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Michelle Newby is contributing editor at Lone Star Literary Life, reviewer for Foreword Reviews, freelance writer, member of the National Book Critics Circle, and blogger at www.TexasBookLover.com. Her reviews appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades Magazine, Rain Taxi, World Literature Today, South85 Journal, The Review Review, Concho River Review, Monkeybicycle, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Atticus Review, and The Collagist.
NONFICTION / WOMEN'S LITERATURE
WingsPress, hardcover, 978-1-60940-423-9
426 pp., $29.95
March 1, 2015
Reviewed 3.1.2015 by Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor
Carl Jung explored the feminine and the masculine in a description of the energy we all manifest. Jungian psychologist James Hillman decreed that integration of these opposites is the goal of human development. But we live in a world that has repressed, confined, and submerged the female voice. —Kathleen Hudson
HER TEXAS collects the work of a who’s who of creative Texas women into a beautiful anthology of written and visual art. Each editor provides an introduction with her own distinctive voice that collectively function as a prelude to the work contained therein, microcosms of the macro-macrocosm of Texas.
“Creative Nonfiction” appropriately begins with the inspiration for this project and grande dame of Texas literary criticism, the late Lou Halsell Rodenberger. Donna M. Johnson’s “Mockingbird Lane” reminds us that there are many ways to be absent; “The Man at the End of the Hall” is Guida Jackson’s hymn to the plains and the “...whining, twanging, nerve-jangling never-ending wind”; Christine Warren’s “Let Her Roll” is a paean to the Guadalupe River in a time when outlaw country “sounded the way Texas felt.”
The “Song” section opens with Kathleen Hudson’s essay “The Tapestry Is Rich: Women’s Voices in Texas Music.” It includes Tish Hinojosa’s American-dreaming “Joaquin” and four songs from the bracingly, refreshingly authentic Amanda Pearcy. The section includes notes on inspiration and process.
The “Poetry” section features the triumvirate of San Antonio: Rosemary Catacalos’s melancholy betwixt and between, Sandra Cisneros’s I-will-survive women and Carmen Tafolla’s nurturers with the “sashay sassy as salsa.” It also includes karla k. morton capturing the lassitude of “Late August in Texas, Fall is a myth,” Sherry Craven’s sexy romps and sensual communion, Naomi Shihab Nye’s sacred work, Rebecca Balcárcel’s girls on the verge, Anne McCrady’s pastoral elegies, and Celeste Guzmán Mendoza’s feasts.
The “Fiction” section showcases a common theme of building bridges and seeking connection. In LaToya Watkins’s “Outsiders” two women reach out across the socioeconomic chasm; in Sobia Khan’s “The Fallen” a Pakistani grandmother living in Dallas is faced with cultural and religious challenges; and Rachel Crawford’s protagonist in “First Names” returns to her childhood home because there are “[g]hosts in the corners of the house I grew up in, ghosts on the road, ghosts walking around the valley” in which she observes, “I never feel lonely here.”
Visual art is interspersed throughout the book: Deanna Newcomb’s iconic photographs of the wild beating heart of West Texas; Tammy Cromer-Campbell’s devastating photographs of drought in East Texas; Kathy Vargas’s haunting hand-tinted prints; Ysabel de la Rosa’s quietly ambitious flowers; and Danielle Kilgo’s tousle-headed joy in the form of a child.
When I finished Her Texas I wanted to find a porch and a huge pitcher of iced sun tea and talk with these women long into the night. Her Texas speaks to the soul of Texans.
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