“Tis education forms the common mind; just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined.”
Lone Star Lit has your monthly roundup of regional reads from The Twig Book Shop, a leading independent bookseller in San Antonio, which is celebrating the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Reading the West Longlist TEXAS favorites! (Full shortlisted titles, here.) Click on any title for the buy link.
The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez (Blackstone Publishing) by Rudy Ruiz
1950s: In the border town of La Frontera, young love blooms at first sight between Fulgencio Ramirez, the son of impoverished immigrants, and Carolina Mendelssohn, the local pharmacist's daughter. Their bonds will be undone by a force more powerful than they could have known. Thirty years later Fulgencio Ramirez, RPh, is conducting his daily ritual of reading the local obituaries in his pharmacy office. After nearly a quarter of a century of waiting, his nemesis, the husband of Carolina Mendelssohn, has died. Fulgencio strives to succeed in America, break a mystical family curse, and win back Carolina's love after their doomed youthful romance.
All Things Left Wild (Blackstone Publishing) by James Wild
After an attempted horse theft goes tragically wrong, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Caleb's moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or ill. Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice.
Valentine (Harper Perennial) by Elizabeth Wetmore
It's February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town's men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow. In the early hours of the morning after Valentine's Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead's ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field, an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.
All God's Children (Europa Editions) by Aaron Gwyn
In 1827, Duncan Lammons, a disgraced young man from Kentucky, sets out to join the American army in the province of Texas, hoping that here he may live, and love, as he pleases. That same year, Cecelia, a young slave in Virginia, runs away for the first time. Soon infamous for her escape attempts, Cecelia drifts through the reality of slavery until she encounters frontiersman Sam Fisk, who rescues her from a slave auction in New Orleans. In spite of her mistrust, Cecelia senses an opportunity for freedom, and travels with Sam to Texas, where he has a homestead. In this new territory, where the law is an instrument for the cruel and the wealthy, they begin an unlikely life together, unaware that their fates are intertwined with those of Sam's former army mates, including Duncan Lammons, a friend, and others who harbor dangerous dreams of their own.
Tigers, Not Daughters (Algonquin Young Readers) by Samantha Mabry
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award-longlisted novel, All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves a magical, romantic, own-voices novel about three sisters shadowed by guilt and grief over the loss of their oldest sister, who still haunts their house.
Nacho's Nachos: The Story Behind the World's Favorite Snack (Lee and Low Books) by Sandra Nickel, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez
The delicious true story of an inventive chef and the serendipitous events that led to the creation of the world's favorite snack, nachos!
Elatsoe (Levine Querido) by Darcy Little Badger, illustrated by Rovina Cai
Imagine an America very similar to our own. It's got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream. There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear, or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day. Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.
Crooked Hallelujah (Grove Press) by Kelli Jo Ford
Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine, a mixed-blood Cherokee woman, and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma's Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn't easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados, intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.
Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers (Viking) by Doug J. Swanson
A twenty-first-century reckoning with the legendary Texas Rangers that does justice to their heroic moments while also documenting atrocities, brutality, and corruption. The Texas Rangers rode into existence in 1823, when Texas was still part of Mexico, and continue today as one of the most famous of all law-enforcement agencies. In Cult of Glory, Doug J. Swanson offers a sweeping account of the Rangers that chronicles both their epic, daring escapades and how the white and propertied power structures of Texas have used them as enforcers and protectors.
Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico: Portraits of Soldaderas, Saints, and Subversives (Trinity University Press) edited by Kathy Sosa, Ellen Riojas Clark, Jennifer Speed
Much ink has been spilled over the men of the Mexican Revolution, but far less has been written about its women. Kathy Sosa, Ellen Riojas Clark, and Jennifer Speed set out to right this wrong in Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico, which celebrates the women of early Texas and Mexico who refused to walk a traditional path. The anthology embraces an expansive definition of the word revolutionary by looking at female role models and subversives from the last century and who stood up for their visions and ideals and continue to stand for them today.
Lonesome Dove (Simon & Schuster) by Larry McMurtry
Twenty-fifth-anniversary edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic of the American West that follows two aging Texas Rangers embarking on one last adventure. An epic of the frontier, Lonesome Dove is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America.
Eleanor in the Village: Eleanor Roosevelt's Search for Freedom and Identity in New York's Greenwich Village (Scribner) by Jan Jarboe Russell
Hundreds of books have been written about FDR and Eleanor, both together and separately, but yet she remains a compelling and elusive figure. And, not much is known about why in 1920, Eleanor suddenly abandoned her duties as a mother of five and moved to Greenwich Village, then the symbol of all forms of transgressive freedom—communism, homosexuality, interracial relationships, and subversive political activity. Now, in this fascinating, in-depth portrait, Jan Russell pulls back the curtain on Eleanor’s life to reveal the motivations and desires that drew her to the Village and how her time there changed her political outlook.
Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson (Scribner) by Jan Jarboe Russell
Expertly researched and written, Lady Bird draws from rare conversations with the former First Lady and from interviews with key members of Johnson's inner circle of friends, family, and advisers. With chapters such as "Motherless Child," "A Ten-Week Affair," and "LBJ's Midlife Crisis," Lady Bird sheds light on Mrs. Johnson's childhood, on her amazing acumen as a businesswoman, and on the central role she played in her husband's life and political career. A vital link to the Kennedys during LBJ's uneasy tenure as vice president and a voice of conscience on civil rights, Jan Jarboe Russell reveals Lady Bird as a political force. In this intimate portrait, Russell shows us the private Lady Bird--not only a passionate conservationist but a remarkable woman who greatly influenced her husband, his administration, and the country.
The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II (Scribner) by Jan Jarboe Russell
During World War II, trains delivered thousands of civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and their American-born children. Jan Jarboe Russell focuses on two American-born teenage girls, uncovering the details of their years spent in the camp; the struggles of their fathers; their families’ subsequent journeys to war-devastated Germany and Japan; and their years-long attempt to survive and return to the United States, transformed from incarcerated enemies to American loyalists. Their stories of day-to-day life at the camp, from the ten-foot-high security fence to the armed guards, daily roll call, and censored mail, have never been told.
I Am Skye, Finder of the Lost (A Dog's Day #5) (Albert Whitman & Company) by Catherine Stier, illustrated by Francesca Rosa
Spend a day in the life of a search and rescue dog Skye the border collie has spent her life comforting people after disasters. Lately, she's also been training to help find people who have gone missing in her national park. But is Skye ready to make her first rescue? Told from the dog's perspective, this story also includes back matter about the breed and role of the working dog.
I Am Tucker, Detection Expert (A Dog's Day #6) (Albert Whitman & Company) by Catherine Stier, illustrated by Francesca Rosa
Spend the day in the life of a detection dog Tucker the beagle is more than just a friendly face at the airport. As part of the "Beagle Brigade," he helps keep out invasive species that could hurt the environment. It's a job that would be almost impossible for humans--but for Tucker, it's all in a day's work. Told from the dog's perspective, this story also includes back matter about the breed and role of the working dog.
Alamo Tree (Girasol Publishing LLC) by Tana Holmes, illustrated by Mahfuja Selim
If ancient trees could talk, what stories they could tell! Alamo Tree is a true story about a real place. The monumental events surrounding the siege and famous battle at the Shrine of Texas Liberty are told by an old live oak that still thrives in the courtyard of the mission in San Antonio. The tree explains that during those dark days there was the love of families, the courage of heroes, the teamwork of citizens from all over the globe, and leadership that ensured their losses were not in vain. Rhyming text and beautiful illustrations will make your child want to hear Alamo Tree again and again. It is said that even the Daughters of the Republic of Texas recommends this book. That says something!
Greenlights (Crown Publishing Group) by Matthew McConaughey
“I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.” Drawing on the Academy Award-winning actor's journals and diaries, this book presents a uniquely McConaughey approach to achieving success and satisfaction.
Once you meet Isaac Bladen, you'll never forget him. Melvin E. Edwards, award-winning newspaper reporter/columnist and a former legislative speechwriter for long-time Texas Lt. Governor and Governor Rick Perry, conducted thirty years of genealogy research that confirmed family stories that had been told for decades, exposed some that weren't accurate, and discovered details that had long been buried. These "first-person" accounts will capture your attention and take you on a drive-by of the last two hundred years of American and Texas history.
Simon the Fiddler (William Morrow & Co.) by Paulette Jiles
In March 1865, the long and bitter War between the States is winding down. Till now, twenty-three-year-old Simon Boudlin has evaded military duty thanks to his slight stature, youthful appearance, and utter lack of compunction about bending the truth. But following a barroom brawl in Victoria, Texas, Simon finds himself conscripted, however belatedly, into the Confederate Army. Luckily his talent with a fiddle gets him a comparatively easy position in a regimental band. Weeks later, on the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are called to play for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There the quick-thinking, audacious fiddler can’t help but notice the lovely Doris Mary Dillon, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel’s daughter. After the surrender, Simon and Doris go their separate ways. But Simon cannot forget the fair Irish maiden, and vows that someday he will find her again.
News of the World (William Morrow & Co.) by Paulette Jiles
Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd drifts through northern Texas, performing live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain once made his living as a printer, until the War Between the States took his press and everything with it. At a stop in Wichita Falls, Captain Kidd is offered an astonishing $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives near San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders viciously killed Johanna Leonberger's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently recovered by the U.S. Army, the inconsolable ten-year-old with blue eyes and hair the color of maple sugar has once again been torn away from the only home and family she knows. The captain's sense of duty and compassion propels him to accept, though he knows the journey will be difficult. [Read the Lone Star Review here.]
Celis Beer: Born in Belgium, Brewed in Texas (History Press) by Jeremy Banas
A former milkman in the small village of Hoegaarden, Belgium, Pierre Celis opened a brewery that brought back the extinct witbier style of his native Hoegaarden and rejuvenated an old-world tradition throughout Belgium and Europe. Following a devastating fire in his native country, the godfather of witbier set up shop in Texas, where his passion took fresh shape in the form of Celis Beer and influenced an entire generation of beer lovers. His legacy continues under the stewardship of his daughter, Christine, who revived the brand in 2017, along with his granddaughter, Daytona, who brews there now. Author Jeremy Banas relates how the Hoegaarden legend founded Austin's first craft brewery.
Pearl: A History of San Antonio's Iconic Beer (History Press) by Jeremy Banas
"The finest flavored beer in the market. Be sure and try, and you will be convinced. Warranted to be the same at all times. Ask for it, drink no other." In 1887, these were bold words about the City Brewery's new beer with the pearly bubbles, considering how the recent flood of German immigrants to Central Texas brought along expert fermentation. As that business evolved into the San Antonio Brewing Association, XXX Pearl Beer became the mainstay of the largest brewery in the state. Its smokestack formed an intrinsic part of the San Antonio skyline. A regional powerhouse for more than a century, it was the only Texas brewery to survive Prohibition. It also endured the onslaught of a president's scandalous death and Lone Star's fierce rivalry. Grab a pint and join author Jeremy Banas for a tour of Texas's most iconic brewery.
San Antonio Beer: Alamo City History by the Pint (History Press) by Jeremy Banas
Brewing history and beer culture permeate San Antonio. The Menger Hotel and its bar, notoriously frequented by Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, began as the city's first brewery in 1855. The establishment of San Antonio Brewing Association and Lone Star Brewery at the close of the nineteenth century began the city's golden age of brewing. Decades later, the Volstead Act decimated the city's brewing community. Only one brewery survived Prohibition. Those that bounced back were run out of business by imports coming in on the new railroad. The 1990s saw a craft comeback with the opening of the oldest existing brewpub, Blue Star Brewing Company. Today, San Antonio boasts a bevy of new breweries and celebrates its brewing heritage. Grab a pint and join authors Jeremy Banas and Travis E. Poling for a taste of Alamo City's hoppy history.
The Four Winds (St. Martin’s Press) by Kristin Hannah
Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance. In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli, like so many of her neighbors, must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. (Lone Star Lit review)
Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico: Portraits of Soldaderas, Saints, and Subversives (Maverick Books) by Kathy Sosa (Editor), Ellen Riojas Clark (Editor), Jennifer Speed (Editor), Dolores Huerta (Foreword by), Norma Elia Cantú (Afterword by), Kathy Sosa (Illustrator), Lionel Sosa (Illustrator)
Much ink has been spilled over the men of the Mexican Revolution, but far less has been written about its women. Kathy Sosa, Ellen Riojas Clark, and Jennifer Speed set out to right this wrong in Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico, which celebrates the women of early Texas and Mexico who refused to walk a traditional path. The anthology embraces an expansive definition of the word revolutionary by looking at female role models and subversives from the last century and who stood up for their visions and ideals and continue to stand for them today. Eighteen portraits provide readers with a glimpse into each figure's life and place in history.
Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century (Cutthroat, a Journal of the Arts) contributors include Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Octavio Solis, Gary Soto, Alberto Rios, Demetria Martinez, Rosemary Catacalos, Denise Chavez and many more. Editors: Luis Alberto Urrea, Beth Alvarado, Carmen Tafolla, Octavio Quintanilla, Terry Acevedo, and Edward Vidaurre
Cutthroat, A Journal Of The Arts and the Black Earth Institute collaborated to publish this historic collection of writings about Chicanx culture. The writings span all topics from the rasquache to the refined. In these pages is writing that goes deep into Chicanx culture and reveals heritage in new ways. This is work that challenges, that is irreverent, that is defiant and inventive. That is Puro Chicanx. The idea of Puro Chicanx is rooted in Mexican ancestral heritage, is about attitude and may overlap with other Latinx cultures.
They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid's Poems (Cinco Puntos Press) by David Bowles
In Spanish, “Güero” is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo lvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd—reader, gamer, musician—who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else and, like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna; she's tough as nails. But trusting in his family's traditions, his accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart. Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope. He writes poetry.
Pancho Villa's Saddle at the Cadillac Bar: Recipes and Memories (Texas A&M University Press) by Wanda Garner Cash
In 1924, Achilles Mehault “Mayo” Bessan and his eighteen-year-old bride journeyed from New Orleans to Mexico, where he ultimately transformed a dirt-floored cantina in Nuevo Laredo into a bar and restaurant renowned across the United States for its fine seafood and fancy cocktails. The Cadillac Bar built a reputation as one of the finest eateries and watering holes in the Southwest. In her introduction, author Wanda Garner Cash writes, “I grew up behind the bar: first child and first grandchild. I spoke Spanish before I spoke English and I learned my numbers counting coins at my grandfather’s desk . . . I rode Pancho Villa’s saddle on a sawhorse in the main dining room, with a toy six-shooter in my holster. I fed the monkeys and parrots my grandfather kept in the Cadillac’s parking lot.” Readers will find themselves drawn to a different, more languid time; step into the Cadillac Bar and take a seat. You’ll want to stay awhile.
The Twig Book Shop began its evolution in San Antonio in 1972. Currently located at the former Pearl Brewery on the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk, the Twig provides newly released books for children and adults as well as award-winning classics. The space at Pearl has become a venue for local and national poets and authors. The Twig makes books available for book clubs, schools, and conferences. The Texana collection makes the Twig a destination for history lovers near and far. Hardcover and softcover books can be purchased from their website, the database for which accesses a national distributor for independent bookstores. Libro.fm audio and Kobo electronic books are also available.