Connecting Texas books and writers with those who most want to discover them
SELECTED RECENT BOOKS
Alfred A. Knopf
Hardcover, 978-0-385-35133-1 (also available as ebook and audiobook), 400 pgs., $28.95, October 6, 2015
Lawton, Cappy, and Chris Waters Dunn
Trinity University Press
978-1-59534-751-0; 264 pages with color plates, recipes, glossary, and restaurant history; hardcover, $39.95; Aug. 17, 2015
Marian L. Martinello
Chili Queen: Mi historia
Texas Christian University Press
200 pages, 6 x 9 • Paper $22.95
CLASSICS BY SAN ANTONIO AUTHORS and
ABOUT SAN ANTONIO
TOP 10 TEXAS BOOKISH DESTINATIONS 2017
The Alamo is pretty close to being Texas’s mecca, where natives must make a pilgrimage to fulfill their heritage. The events of the Alamo have continued to beckon writers as well, more than 180 years after William Barret Travis drew the line. Performer and collector Phil Collins has a whole list of books that he recommends about the Alamo—even if Pee Wee Herman’s bicycle has still not been found there. Who knows what you might discover if you visit?
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 such as 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.
ALAMO CITY AUTHORS Above, from upper left: authors associated with San Antonio include Jan Jarboe Russell, Bryce Milligan, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Max Lucado, Carmen Tafolla, Rick Riordan, Whitley Strieber, Leila Meacham, Lewis Fisher, Naomi Shihab Nye, Gregg Barrios, Barbara Ras, Steve Earle, Laura Lippman, Bill Sibley, Nan Cuba, Jenny Browne, Andrew Porter.
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 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 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 was released in 2016.
Other authors living and working in San Antonio include 2016 Texas poet laureate (and 2014–16 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.
Rosengren's Books: An Oasis for Mind and Spirit by Mary Carolyn Hollers George, released in 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.
ImagineFest II on March 12, 2017.(from Pope, “’Tis education forms the common mind; just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined”) 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 Don Hurd’s , which will host
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 which the Bloomsbury Review called “The best little publishing house in Texas,” 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. , also home to a vibrant spoken word series, brings writers and readers together at 1111 Navarro Street. The organization offers a regular schedule of classes on-site and also heads up the Writers in Communities program throughout the city.
San Antonio's annual spring festival, now in its fourth year and featuring some 85 authors from around the region and the world, will take place Sat., April 8, 2017, from 10 am to 5 pm at the and the 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.
One library in the heart of the Pearl Brewery is newly opened to the traveling public: the 3,700-volume library in the the luxurious lodging and meeting space repurposed from the former brewhouse. Even if you’re not staying overnight, peek into the library before stopping into the bar for a signature Three Emmas cocktail (ask for the full story!) or a La Babia margarita.
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Below: San Antonio’s Central Library brings a splash of “Enchilada Red” color to the city’s downtown skyline. Inside, the multiple floors are filled not only with books but with art; a guide to the art collections is available at the information desk.
Below: William Sidney Porter (aka O. Henry) honed his writing skills in San Antonio.
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