marcus sought him for the Book Club of Texas as in Dobie's Tales of the Mustang, and again under the Somesuch imprint with Frontier Tales of the White Mustang.  SMU's Southwest Review thirstily drew from the Bywaters well, even for their letterhead!  But his work was sought out by outlanders; the Saturday Review of Literature's May 16, 1942 used him for their cover of the special issue on "The Southwest: Inventory and Sampling. My favorite?  Maybe the enigmatic portrait of John Lomax. 

If your library is lucky enough to have Bywaters' 12 from Texas large portfolio, ask them to make an exhibit of it with this new tribute to a fine Texas artist and printmaker.  Book review by Will Howard.

Friday, February 12, 2010

David Crockett in Congress - Boylston and Wiener

      David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man's Friend: With Collected Correspondence, Selected Speeches and Circulars.  By James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener.  Houston: Bright Sky Press, 2009. Hardback with colorful pictorial jacket, 8.25" x 10", 340 pages, some holographic document reproductions, 16 4-color photos, most of which are a wonderful gallery of Crockett portraits, ISBN 978-1-933979-51-9, $29.95



Not since Peña's Diary and Kilgore's How Did Davy Die has such an interesting and revealing volume come forth for the passionate friends and foes on the perennial Crockett. The authors scoured sources to find Crockett's writings while a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee.  From these Boylston and Wiener draw a credible biography of an intelligent man with sharp beliefs and remarkable public relations skills. 

            The recent painting of Crockett merely as a weak captive of his public persona has gained the status of a songster's refrain.  But here you'll find David Crockett as a truly brave individual who was committed to upholding his constituents' rights (including native American) by vigorous efforts despite the threats to is political life.  His physical life he would expend in the similar cause in the Alamo.

            Crockett began his public career as a justice of the peace and as a Jacksonian supporter as any reasonable fellow ought do in Tennessee, but when Mr. Crockett went to Washington, the President's denial of land rights and odd inveigling over the Bank of American turned Crockett into a outright opponent – a task requiring more courage than "fighting a bear when he was only three."  That strident and articulate stance eventually met the Jacksonian immoveable object, and he lost his Congressional seat, and then he came to Texas while leaving the rest to reside in hell. 

Boylston and Wiener volume is half interpretive narrative (heavily footnoted) and half transcriptions of Crockett's and others' writings mined from sources across the nation.  The latter is a treasure trove of often annotated primary source reading, much previously unpublished.   Letters, requests for newspaper articles, Congressional material, circulars, speeches, etc. number to well over a hundred.  There are calm reasonings, vitriolic accusations, personal concerns, a bit of parody, and other diverse forms.  He had a national stage and genuine ability to switch from a backwoodsman profile to careful manager of news releases to demonstrate his sophistication.

    If you think you know David Crockett, get the volume, and read aloud his own words.  - WH

Amigoland - Oscar Casares

9780316053327_154X233   Amigoland by Oscar Casares is reviewed by Virginia Alanis in Somos en escrito under the title "Rebel With a Cause." The review begins:


"Amigoland is the debut novel of Oscar Casares. It opens with a-day-in-the-life of a recent arrival in a nursing home after suffering a minor heart attack. Ninety-one-year-old Fidencio Rosales, a retired mail carrier, wants to escape from the nursing home and live anywhere but there. But his daughter/guardian will not agree to take him home to live with her, nor will she let him live alone.
The nursing home called Amigoland is replete with rules and regulations against which the protagonist is on the verge of rebelling. Set in contemporary Brownsville .... "  Read more at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

America Libre

  Book Image    America Libre. By Raul Ramos y Sanchez. NY: Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books), 2009, paperback, 373 pages, ISBN: 978-0446507752. $13.99.   Winner of the International Latino Book Award for Best Novel.  Previously issued by the author in slightly different version. Represented by the Castiglia Literary Agency.

Novelist and polemicist Ramos y Sanchez, Cuban-born and a founding partner of BRC Marketing ad agency established in 1992, adds a volume of alternative history near the line of Harry Turtledove's treatment of the American Civil War or an alternative future.  His public relations skills are skillfully employed here.  The book is sectioned into two parts, the first being "The Rio Grande Incident," but it quickly shifts away from Texas and the greater part of the three-year plot continues in Los Angeles, California and elsewhere long before the second part begins as "The Quarantine and Relocation Act." 

The first novel that comes to this reader's mind is Imperium in Imperio by Sutton Griggs published in 1899 wherein African Texans successfully establish a large chunk of Texas as an independent republic for Africans.  The other book is Fritz Leiber's 1964 A Specter is Haunting Texas which, though interesting, usually rings shallow also.  Some may allude to McCarthy's apocalyptic The Road whose inspiration came in El Paso.  But Ramos intends a regional setting, the American Southwest, and rings more deeply than Griggs and Leiber, although Texas as a literary piece of furntiture is by definition virtually all things evil.

Beyond that, Ramos' characters, though still intended as issue bearers, are more believable than those of Griggs and Leiber. Ramos begins this work of Hispanic suppression and self-assertion by placing the volatile spark in San Antonio, Texas. The plot opens with a nasty incident that balloons out of proportion as a faction of the Texas National Guard goes out of medodramatic control at, yes, the Alamo.  From there, vigilante groups form and the Texas setting is thereafter a bed of racism to occasionally drive the more simple adrenaline resource. 

As the plot shifts to LA, the principal character Manolo Suarez,has a wife Rosa and children who serve to deepen his domestic qualities and offer moderation.  Manolo is carefully lured into La Defensa del Pueblo organization by the rich, attractive, Uruguay-born Jo Herrera whose strident feminine character adds a sharper texture as she slides Mano into accepting violence as a necessary tactic.

Barrio Latinos respond with self-defense groups and rioting and the tit-for-tat violence scatters across the US.  "Anglo" US is figured as demanding segregation "camps" ala the Japanese camps of WW II and Congress accedes to the pressure.  And that's not the bottom of the pit.  However, Manolo emerges as a leader in the peoples' movement while beset with family challenges and counter-pointed by Jo.

Ramos' PR skills are asserted.  On one occasion he uses a loud jackhammer as a necessary "device" to justify the characters almost screaming a conversation.   He also deftly uses a fictional author to insert the old mythology of Spanish and Mexican control and ownership of the Southwest (much as it was a myth that the Republic of Texas and the US controlled it until the combined 400-year European/Colonial genocidal wars and thefts against the natives succeeded widely about 1880).  The struggle between stereotypes moves fast-pacedly along, and Ramos inserts occasional bits of surrealism as when an Aryan fanatic named O'Connor denies awareness that Anglos once suppressed the Irish and the German.  That one may have been humor, as if two incongruent objects occupied the same space successfully, prompting a laugh. 

In realism, Manolo confronts the plain task of keeping his job and his integrity as he transforms from patriotic American to protector of his newly rediscovered pueblo.  And there's a critical choice.  Is his family safer with him or in a "Relocation Camp" in North Dakota? - a matter Ramos treats gravely.

To no surprise, TV, radio, newspapers, the blog jocks, and other media fan the flames. The confrontation erupts into violence in Washington DC.  Before long, international connections come into play.  Eventually, as the weight of the Federal forces appear to bring temporary calm to the scene, the tense novel ends.   

Despite the necessary bi-polar racism and sexism, readers will be pulled along with the characters' challenges and well dialogued lines.  El Nuevo Alamo and Pancho Land form the final two volumes of the trilogy.  Will there emerge a Hispanic Republic?  Texas historians may wish to invoke comparative commentary with the Las Casas Revolt, Republic of the Rio Grande, the Plan of San Diego, and Crystal City.  Younger readers may be directed to Lunar Braceros by Sanchez and Pita with its Cali-Tex base.  Raul Ramos y Sanchez's America Libre is recommended for avid and new fans of the growing Tejano consciousness and those willing to look in a cracked mirror of the future. - WH

Conversations with Texas Writers - Leonard and Cearley

    A 2006 reveiw by Don Graham of Conversations with Texas Writers, edited by Frances Leonard and Ramona Cearley,  is available in the Great Plains Quarterly online as part of the University of Nebraska's Digital Commons project. The review begins:

"This book contains fifty interviews with "Texas" writers, including one "interview" with a dead writer, the pulp hero Robert E. Howard (author of the Conan books, etc.). It's actually Howard's biographer whu's interviewed, which is odd and conveys a significance that's unwarranted. The book is also a bit Austin-centric, as twenty of the authors I ive in the capital city.

There are many odd things about this book. One of the oddest is that the term "Texas writer" is newr meaningfully defined."


Adventures With a Texas Humanist - James Ward Lee

      A 2005 reveiw by Steve Davis of James Ward Lee's Adventures with a Texas Humanist is available in the Great Plains Quarterly online as part of the University of Nebraska's Digital Commons project.  The review begins

"An Alabaman by birth, James Ward Lee is well positioned to understand a basic fallacy about Texas's image as a "western" state. Despite popular notions of cowboys, cactus, and wideopen spaces, Lee reminds us that Texas was essentially "southern" for much of its history. Up until the 1950s, cotton far exceeded cattle as a measure of the Texas economy. The literary arts followed in those economic footsteps. While "western" writers such as Larry McMurtry and J. Frank Dobie are now seen as emblematic of the state, Lee argues that "the literary heart and soul of Texas used to be located [in the cotton belt] east of the Brazos."" 


Texas Literary Outlaws - Steven L. Davis

      A 2005 reveiw by Tom Pilkington of Steven Davis' Texas Literary Outlaws: Six Writers in the Sixties and Beyond is available in the Great Plains Quarterly online as part of the University of Nebraska's Digital Commons project.  The round of the usual suspects include, as extracted from the review, are:

"Writers who followed Brammer include Dan Jenkins, well-known sportswriter and author of comic novels such as Semi-Tough (1972); Edwin "Bud" Shrake, like Jenkins a regular at Sports Illustrated for many years as well as a novelist; Gary Cartwright, sportswriter and still a contributor to Texas Monthly; Larry L. King, best known for his popular play The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; and Peter Gent, author of the novel North Dallas Forty (1973)."  Check out their crimes, demeanors, and misdemeanors at:

Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas - Emilio Zamora

Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas by Emilio Zamora: Book Cover     Dos Centavos brings the news that begins:

"Emilio Zamora will receive the Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for 2009 on March 5 from the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) during its 2010 meeting in Dallas.

The award for "the best book on Texas" recognizes Zamora's publication, Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas; Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II (Texas A&M University Press, 2009). It is the first book-length study that joins diplomatic, Mexican American, and Texas history to examine home-front experiences in the United States." Read more at

Texas and the Civil War

For Texas and the Civil War books a good place to hunt is the "Civil War Books and Authors" blog.  A search using the "Texas" keyword bringa a number of titles.

Box of Texas Chocolates - The Twisters Interview

   Susan Whitfield takes on a flock of authors in this interview of Houston, Texas scribes.  Whitfield begins writing: "As Valentine's Day approaches, I thought I'd do my first interview with multiple anthology authors. Today's interview is with A Box of Texas Chocolates authors, Betty Gordon, Laura Elvebak, Cash Anthony, and the team of Charlotte and Mark Phillips. A Box of Texas Chocolates is the third short story collection from the Houston-based writing group, The Final Twist. Since the group is composed of writers of many genres, they decided to try a multi-genre anthology. Each story features chocolate and Texas. The award-winning A Box of Texas Chocolates is published by L&L Dreamspell."

Kid Wolf of Texas - Powers and Stevens

 Evan Lewis in his "Davy Crockett's Almanac" revives interest in the pulpy 1930's Kid Wolf of Texas and its author prolific Paul Powers, aka Ward Stevens.

Great Texas Novel

Back in 2006 the folks at the "Campaign for the American Reader" includes commentary on various state's "Great Novels".  Two posts have been offered on Texas, in particular comments on Billy Lee Brammer's The Gay Place, see  Bryan Curtis and Don Graham in their respective places.

Lisa Wingate Interview

Lisa Wingate, author of the novel Never Say Never, offers an interviewed "Mocha With Linda."  The novel is partially described as "Hurricane season was mild last year, but there's a hurricane a-brewin' in this fun Texas novel. Come sit a spell and take a peek into the lives of Kai Miller, Donetta Bradford and the other folks in Daily, Texas. This novel depicts the "adventures" of hurricane evacuation and housing the evacuees, the meshing of disparate cultures and generations, the lure of young love, and the heartache of a marriage that seems to be drowning."  Read more at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Houston Heights - Anne Sloan

 Houston Heights   Houston Heights.  By Anne Sloan and the Houston Heights Association.  Charleston, SC:  Arcadia Publishing, 2009. Many photos.  Paperback. 128 pages, Images of America  Series, $21.99  ISBN 9780738571188

Anne Sloan has done a wonderful job taking this turn-of-the-century independent town on the edge of Houston onto the photo-filled pages.  Sloan knows her material first hand – she's written history and even a novel set in the Heights.  The photos are well captioned.  The Heights is knows for its desire and accomplished ability to maintain its historical heritage.  Sloan used a creative method of collecting vintage photos; she and the Association put the word out to folks to bring their old photos to the old Firehouse for scanning and story-telling.  It was so successful they had to repeat the affair.

The contents proceeds as: Community, Schools, Churches, Homes, Businesses, People and Clubs, Diversions, and Around Town.  The town was started by O.M. Carter and D.D. Cooley, father of famed Houston heart surgeon.  The main street photos display the upper-class homes of large, ornate Victorian and Queen Anne styles of the day.  But the citizens beyond Heights Boulevard were mostly middle-class and their old photos show it, and picket fences were de riguer.  The town had a full life on its own despite the 15 minute trolley ride to Houston. 

All sorts of trades and stores and offices sprinkled through the neighborhood.  Many backyards had chickens, cows, and fruit trees.  Many backyards had chickens, cows, and fruit trees. 

One of the most interesting photos is of young Elma Pielop on Yale Street holding the bridle of a 1930's horse named Tex.  Apparently Tex was the "City Horse" kept for the use of residents.  Other folks may want to follow the story of Hortense Ward because SHE served as chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1925; see her behind the bench on page 101.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Justice Perverted - Dee Wilbur

     BC Book Critics carries a review of DeeWilbur (the wife and husband team of Dee Pipes and Charles Wilbur Yates) novel Justice Perverted.  The review begins:
"In Justice Perverted a young woman is finally able to marry her betrothed after her aging father dies. Sandy had been caring for the ailing gentleman in New Orleans while Jon, the man she loves, works as an attorney in Texas. No longer responsible for the daily care of her beloved father, Sandy quits her teaching job and relocates to a small Texas town: Richmond."  Read more at

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

French Letters: Virginia's War: Tierra, Texas 1944

  French Letters Book One: Virginia's War, a novel by Jack Woodville London.  Austin:  Vire Press, 2009. paperback, 234 pages. ISBN-13: 9780981597508.  $13.99. Also available as a e-book.


She's pregnant as the book opens, but you wouldn't know it.  Jack Woodville London embarks successfully on his projected trilogy exploring some delicate domestic affairs.   He weaves narrative with correspondence with news flashes - revealing the difficult times of Virginia, the young woman who finds herself with child and unmarried amidst World War II in a small Texas town, Tierra, nearer Lubbock than Austin, where such things are denied, lied, covered-up, and gossiped.  Will, the young army doctor and father, is off to war in England and ignorant of his actions and responsibilities.

The emotional action in the novel builds through a series of deceptions.  Obviously the pretend marriage is there.  Virginia dawdles over telling Will.  A local "official" story (a surprise to the pregnant Virginia) to save community integrity is that they had eloped earlier.  Such a protective story is partially animated by another level of deception, her father's high status and a key in the local black market and war rationing.  Of course, Virginia's brother can a jerk.

As a work, poignant without the syrup, patriotic yet glancing under the table, the novel is less a romance, more historical and social commentary.  If you've been advantaged to have lived in a small town, you'll the little hallmarks, the kindnesses, the grudges, and the lack of a good place to hide your private French letters.  London has hidden his under Vire's covers, but I'll tell you where to look for them.  He'll likely leave bread crumbs to the next installments.

French Letters was a finalist for 2 awards: Best Historical Fiction of the Year, By The Military Writer's Society of America & The William C. Morris Award, for Best Southern Fiction in 2009.

A blog provides some occasional background on the author and the volume at

A video interview of author London is at

Also check Danielle Hartman's Youtube Channel for London readings at