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Lone Star Reviews




Daina Jurika-Owen

Ten Cultures, Twenty Lives: Refugee Life Stories

Amaya Books

Paperback, 978-0-9993-9810-4 (also available as an e-book), 320 pgs., $16.89

November 21, 2017

“It is true that America is a land of opportunity.” —Jolie, Democratic Republic of Congo


I volunteered a few years ago as a family mentor with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which was born in 1933 “at the call of Albert Einstein.” I had returned from a vacation in Jordan, where I had seen the United Nations’ refugee camps for Syrians. Jordan is a tiny country with a total population of fewer than ten million people, yet it hosts three refugee camps and 740,160 refugees, the second largest proportion of refugees to population in the world.


When I returned to Texas, I did some research. At that time the number of displaced people on the planet was estimated to be a staggering sixty-five million. I was horrified by the number. During my poking about the internet for more information, I came across the IRC’s office in Abilene, Texas. I had no idea there was an opportunity so close to my West Texas home where real differences were made in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations. After I applied to volunteer and passed the background check, I attended orientation and met my assigned family, refugees from Rwanda.

“What I am seeing in this country is that people take care of themselves; Americans are really independent. The IRC [trains] us in that spirit, too.” —Ellie, Rwanda


Ten Cultures, Twenty Lives: Refugee Life Stories is the first book published in the United States by Daina Jurika-Owen, PhD, a folklorist and former refugee resettlement worker with the IRC’s Abilene office.  >>READ MORE


Jen Waldo

Old Buildings in North Texas

Arcadia Books Ltd. (London)

Paperback, 978-1-9113-5017-0 (also available in hardcover, as an e-book, an audio book, and on Audible), 215 pgs., $15.95

May 3, 2018


Olivia has returned to Caprock, a small fictional town in the Texas Panhandle. “Before they’d let me out of rehab someone had to agree to act as my legal custodian,” she explains, which is why thirty-two-year-old Olivia is living with her mother who, again, controls Olivia’s life from finances to laundry. “One little cocaine-induced heart attack and it’s back to my childhood to start over.”


Even better, Olivia’s court-ordered therapy is conducted by a former friend with whom she shared AP English classes in high school. Ouch. Olivia, who has an advanced journalism degree from Columbia, is also required by the court to hold down a job, but the only job she can find is behind the counter of a mall jewelry store which is owned by a friend of her mother’s. Olivia is in debt up to her nose in legal bills, medical bills, her Neiman’s card, and money she borrowed from friends to pay the rent and her car note since her salary went up that nose.  >>READ MORE


Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson’s White House

Joshua Zeitz


Hardcover, 978-0-525-42878-7, 400 pages, $30.00  (also available in paperback, audiobook, and ebook formats)

January 2018

Reviewed by Si Dunn


Trump and the Republican Party keep saying they want to “unwind” Barack Obama’s political legacy. Yet what’s also under threat are major achievements of the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration, according to historian Joshua Zeitz in this important, informative new book, Building the Great Society.


Zeitz writes: “It was no small accomplishment to secure passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was another matter entirely to have it mean something — to leverage the full weight of the federal government to desegregate public and private institutions peacefully throughout one-third of the United States.”


The author also notes that “[p]ersuading Congress to enact a steady profusion of liberal initiatives was a crowning achievement…. [F]ew presidents have left in place so sweeping a list of positive domestic achievements.”


A central focus in Zeitz’s new work is that it was not easy to work for the bigger-than-life Texas politician. Yet a well-meshed team of presidential aides made legislative victories happen.  >>READ MORE


Joe Holley

Hurricane Season: The Unforgettable Story of the 2017 Houston Astros and the Resilience of A City

Hachette Books

Hardcover, 978-0316485241, 272 pages (also available as paperback and ebook), $27.00

May 1, 2018

Reviewed by Chris Manno


If you’re looking for a baseball collectible enshrining the 2018 World Champion Houston Astros and their hurricane-battered host city, then Joe Holley’s Hurricane Season: The Unforgettable Story of the 2017 Houston Astros and the Resilience of A City is it. If you’re looking for a focused historical sports narrative, this may be more problematic to read.


The story loops forward and backward and changes narrative modes like a frenetic Robin Williams anecdote: it’s robust, very colorful, entertaining, but exhausting in the end. Ultimately, the reader has a hard time deciding what this book is, because Holley himself seems confused as to what it should be.


Like most baseball game commentary, Holley tends to be overly verbose here. That is consistent with the book’s sixteen-word title but tiring for the reader. He opens with compelling if paradoxical (am I reading a radio broadcast transcript?) play-by-play that is laden with the foibles of baseball sportscasting,  >>READ MORE


Texas Reads

>> archive


Texas A&M Press offers compelling non-fiction titles


Texas A&M University Press continues to step up its regional non-fiction offerings with titles covering a wide range of interests.


Here are a few current selections from A&M, and a peek at the new fall catalog promises many more are in the works.


The Natural History of Texas by veteran ecologists Brian R. Chapman and Eric G. Bolen ($50 oversized hardcover) is a 390-page, full-color celebration of the biological diversity of Texas.


“No work has more elaborately described the remarkable biodiversity of Texas than this monumental volume,” respected naturalist Andrew Sansom writes in a foreword.


The authors discuss in easy-to-understand language each of eleven natural regions of Texas, telling the stories behind the natural wonders, with informative sidebars sprinkled throughout the text.


An appendix offers histories of the various natural state symbols — state flower, state tree, state bird, state stone, state gem, state grass, state fish, state insect, etc. — twenty in all.


I suggest starting with the introductory chapter, then flipping over to your favorite region of Texas, then leisurely continuing the tour region by region. Or, even better, get out and see Texas’ magnificent diversity for yourself. Take the book along with you.


Bob Spain’s Canoeing Guide and Favorite Texas Paddling Trails ($26.95) is, appropriately, a waterproof paperback. Spain, a certified canoe instructor who retired from Texas Parks and Wildlife ten years ago, offers a thorough guide for beginning or experienced paddlers.


When Good Gardens Go Bad: Earth-Friendly Solutions to Common Garden Problems is the latest guidebook from Texas organic gardening expert Judy Barrett ($23.95 flexbound). A garden doesn’t have to be perfect, Barrett contends, but it should be fun!


The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch by Bill Sarpalius ($34.95 hardcover) is a political memoir of a man whose alcoholic mother sent him and his two brothers to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch when he was thirteen. He couldn’t read. He went on to become a state senator, a U.S. Congressman, and a motivational speaker and advocate for those struggling with addiction.


The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing by Ken Roberts explores the story of the hillbilly culture of poor Scots-Irish clans from Appalachia who migrated to the Texas Hill Country in the mid-1800s ($27.95 hardcover). At first they survived by hunting, fishing and trapping and later by cutting, selling and transporting cedar fence posts until the drought of the 1950s caused them to move to small towns to find work.


Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston by Ron Rozelle ($29.95 hardcover) is a biographical sketch of Houston after he was forced to resign as governor when he wouldn’t take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy in 1861. He died two years later.





* * * * *


Glenn Dromgoole writes about Texas books and authors. Contact him at g.dromgoole@suddenlink.net.


>> Check out his previous Texas Reads columns in Lone Star Literary Life





Twig’s Top Ten Bestsellers

June 2018

What are Texans reading these days, you ask? Lone Star Lit’s newest regular feature is a monthly list of trending titles at the Twig Book Shop, a leading independent bookseller in San Antonio. Click on any title for the Buy link. And we'll also include a hotlink to related content in Lone Star Literary Life.


1  Lawrence Wright, God Save Texas, 978-0-525520108

2  Shari Lapena, The Couple Next Door, 978-0-735221109

3 Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology  978-0-393356182

4  Andrew Sean Greer, Less, 978-0316316132

5  HBR's 10 Must Reads on Mental Toughness, 978-1633694361

6  Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale , 978-0385490818

7  Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life 978-0762490547

8  George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo, 978-0-812985405

9  Rupi Kaur, The Sun and Her Flowers, 978-1449486792

10  HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence (Hbr's 10 Must Reads)  9781633690196






6.3.18  The 2018 Julia Darling Memorial Poetry Prize

A prize of $750.00 and publication in The Ocotillo Review Winter 2019 will be awarded for a poem of up to 65 lines. Carrie Fountain will judge. Revenue generated will be donated to cancer research. Details: www.kallistogaiapress.org


6.3.18  The 2018 Chester B. Himes Memorial Short Fiction Prize

A prize of $750.00 and publication in The Ocotillo Review Winter 2019 will be awarded for a short story up to 4,200 words. Antonio Ruiz-Camacho will judge. Revenue generated will be donated to Parkinson’s research. Details: www.kallistogaiapress.org





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The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker Visit with Shawn July 17–26, 2018

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2018 Kids' Summer Reading  NEW BOOKS ADDED!

sponsored by Blue Wilow Bookshop


From read-to-me books to early readers, chapter books to middle readers to YA, you’ll find these terrific new titles at your neighborhood bookshop or online. >>READ MORE



LONE STAR LISTENS interviews   >> archive

7.15.2018  UT graduate Mary H. K. Choi chats about her YA hit EMERGENCY CONTACT



Mary H. K. Choi’s debut novel has been excerpted in Entertainment Weekly, has received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, and has prompted think pieces in the New York Times and the Atlantic, among other outlets.

       Emergency Contact has been described as a compulsively readable novel that shows young love in all its awkward glory. The author talked with us (appropriately via email) for today’s Lone Star Listens. When you’re done snapping up her interview, check out her website at the deliciously named choitotheworld.com.


LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Mary, where were you born, where did you grow up, and how would you describe those days?


MARY H. K. CHOI: I was born in Seoul, Korea, but moved with my family to Hong Kong when I was eleven months old. From there I moved to San Antonio, Texas, the summer before my fourteenth birthday. Moving to Texas was such a trip. I’d never seen such an expanse of sky before in my life! Coming from a city that was always lit up with neon lights and skyscrapers, I’d never experienced such all-encompassing thunderstorms and I’d never seen a shooting star. That’s the biggest thing that struck me about Texas, the heaviness of the sky on my shoulders. Still, I missed the public transportation of Hong Kong and walking around everywhere, so I moved to New York right after college and I’ve been there ever since.


You graduated from UT Austin and went to New York and pretty much tapped into every possible medium while lassoing the zietgeist — including stints as a columnist for Wired, as an editor for MTV Style, and as a contributing writer for Allure. You have also written for GQ, the New York Times, New York, The Atlantic, Billboard, and The Fader. What was your first big break as a writer?


My first big break in New York came when I became the editorial assistant for an art and lifestyle magazine called Mass Appeal in Brooklyn. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I hit refresh on that intern call-out. They’d had an ad position open, so I kept my fingers crossed for an editorial position, and sure enough I was the first to apply. Working for an independent, pirate-ship style magazine was a wonderful experience. You get to try on all the hats, and so I fact-checked and helped editors and lent a hand on photo shoots and I got my first byline reviewing the twentieth anniversary edition of a Mad Magazine book. I was lucky enough for work for some unbelievably generous and talented editors who kept me in the loop and referred me for other jobs. Still, it took being an assistant to an editor — managing travel, doing expenses and scheduling for almost four years — before I got my truly big break writing as much as I wanted, for a magazine I founded as editor-in-chief of Missbehave magazine.  >>READ MORE


Texas's only statewide, weekly calendar of book events
Bookish Texas event highlights  7.15.2018
>> GO this week   Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor



  • 33rd Texas Shakespeare Festival, Kilgore, June 28-July 29
  • Barrio Writers Summer Workshop, Pflugerville, July 16-21
  • Celebration Magazine's 4th Annual Live, Laugh and Learn, Richardson, July 17
  • Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, Houston, July 18-21
  • Gemini Ink Writers Conference, San Antonio, July 20-22
  • The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, Grapevine, July 20-22
  • JStokes Writing Ministries Workshop: Preparing for Christian Publication, Desoto, July 21


DALLAS  Mon., July 16  Interabang Books, Bronson Dorsey discussing and signing LOST, TEXAS, 7:30PM


HOUSTON  Mon., July 16  Murder By the Book, Linda Castillo will sign and discuss her newest release A Gathering of Secrets, 6:30PM


AUSTIN  Tues., July 17 Bullock History Museum, Artful Writing: Join Austin Public Library Foundation's Badgerdog Creative Writing Program in "Comanche Motion: The Art of Eric Tippeconnic" exhibit and let the art inspire you to write, 10AM


HOUSTON  Tues., July 17  Brazos Bookstore, Patricia Hunt Holmes reading and signing SEARCHING FOR PILAR, 7PM


SAN ANTONIO  Tues., July 17  The Twig Book Shop, David Langford & Andrew Sansom discussing and signing Seasons at Selah: The Legacy of Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 5PM


HOUSTON  Wed., July 18 Houston Public Library, Joe Holley discussing and signing Hurricane Season, 6:30PM


DALLAS  Thurs, July 19  Crooked Tree Coffee Shop, Sara Triana Mitchell presents her new children's book, Love Love Bakery: A Wild Home for All, 10:30AM

ALSO SIGNING IN RICHARDSON  Sun., July 121  CityLine DFW, at, 9, 10, and 11AM


DALLAS  Thurs, July 19  The Wild Detective, D Magazine Summer Microfiction reading with guest authors Ben Fountain, Julia Heaberlin, Brooks Egerton, Merritt Tierce, Harry Hunsicker, Samantha Mabry, Kathleen Kent, and Will Clarke, 7:30PM


MIDLAND  Thurs., July 19 Sibley Nature Center, Brown Bag Lecture: Michael Eason, author of Wildflowers of Texas, 12PM


CANYON  Fri., July 20 Palo Duro Canyon State Park Gallery & Visitor’s Center, Natalie Bright signing her two newest easy readers + meet the rescue horses and their trainers, 9:30AM


AUSTIN  Sat, July 21 BookPeople, DAVID BOWLES speaking & signing Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico (in conversation with Rebecca Gomez, Curator of Exhibitions & Programs at Mexic-Arte Museum), 2PM


DALLAS  Sat., July 21  Winspear Opera House, AT&T Performing Arts Center presents #hearhere: Ira Glass, 8PM


SAN ANTONIO  Sat., July 21  The Twig Book Shop, Michael Cirlos signing Humans of San Antonio, 11AM


EDINBURG  Sun., July 122  Museum of South Texas History, Sunday Speaker Series: Poetry from the Forgotten Words of Coahuiltecans, 4PM


HOUSTON  Sun., July 22 Murder By the Book, Daniel Silva will sign and discuss his new book, The Other Woman, 4PM [line number required for signing]


News Briefs 7.15.18

Gemini Ink to host 3rd Writers Conference July 20-22


SAN ANTONIO — Gemini Ink, San Antonio’s literary arts center, is holding its 3rd annual Writers Conference July 20–22nd, 2018 at the historic downtown El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel. The conference focus is “Writing the New Century” and will explore the role writing plays in shaping the personal, social, and political consciousness of our 21st century.


They seek a diverse array of perspectives on this topic and aim to engage in a dynamic conversation on the many ways the literary arts can be a catalyst for transformation in our contemporary American society.

Whether you’re new to writing, seeking to recharge your craft, or looking to make connections, the Gemini Ink Writers Conference offers a vibrant literary community of regional and national authors, editors, and publishing professionals.


The lineup of featured award-winning authors includes Dr. Norma Cantú, Martín Espada, Anel Flores, Veronica Golos, Debra Monroe, and Pulitzer Prize winner Vijay Seshadri>>READ MORE


Texas Sports Hall of Fame to hold second annual Book Festival August 11


WACO — The Texas Sports Hall of Fame has announced its second annual book festival for August 11, 2018, starting at 10 a.m.


Presented by Waco City Cable Channel, the festival will feature authors and athletes from across the state.  A limited number of VIP tickets are available (email jay.black@tshof.org to reserve). VIP ticket holders are entitled to preferred seating and signed book drawings.


Featured authors include:

John A. Wood, Beyond the Ballpark: The Honorable, Immoral, and Eccentric Lives of Baseball Legends (Rowman & Littlefield)

Michael Hurd, Thursday Night Lights: The Story of Black High School Football in Texas (University of Texas Press)

T.G. Webb, Battle of the Brazos: A Texas Football Rivalry, A Riot and a Murder (Texas A&M University Press)

Chad Conine, Texas Sports: Unforgettable Stories for Every Day of the Year (University of Texas Press)

Jon Peters, When Life Grabs You by the Baseballs: Finding Happiness in Life’s Changeups (Author Academy Elite)

Dr. Jorge Iber, More Than Just Peloteros: Sport and U.S. Latino Communities (Texas Tech University Press)



 ——­——— A D V E R T I S E M E N T —————

Lone Star Listens compilation available summer 2018, for readers, fans, and writers everywhere


The present generation of Texas authors is the most diverse ever in gender, age, and ethnicity, and in subject matter as well.


Week in, week out, Lone Star Literary has interviewed a range of Texas-related authors with a cross-section of genre and geography. To capture this era in Texas letters, we're pleased to bring you


Lone Star Listens:

Texas Authors on Writing and Publishing

edited by Kay Ellington and Barbara Brannon; introduction by Clay Reynolds

Available in trade paper, library hardcover, and ebook Summer 2018

360 pages, with b/w illustrations and index


Featuring novelists, poets, memoirists, editors, and publishers, including:

Rachel  Caine • Chris  Cander • Katherine  Center • Chad S. Conine • Sarah  Cortez • Elizabeth  Crook • Nan  Cuba • Carol  Dawson • Patrick  Dearen • Jim Donovan • Mac Engel • Sanderia  Faye • Carlos Nicolás Flores • Ben Fountain • Jeff  Guinn • Stephen  Harrigan • Cliff  Hudder • Stephen Graham Jones • Kathleen Kent • Joe R. Lansdale • Melissa Lenhardt • Attica Locke • Nikki  Loftin • Thomas  McNeely • Leila  Meacham • John  Pipkin • Joyce Gibson Roach • Antonio  Ruiz-Camacho • Lisa  Sandlin • Donna  Snyder • Mary Helen Specht • Jodi  Thomas • Amanda Eyre Ward • Ann  Weisgarber • Donald Mace Williams


As a collection of insights into the writing and publishing life, the book will be useful in creative writing classes (not just in Texas alone) and other teaching settings, as well as for solo reading and study—and a great Texas reference volume.


  • Examination and review copies will be available fall 2017 in watermarked pdf format.



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