Connecting Texas books and writers with those who most want to discover them

SELECTED NEW BOOKS

San Antonio

 

MEMOIR

Sandra Cisneros

A House of My Own: Stories from My Life

Alfred A. Knopf

Hardcover, 978-0-385-35133-1 (also available as ebook and audiobook), 400 pgs., $28.95, October 6, 2015

 

 

COOKING/TEXAS

Lawton, Cappy, and Chris Waters Dunn

Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex

Trinity University Press

978-1-59534-751-0; 264 pages with color plates, recipes, glossary, and restaurant history; hardcover, $39.95; Aug. 17, 2015

 

FICTION

Marian L. Martinello
Chili Queen: Mi historia

Texas Christian University Press

200 pages, 6 x 9 • Paper $22.95

ISBN 978-0-87565-613-7

 

FORTHCOMING APRIL 2016

Watch Lone Star Lit for our review

 

 

CLASSICS BY SAN ANTONIO AUTHORS and

ABOUT SAN ANTONIO

 

 

 

 

TOP 10 TEXAS BOOKISH DESTINATIONS 2016

San Antonio

 

A great deal of what makes any place a bookish destination is the presence of a resident literary sage who’s readily accessible to likeminded seekers. For San Antonio, that spirit is Bryce Milligan, publisher, writer, and all-around man of letters whose pathbreaking Wings Press celebrated its fortieth anniversary in November 2015.

 

The San Antonio Current, looking back at Wings’s history and Milligan’s two decades at its helm, described him as “a literary godfather in this community.”

 

A visitor might cross paths with Milligan and his writer/librarian wife, Mary Guererro Milligan, at San Antonio hangouts like Gemini Ink or the eye-popping public library, which hosted an exhibition of Wings Press work last fall. “Perhaps the best part about Milligan and Wings,” wrote James Courtney in the Current, “is that they have consistently sought to publish work by writers who are underrepresented in published literature and to work with Texas writers whose works, in various ways, preserve our diverse cultural heritage.”

 

Crossroads of culture, fertile soil for writers

San Antonio, as the birthplace of the Texas Republic and a cultural crossroads for centuries before that, beats today as the heart of Texas’s multicultural literary life. With guest reading series and appearances at the city’s institutions from the University of Texas at San Antonio to Our Lady of the Lake University, University of the Incarnate Word, and St. Mary's University—to name only a few—the city offers rich and regular opportunities for listening and interacting.

 

Latina author and MacArthur “genius grant” winner Sandra Cisneros has for three decades been most closely associated with her adopted hometown of San Antonio—as much for her championship of Latino/a culture here as the ways she captured Tejano life in works such as Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories and the novel Caramelo. After finding first fame with The House on Mango Street, set in her native Chicago but published by Houston-based Arte Público Press in 1984, she established the Macondo Workshops to build community and social change through art and writing. The workshops, and the Macondo Foundation, continue today under the local Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Cisneros’s once-controversial purple-painted house (now a more sedate rose color), at 735 Guenther St. in the King William Historic District, sold in January 2015 some while after the author’s long-announced move to Mexico. Cisneros’s work figures prominently in the 2015 anthology Her Texas, only one acknowledgment of the influence this author and state have exercised over one another.

 

Another writer from San Antonio’s past honed his craft in the Alamo City more than 130 years ago—short-story master and temporary Texan William Sidney Porter, later and better known by the pseudonym O. Henry. The North Carolina native, who came with his father to a friend’s Texas ranch in 1882 and spent a year writing and publishing a humor rag in a two-room German stone house on San Antonio’s Presa Street in 1885, drew deeply on his varied experiences in the Lone Star State (read more under Austin). Today you can visit the tiny house, relocated along with its Texas historical marker to the corner of Laredo and Dolorosa Streets, where O. Henry first published The Rolling Stone.

 

Other renowned writers past and present are connected with the city, which one pundit claimed in 2009 “would never be known as a book town.”* Author Stephen Harrigan captured the drama of San Antonio’s most renowned landmark in his best-selling historical novel The Gates of the Alamo (he’s written books set in several of this year’s Top Ten cities, too, including Houston, the Austin area, San Antonio, and Abilene). The Gates of the Alamo was honored in 2001 with the TCU Texas Book Award, the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Spur Award for Best Novel of the West.

 

San Antonio restaurateur Cappy Lawton and writer Chris Waters Dunn in 2015 published a veritable encyclopedia of a local culinary staple in Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex, gorgeously designed and illustrated as well as filled with recipes and food history.

 

San Antonio author (and native of the oil-patch town of Wink) Leila Meacham proves it’s never too late to pursue your writing dreams. Her novel Roses, often described as a Texas Gone With the Wind,  was published in 2010 when the author was 65 and has now sold more than a million copies. Meacham followed it up with  Tumbleweeds and Somerset, also Texas bestsellers, and Titans is slated for a spring 2016 release.

 

Other authors living and working in San Antonio include 2016 Texas poet laureate (and 2014º16 city of San Antonio poet laureate) Laurie Ann Guerrero; Nan Cuba (Body and Bread), novelist/playwright/screenwriter Bill Sibley, novelist James R. Dennis (one-third of the writing team that goes by Miles Arceneaux), and fiction writer Andrew Porter. Rick Riordan (The Lightning Thief) formerly called San Antonio home; poets Gregg Barrios, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Carmen Tafolla still do.

 

 

Bookstores and more

Rosengren's Books: An Oasis for Mind and Spirit by Mary Carolyn Hollers George, released January 2015 by Wings Press archives the cultural impact of the legendary San Antonio bookstore. Rosengren's was the center of literary culture not only in San Antonio, but in Texas, for decades. The late Willie Morris, the respected author and editor of Harper's Magazine, called it "one of the finest and most admirable bookstores in America." To Robert Frost, it was simply "the best of bookstores." Writers as diverse as J. Frank Dobie, John Dos Passos, John Graves, and Larry McMurtry simply loved the place.

 

The Twig today carries on the independent bookstore tradition at The Pearl, the shopping and arts district created from the old Pearl Brewery. Other bookstores include Nine Lives (used books) and Imagine Books and Records.

 

Greater San Antonio also boasts five Barnes & Noble stores, three Half Price Books, and a Books-a-Million. The city’s many world-class museums, including those at the Alamo, the Witte Museum, the Institute of Texan Cultures, and the Briscoe Western Art Museum, carry extensive selections of books in their museum stores as well.

 

Publishing flourishes here. In addition to Wings Press, which the  Bloomsbury Review called “The best little publishing house in Texas,” Trinity University Press, now under the direction of Tom Payton, publishes authors such as cultural historian Rebecca Solnit, National Book Award–winning writer Barry Lopez (who also does a regular stint as visiting writer at Texas Tech in Lubbock) and Pulitzer Prize–winning poet W. S. Merwin.  In December 2014 Trinity acquired the assets of Maverick Publishing Company, founded by San Antonio historian, author, and former newspaperman Lewis F. Fisher, and announced plans to launch a new imprint, Maverick Books, in early 2015 which will include backlist of the original Maverick line while building a larger list of titles committed to the history and culture of Texas and the American Southwest.

 

In a city known for its colorful arts culture, book arts thrive as well. At the Southwest School of Art, the Paper and Book Arts Department offers both traditional and explorative classes at all levels in papermaking, bookbinding, decorative paper techniques and letterpress printing. Papermaking and Book Arts classes are held in the Picante Paper and Book Arts Studios located on the second floor of the Navarro Campus.

 

Spoken word in San Antonio includes PuroSlam, the only nationally certified poetry slam operating in the city. Started in 1999 by Benjamin Ortiz, PuroSlam has earned a national reputation as one of the toughest, roughest, rowdiest poetry slams in the United States, bringing the exciting world of performance poetry to South Texas on a weekly basis. Gemini Ink, also home to a vibrant spoken word series, brings writers and readers together at 1111 Navarro Street.

 

San Antonio Book Festival

San Antoni's annual spring festival, now in its third year and featuring some 85 authors from around the region and the world, will take place Sat., April 2, 2016, from 10 am to 5 pm at the Central Library and Southwest School of Art.

 

The festival is presented by, and benefits, the San Antonio Public Library, a system comprising a central library and twenty-four branches. The six-story, 240,000-square-foot Central Library building at 600 Soledad, opened in 1995, is easily recognized by its bright-colored, striking "Mexican Modernist" design and its “Enchilada Red” color.

 

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Below: William Sidney Porter (aka O. Henry) honed his writing skills in San Antonio.

 

 

Below: San Antonio’s Central Library brings a splash of “Enchilada Red” color to the city’s downtown skyline.

 

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