What We’re Reading Now:

Sam Babiak, Program Director / Member Services Director

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Penguin Books
September 25, 2014

Mary Karr said, “Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.” This is true for all memories, but if you’re writing about traumatic events you’ve experienced, these memories work differently and will likely be much more difficult to write about. The Body Keeps the Score breaks down the way that trauma affects our bodies and minds and the ways that traumatic memories differ from other kinds of memories. For a memoirist writing about trauma, this is a must read. Untangling these memories and understanding their impact is an essential step in writing memoir, and although reading this book is by no means a substitute for therapy, it is an incredible companion to have on this journey. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I first heard of this book in November 2019 at our Texas Writes in ATX event. The wonderful memoirist Rachel Starnes gave a presentation on memory in memoir and recommended that anyone writing about trauma should read this book. Then a few weeks ago, this book was recommended again. This time, by Jessica Wilbanks in her Memoir 101 class. This book keeps popping up for a reason and although it was published in 2014, the human experience, our minds and bodies after trauma, the core of writing memoir, that is all timeless and that’s why I’m recommending The Body Keeps the Score once again.


Evan Parks, Project Specialist

Rules for Being Dead by Kim Powers
Blair Publishing
May 12, 2020
Almost immediately in Rules for Being Dead, Powers roots the reader into the setting and narrative. In it we follow Clarke, a third-grader, as he struggles with his mother’s death during the ’60s. That’s a fairly standard plot, however Clarke’s perspective is followed up with the perspective of his mother’s spirit as she watches over him, and the rest of the small Texas town where they reside. There’s a mystery surrounding her death, and it’s one that haunts everyone. This book is drenched with the ghosts of movies at the drive-in, familial drama, and heartache.

What We’re Reading Now:

Becka Oliver, Executive Director  

American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
February 11, 2020

Kate Winkler Dawson has been the featured author for our latest series of “WLT On the Craft of Writing” events around the state. Which means that I’ve been lucky enough to hear her talk firsthand about her wonderful new book, American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI, in Austin, Dallas, and Houston (with events in Georgetown and Waco still to come). Honestly, I could listen to her all day long and not get bored – and reading the book is just as much of a treat. During her research, Kate opened box after box containing the life’s work of Edward Oscar Heinrich – a forensic science pioneer who kept meticulous notes documenting his many breakthroughs – and managed to distill that enormous pile of information into a narrative nonfiction read that is suspenseful, surprising, and beautifully written. Whether studying the sand at a grave to determine its origins, or analyzing a pair of overalls left behind by a band of murderous train robbers, or testifying against Fatty Arbuckle in one of the most famous trials of the 1920s, Oscar Heinrich took forensics science into the modern age and forever changed crime scene investigation. His story needed to be told and I can’t imagine another author telling it as well or as thoroughly.

If you are a fan of true crime tales and police procedurals, this book is for you. If you’re a history buff and love discovering people you’ve never heard of who have made extraordinary contributions, this book is for you. If part of the pleasure of reading for you is the learning, this book is for you. If you’ve ever binge-watched CSI or Criminal Minds or Law & Order or, fittingly, Sherlock, this book is for you. (In other words, this book is for you!)


Kelsey Williams, Office Manager   

Harleen by Stjepan Sejic
DC Comics
February 11, 2020

After watching DC’s Birds of Prey in theaters, it struck me how much I love the character Harley Quinn but how little I’ve actually read about her. Cue me in a comic shop, scouring the shelves for more stories about my favorite anti-heroine. With great luck, I got my hands on Harleen – an incredibly beautiful graphic novel with story and art by Stjepan Sejic.

Sejic reimagines the origin story of Harley Quinn – if you’re not familiar, she’s a psychiatrist turned crime doer after becoming enmeshed with the Joker – and pays particular attention to the subtleties of how empathy and desire activate and diminish. Harley Quinn, or Harleen Quinzel, gets to tell her own story in this stunning work by Sejic. The artwork in Harleen is gorgeous, the story is moving and fits seamlessly into Sejic’s art style and graphic narrative pacing, and Harley gets the chance to be messy, complicated, ambitious, and fully realized.


Neena Husid, Leadership Austin FellowA Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
Candlewick Press
March 24, 2020
Riveting, rich and meaningful, A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat gets this reviewers enthusiastic thumbs up. Though set in a fantastical Southeast Asian dystopia where light is doled out by a suspect Governor, this middle grade fiction shines lights on such heady issues as truth, justice, ownership and power. The story follows Pong, and escaped prison waif, through a series of experiences, often white-knuckled, which lead him beyond a need to survive and into a  realm of understanding the hard choices a woke citizen, and friend, must make. Inspired by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Soontornvat’s A Wish in the Dark, is peopled with characters no less inspired. Pong, the misunderstood fugitive, Nok, the girl who wrongly pursues him and Somkit,a resourceful best friend who never disappoints all illuminate the bleakness of a dark world with a fire that won’t be extinguished. Not by despots: not be circumstance; and not by fear. This is a wonderfully written, smart book you won’t want to miss.

What We’re Reading Now:

Michael Noll, Program Director  

Bang by Daniel Peña
Arte Publico Press
January 30, 2018

In the intense national discussion of the novel American Dirt, one of the things that sometimes gets said is that the book would have drawn less notice–that its errors would have been less egregious–if it had been marketed as a thriller. But, of course, page-turners (whether they’re in the thriller genre or simply using conventions from it) should not be viewed as a wasteland of cultural appropriation. For example, there is Daniel Peña’s recent novel Bang. It involves characters who are undocumented and live on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. It also involves cartels, a plane crash, and an urgent sense of threat.
From page one, Bang demonstrates the ways that thriller conventions can be written into a very specific depiction of place, as in this opening scene of a woman waiting for her deported husband to return from Mexico:
“In her hands, she holds a portable transistor radio that she’s modified to pick up police radios, EMT radios, border patrol radios and twangy, redneck rag chew coming in over the CB waves. She listens for any news of her husband, trying to make sense of the garbled English blaring from the transistor’s speaker. The radio cuts in and out. Static.”

Evan Parks, Project Specialist

The Body Double by Emily Beyda
Doubleday
March 3, 2020

The Body Double by Emily Beyda (coming out in March from Doubleday) is a Hitchcockian thriller through modern day LA as our nameless narrator finds herself hired into one of the strangest jobs available, the body double for a celebrity who can’t handle the limelight anymore. Reading this novel calls to mind classics like Du Maurier’s Rebecca as our narrator struggles to maintain her sense of identity while assuming the identity of another. Filled to the brim with characters you don’t know if you can trust, the dark side of paradise, and intrigue, The Body Double earns the right to call itself a noir.

What We’re Reading Now:

Michael Noll, Program Director  

They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems by David Bowles
Cinco Puntos Press
November 27, 2018

I can remember a time when a novel-in-stories was an experimental concept, but thanks to writers like Jacqueline Woodson (National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming) and Kwame Alexander (Newbury winner Crossover), the form hasn’t just gone mainstream, it’s become an almost perfect form for middle-grade readers. A new book to add to the list of middle-grade novels-in-poems is David Bowles’ They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems. Bowles is a smart, astute writer, comfortable in linguistics (check out his tweet-threads about Spanish and Nahuatl), folklore (he wrote the book Border Lore Folktales and Legends of South Texas), and the humorous and fantastic (as his entry into the Unicorn Rescue Society series, The Chupacabras of the Río Grande, demonstrates).
They Call Me Güero does an expert, joyful job of creating a character who is at once tentative and uncertain and full of brash promises and desire. He’s also written a book that takes on politics directly, as in this scene where Güero’s family drives through a border patrol checkpoint on a shopping trip to San Antonio:
Dad, like he can feel the bad vibes
coming from the back seat, tells us to chill.
“It won’t always be like this,” he says,
“but it’s up to us to make the change,
especially los jóvenes, you and your friends.
Eyes peeled. Stay frosty. Learn and teach the truth.
Right now, what matters is San Antonio.
We’ll take your mom shopping,
go swimming in the Texas-shaped pool,
and eat a big dinner at Tito’s.
Order anything you want.”

Sam Babiak, Member Services Director / Program Coordinator 

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Griffin
May 14, 2019

Set partially in Texas, Washington D.C., and London, this debut romance novel is both familiar and refreshing. Red, White, & Royal Blue follows Alex, the First Son of the United States as he falls in love with none other than, Henry the Prince of Wales. Witty, moving, and bubbling with chemistry, this book has everything you need in a romance. But while Alex is the First Son of the United States, he’s also the first Latino SOTUS. The intersection of Alex’s identity, paired with his sexual awakening in the world’s harsh spotlight, make for a dynamic read. This book explores the first woman president (Alex’s very Texan mother), the first (half) Latinx First Family, and a gay royal. This fun read is the perfect reprieve from our own political landscape and one of my favorite “enemies to lovers” romance. A must read!

Neena Husid, Leadership Austin Fellow 

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry
Simon & Schuster
April 7, 2020

The Roxy Letters, Mary Pauline Lowry’s romp through an Austin fast going corporate gets a thumbs up from this reviewer. Bravely, Lowry employs the occasionally besmirched epistolary form to give readers a window into Roxy: a horny, underachieving Whole Foods ‘deli maid’ who recruits an unlikely posse for an eco-grrl-graffiti response to the gentrification of her beloved town. But then, what else would a thwarted UT art major do?

In fast, funny, often pissy letters to Everett, her ex-boyfriend roommate, Roxy bemoans her city’s transformation in the whiny fashion of all who have lived in Austin over three years. How many Austinites does it take to screw in a light bulb? You know the answer.

For many of us UT grads that never left, The Roxy Letters can’t help but recall Sarah Bird’s breakthrough novel Alamo House-a smart, snarky send up of the frat house co-op wars of a pre-condos everywhere campus. But it’s hard to equate Lowry’s 2012 Austin with Bird’s eighties version. Or is it?

Since 1972 when I made my home in a city that had not yet audaciously dubbed itself the live music capitol of the world, we Austinites have been complaining. We complained when Armadillo World Headquarters fell, when Liberty Lunch was razzed,and when South Austin stopped being referred to as Bubba Land. Conversely, we cheered for ACL, SXSW, and the resilience of Oat Willies, Peter Pan Mini-Golf and a twice-flooded Whole Foods. And though Waterloo Records still stands proud, the object of Roxy’s fury, Lululemon, has truly swallowed up its video sister in a swath of see-thru yoga offerings. Pants that Roxy discovered during a reconnaissance mission, gave her the “ass of a vixen.”

What to do about an ever-morphing paradise full of old memories and new possibilities? Roxy has a plan for keeping it weird. Check it out and laugh as you try hard to forget Whole Foods is now a Jeff Bezo’s acquisition. You can pre-order this book now!


What We’re Reading Now: January 14

Michael Noll, Program Director

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas
Berkley Publishing
October 15, 2019

The recent film Knives Out has become a hit in large part because it contains something that has been lacking in most crime and detective stories lately: fun. All of the actors—along with the writer, director, and set designer—are clearly taking immense pleasure at the wonderfully ridiculous conceit of the story. If you’re looking for a literary version of such a story, check out Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock Series. The fourth installment, The Art of Theft, was just released in October, and it contains all of the lightness, joy, and wit of the previous novels, with the addition of a stolen painting and a French chateau where nothing is as it seems.

Thomas takes every opportunity to use the clothes of the time period and the subterfuges of the genre to her advantage. In this passage, Mrs. Holmes (all of Doyle’s classic characters are women in this series) engages in some minor identity-shading:

In her daily life, Mrs. Watson was perfectly capable of seeing to her own toilette. But this was not daily life. She was a woman of more than half a century, roused abruptly from a heavy s lumber, her face pillow-creased, her hair askew, and she needed to look her very best since her wedding day. Which, of course, took longer than she expected, as she agonized over a choice of dresses.

“Ma’am, you look good in all of them!” said Polly Banning.

Yes, she knew that. But which one made her appear closest to her twenty-five-year-old self?

What We’re Reading Now:

Becka Oliver, Executive Director  

Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas by Stephen Harrigan
University of Texas Press
October 1, 2019

I can remember moderating a panel discussion at the LBJ National Historical Park featuring Stephen Harrigan during which he talked about his then current project, a comprehensive history of the state of Texas. That was in February 2015 and, truly, that project – the 925-page Big Wonderful Thing – has been worth the wait. I’m not sure which I admire more – the unbelievably exhaustive research that must have gone into this book or the brilliant and beautiful prose that brings that research and the Lone Star State to life. As Harrigan so eloquently puts it in the Prologue, “Texas has a history that is of consequence not just to itself, and not just to the nations it was once part of or the nation it briefly became. It sits at the core of the American experience, and its wars, its industries, its presidents, its catastrophes, its scientific discoveries have never stopped shaping the world.”

Michael Noll, Program Director  

The Spectators by Jennifer duBois
Random House
April 2, 2019

When you spend years writing and reading like a writer (mentally analyzing passages and figuring out how you might do something like them in your own work), you can sometimes believe that you’ve lost the sense of magic that good writing holds. You see the smoke and mirrors, the trap doors, and diversions. And so when the wondrous sense of impossibility of a great passage hits you, the impact is even stronger. You understand the mechanics of good writing, and you still get a thrill from seeing it done at a level inaccessible to you.
That’s how I feel about Jennifer duBois’ writing, especially her dialogue. For so many of us, we’re happy if we can write dialogue that doesn’t include some version of “he said, looking at her.” But duBois turns those little physical descriptions between lines of dialogue into some of the most enjoyable phrases in a book.
In this passage, Cel, a young woman working for a Jerry Springer-like reality talk show must tell a guest that the episode has been canceled because it would juxtapose uncomfortably with news of a school shooting that day:
   “Oh, hey!” Cel says, and the devil-boy looks stricken. “I almost forgot!”
   She dashes to her office and returns, triumphant, with a gift bg.
   “Here you go!” she says–in someone else’s voice, possibly someone else’s lifetime. The devil-boy looks cheered, though he really should not; there is nothing good in the bag–just a Mattie M pen and beer cozy and T-shirt, always extra large. Cel cannot imagine anyone wanting it, and after six months with the show, she can imagine a lot of things.
   “Thank you,” says the devil-boy. According to his bio, he is from suburban Connecticut.
   “Sure,” says Cel. “So, Sara will be by in a minute and—“
   “It’s horrible.”
   “I’m sorry?”
   “It’s horrible.” The devil-boy is still staring into the gift bag, and Cel wonders if he’s talking about the beer cozy–or, just possibly, addressing it–but then he looks up at her, eyes shining.
   “It’s a tragedy.”
   Not the gift bag, then.
   “It is,” says Cel.

Neena Husid, Leadership Austin Fellow 

Girl Paper Stone by Laurie Filipelli
Black Lawrence Press
June 15, 2018

This review begins with a pair of disclaimers. The first owns that the author of Girl Paper Stone, Laurie Filipelli, once hired me for a job I adored. Disclaimer number two should be embarrassing but it’s not. Though I’ve done my time studying, reading, writing and criticizing prose, I’m significantly unschooled in the particularities of poetry. And, I kind of like being a form and function idiot. It allows me to take in verse in the same way my uneducated art eye absorbs gallery and museum displays-objectively, viscerally, ignorantly. For me, page after page of Laurie’s book was a dance of ideas and images that moved me in a delirious sway of nostalgia, understanding and surprise that may or may not have been the writer’s intent. But who cares? The joy of experiencing word paintings guaranteed to take you both inside of and beyond yourself is sublime and necessary. The smart, clear-eyed poems of Girl Paper Stone evoke a laconic urgency that’s both prescriptive and addictive. Long after I completed this little book I kept flipping back through, revisiting drugstore bikinis, claw-bottomed slippers, continents of cupcake stickers and the innards of paper scraps. I just needed more uninterrupted, uneducated time to continue feeling a heart inside a heart  and the uncertainty that’s uncertain like that.


What We’re Reading Now:

Michael Noll, Program Director  

Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias
Broken River Books
October 31, 2018

A couple of years ago, I was talking with the famous East Texas crime novelist Joe Lansdale about genre and the way it sticks to writers. He has always avoided being pigeonholed and told me, “I write the genre of Joe Lansdale.” The same is true for the author Gabino Iglesias, whose work is so astonishingly fresh and new that he’s coined a term for it–“barrio noir”–and everyone has said, “Yep, that’s exactly what it is.” The opening chapter of his new novel, Coyote Songs, is perfect: creepy, off-kilter tone; charged sentences, and a moment that literally made me gasp in shock.
Iglesias starts with something familiar and then veers off in unexpected directions. This scene, with a man teaching his son how to fish, sounds like it could be a setup for a Rio Bravo Old Man and the Sea:
“Así you’re gonna be ready for anything, entiendes? El pez caimán es inteligente…very smart. That’s why we have to hide the hook. Fishing is lying, and lying to a smart fish is almost impossible. We also have to see him before he sees us. He stays in the water, unmoving, like a log. Igualito que los caimánes. Sometimes you don’t see it until it’s too late. Most fish are stupid, but not this one. When you go fishing for pez caimán…you have to think of it as going to war with a man, not a fish.”
Just a hint: Iglesias uses this scene to take the reader places Hemingway never imagined.

Catherine Gregoire, Administrative Assistant 

Black Light: Stories by Kimberly King Parsons
Vintage
August 13, 2019

Just as the title entails, Parsons puts her characters under a black light so the reader can see what is so often left in the dark–things that are all too real and frightening to explore. When a writer takes such risks, it’s helplessly enthralling. And there’s much to be said of her prose: harrowing, ethereal, gives you the good kind of shivers because you feel that as she’s dissecting her characters’ souls she is, in turn, dissecting your own.


What We’re Reading Now:

Becka Oliver, Executive Director  

This Is My Body by Cameron Dezen Hammon
Lookout Books
October 27, 2019

This Is My Body is an honest and compelling memoir, an exploration of the author’s evolving faith coupled with a candid look at her marriage as she and her husband find themselves growing apart. Cameron is an accomplished musician and songwriter and it shows in her lyrical prose. I was lucky enough to meet her at last month’s Texas Book Festival and can confirm that she’s the real deal: open and thoughtful with some great insights – on faith, on feminism, on love – to share.

 


Michael Noll, Program Director  

Watershed by Mark Barr
Hub City Press
October 8, 2019

As a first-time congressman, a young LBJ made rural electrification his top priority. He’d grown up without electricity and knew that going from electrified Austin to the dark Hill Country was like traveling to another country and another time. In his debut novel Watershed, Mark Barr plays up the drama caused by the changes that electricity brought. If your house had lights, if your kitchen had an electric stove and refrigerator–if, in other words, your entire world order was upended by a transformation nearly as drastic as moving from The Flintstones to The Jetsons–what would you do? In this passage, one of the main characters, a young mother named Claire whose husband has given her a venereal disease, begins to get a taste for what other transformations might be possible.

Her anger ran like a strong, black current. It puzzled her how easily love rolled over to become something darker, colder. And beyond the sting was the surprise at how easily it all fell away. Everything that she’d worked toward since she was a girl, finding a man to marry, starting a family, making a home, Travis had soiled with his betrayal, leaving her life split open along the seam that had joined her to him. Her sudden freedom was bewildering and a shock, but pleasing as well, though she couldn’t quite put a name to the sensation. She knew she’d have to go back to him, for the children’s sake, if not her own. But not yet. Let him stew a while more. Let him drive that car around alone for all the town to see. She knew there’d be gossip, but she was beyond caring about that now.


Samantha Babiak, Member Services Manager 

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
Simon & Schuster
October 8, 2019

This memoir is a must-read for absolutely everyone. Its visceral, lyrical prose grabs you from the first sentence to the last. Jones weaves his coming (out) of age story with short vignettes that paint a vivid and honest portrait of what it is like to grow up as a gay, Black man in the South.

Jones is a master storyteller. There is so much to learn about craft in terms of narrative structure, language and the possibilities of memoir, but also about trauma, childhood, and family dynamics. I cried, laughed, gasped, and ached reading this. At once healing and heartbreaking, How We Fight For Our Lives is one of my favorite books of the year and I can guarantee, it will be one of yours too.


What We’re Reading Now:

Michael Noll, Program Director  

Ain’t Nobody Nobody by Heather Harper Ellett

Polis Books
September 24, 2019

As someone who grew up on a farm outside a small town, I can be awfully critical of novels set in such places. So many of them miss what I feel to be essential aspects of rural people: their incredible weirdness, their acceptance of details that are common to their world but that seem exotic to many people in cities, and their sense of humor. But Heather Harper Ellett’s country crime novel Ain’t Nobody Nobody gets all three right. In this passage, a disgraced former sheriff tries to investigate a dead body by calling a woman from his former office. But, she won’t give him any information:

“I cain’t! I just cain’t! You know that, and we haven’t spoken in…well, I don’t appreciate you putting me in this position.”

     “What, the new sheriff gonna get mad at you? I hear he runs a tight ship. He off the ventilator yet?”
     “It’s not a ventilator!” Gabby said. “It’s an oxygen tank, and his mind is sharp as a tack.”
     “He’s eight-four.”
     “He’s a veteran!”
     “Union or Confederacy?”
     “W-W-2! We should be honored that he agreed to serve this community! And in his golden years!” She composed herself. “Just six months more and he’ll be the oldest living sheriff in Texas history. Right here in Pine County. Now that is an honor. You don’t go and tell me that ain’t an honor.”

Neena Husid, Leadership Austin Fellow 

Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren
Simon & Schuster
October 22, 2019

The ambition, the angst, the daring, the hi-jinx, the insecurity, the impulsiveness, the drugs, the sex-it’s all there and jumps off the page in Holly George-Warren’s, “Janis.” This biography speaks truth to hype and gives readers a new, or revised, look at America’s-and certainly Texas’-first female rock star, Janis Joplin. From birth to her ridiculously young death, the story of how this quirky, overly bright, artistic soul blossomed into a larger than life legend grabs you as urgently as her mind-bowing voice once did. Remember? Listening to Joplin’s screaming blues felt like being smashed by a train and enjoying every minute of it. George-Warren’s painstaking portrayal of the young rebel who flaunted bigotry to explore the worlds of the blues greats she emulated and then ignored misogyny and sexism to rise to the top, is a must read for anyone who’s had dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues and knows only a Janis  song can cure them.


Catherine Gregoire, Administrative Assistant 

Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley
Grove Press
September 3, 2019

Nothing encourages a writer like a book that makes writing sound like the most magical, worthy, and noble act of creation. Mosley blends enchanting metaphors with straightforward instruction to emulate the writing process. Not many guide books on writing have left me entranced by the voice while also learning practical tools and tips like Mosley’s has.

Evan Parks, Project Specialist 

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
Balzer + Bray
October 1, 2019

Dear Sweet Pea, Julie Murphy’s newest book and her first foray into middle grade, is a wonderful story full of life and heart about a young girl attempting to navigate the shifting relationships between herself and her friends as they prepare to graduate from 7th grade as well as handling her parent’s recent divorce. Murphy describes the complexities of human relationships and life in a way that’s full of hope and empathy. I heartily recommend it to anyone that has ever felt insecure about their bodies, about their relationships, or their place in the world. By that, I mean everyone.

What We’re Reading Now:

Becka Oliver, Executive Director 

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

Mulholland Books
September 5, 2019

I was lucky enough to read Attica Locke’s debut novel, Black Water Rising, in manuscript form more than ten years ago. Scenes from that wonderful book – which was set in Houston and went on to be shortlisted for the Orange Prize, not to mention nominated for several other awards – have stayed with me to this day. (Seriously, everyone, read Black Water Rising). And now, all these years later, Heaven, My Home (September 2019, Mulholland Books) reminds me once again why we should all consider ourselves lucky to have Attica Locke writing about Texas. This time, as she did in the Edgar Award winning Bluebird, Bluebird, she takes us to small town East Texas where Texas Ranger Darren Matthews searches for a young boy who’s gone missing on Caddo Lake. Before long, he’s entangled in a web of false accusations and unreliable witnesses, set against the backdrop of a town still grappling with its past and willing to make any sacrifice for its future. I couldn’t put this one down.

Michael Noll, Program Director

Zarzamora by Vincent Cooper
Jade Publishing
February 11, 2019

While reading this new poetry collection about the inhabitants of a street named after a fruit, it’s impossible not to think of Sandra Cisneros’ most famous work. But this San Antonio street is captured in a voice and tone all of Cooper’s own. The book weaves together an older narrator and his younger self in dreamlike lines.
Cooper will read from Zarzamora on October 24, 7 p.m., at Malvern Books along with Claudia Delfina Cardona and Laura Villareal. More info here.

Neena Husid, Leadership Austin Fellow

Writing to Persuade by Trish Hall
Liveright
June 11, 2019

Style books exist in plenitude. But not many invite you into the frenzy of an iconic editorial department while doling out their do’s and don’t’s. Through advice, examples and personal stories-some thrilling and gossip-filled (remember the NYT’s Putin op-ed?)-Trish Hall’s, Writing to Persuade is a style book with both gravitas and grins. The former editor of the New York Times op-ed page underscores familiar writing rules while pulling some intriguing new rabbits out of her journalistic hat. “Facts aren’t magic,” Hall warns op-ed writers and no matter how many convincing sentences you craft, people will believe what they believe. Regardless of that frustration, she’s firm in her assertion that getting into fights on the page won’t win you converts. Writing to Persuade is a fun and telling read: a book authors of any genre can learn from and enjoy.