Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review: DIVIDED WE STAND by Marjorie J Spruill

I reviewed Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics (Bloomsbury Publishing USA) by Marjorie J. Spruill for Lone Star Literary Life. I laughed, I cried, I fist-pumped.

Marjorie J. Spruill
Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics
Bloomsbury USA
Hardcover, 978-1-6328-6314-6, (also available as an e-book and on Audible), 448 pgs., $33.00
February 28, 2017

“Human rights apply equally to Soviet dissidents, Chilean peasants and American women.” —Barbara Jordan

Gloria Steinem refers to the National Women’s Conference, held November 18-21, 1977, in Houston, Texas, as “the most important event nobody knows about.” Twenty thousand women attended the conference. These delegates were Democrats and Republicans, ranging from students to housewives to the presidents of national groups such as the League of Women Voters, the National Federation of Business and Professional Women, and the National Organization for Women. The star-studded cast included Bella Abzug, Margaret Mead, Betty Friedan, Texas’s Barbara Jordan, Maya Angelou, Jean Stapleton (aka Edith Bunker of All in the Family), Coretta Scott King, and three first ladies of the United States.

With a remarkable degree of unity, a National Plan of Action titled The Spirit of Houston was adopted at the conference and presented to President Jimmy Carter. This plan included recommendations on education and employment discrimination, equal access to credit, extending social security benefits to homemakers, aid to elderly and disabled women, prevention of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, and greater participation for women in foreign policy, among other issues.

“Solidarity among feminists was not the same as solidarity among American women,” Spruill notes. As the conference began, across town fifteen to twenty thousand people converged on the Astro Arena for a Pro-Life, Pro-Family Rally, headed by Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly was the leader of Stop-ERA (Stop Taking Our Privileges), and she created the right-wing Eagle Forum to “combat women’s lib,” which they were convinced was a Communist plot to knock American women, “beneficiaries of a tradition of special respect for women which dates back from the Christian Age of Chivalry,” off the mythical pedestal.

Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics is Professor Marjorie J. Spruill’s account of the events leading to the National Women’s Conference, the disappointing results, and the rise of social conservatives. “There were two women’s movements in the 1970s: a women’s rights movement that enjoyed tremendous success,” Spruill writes, “and a conservative women’s movement that formed in opposition.… Each played an essential role in the making of modern American political culture.” Spruill draws a direct line between these two movements and the rigidly divided electorate of today.

Spruill provides a concise history of second-wave feminism and the rise of social conservatives, as well as a detailed account of the historic gains of feminism in the 1970s. Heavily footnoted, the narrative bogs down intermittently in names and acronyms, but Divided We Stand isn’t a strenuously academic work, and is quite readable for a general audience.

Divided We Stand is filled with countless priceless details of the times. Airline executives defending before Congress their policy of “measurement” checks for stewardesses claimed the checks were “essential to their business.” Representative Martha Griffiths asked, “What are you running, an airline or a whorehouse?” Checkmate.

Spruill’s epilogue does a superb job of wrapping up events since Ronald Reagan took office, including the 2016 election, which is a tall order. An important contribution to a time and a subject that should be better known, the story told in Divided We Stand retains its relevance, and indeed has renewed urgency.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 3/20-26

Bookish events in Texas for the week of March 20-26, 2017: 

Special Events:
21st Annual ASU Writers Conference in Honorof Elmer Kelton, San Angelo, March 23-24

2017 San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Awards, March 24

Bayou City Poetry Slam Festival, Houston, March 24-25

Building a Writing Life! A weekend writing retreat led by ire'ne lara silva, Maxwell, March 25-26

Ongoing Exhibits:

Texas Writers: Humanities Texas Exhibition, Salado, March 3-31

The Art of Dr. Seuss: A Retrospective Exhibition, Austin, March 4-April 2

EVERYDAY PEOPLE: THE ART OF JAMES E. RANSOME (a National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature exhibition), Abilene, March 9-May 8

Monday, March 20:

Murder By the Book, Meg Howrey will sign and discuss The Wanderers, 6:30PM

North Richland Hills
North Richland Hills Library, Behind the Book with Lisa See, author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, 12:45PM [ticketed reception at 12PM]


Benbrook Public Library, Presentation: The Seven Deadly First-Page Sins: An Editorial Exorcism with Laura Maisano and Tex Thompson, 6:30PM

British Beverage Co., Art House Dallas presents For the Love of Words, 6:30PM

Craft and Growler, Deep Vellum Books hosts Literary Trivia Night! (all proceeds benefit Deep Vellum Publishing), 7PM

Dallas Museum of Art, Arts & Letters Live presents Pulitzer Prize–winning author and photojournalist Paul Watson discussing and signing Ice Ghosts, 7:30PM

The Wild Detectives, Colin P. Cahoon reading and signing The Man With the Black Box, 7:30PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Fort Worth Poetry Slam and open mic!, 8PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Will Schwalbe will discuss and sign BOOKS FOR LIVING, 7PM

Malvern Books, Fantastical Fictions presents: A Discussion of Chocky with Rebecca Schwarz, 7PM

Michener Center for Writers, Irish novelist Colm Toibin returns to give a reading of new work, 7:30PM

Mr. Catfish & More, NeoSoul Poetry ATX, 8PM

UT Center for Mexican American Studies, Salon Cultural: Race, Writing, and Culture featuring Natalie Diaz, Emmy Perez, John Moran Gonzalez, and Dagoberto Gilb, 7PM

UT Perry-Castañeda Library, 2016 Hamilton Book Awards Author Showcase with Charles Ramirez Berg (The Classical Mexican Cinema: The Poetics of the Exceptional Golden Age Films), Luis H. Zayas (Forgotten Citizens: Deportation, Children, and the Making of American Exiles and Orphans), Madeline Y. Hsu (The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority) and a presentation about Kamran Asdar Ali's book Communism in Pakistan: Politics and Class Activism 1947-1972 will be included though the author will not be in attendance, 3PM

UT Perry-Castañeda Library, Documenting Joy: Shifting the Narrative in Undocumented Storytelling with undocumented American poet and activist Yosimar Reyes, author of For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly…, 7PM

Lone Star College–Montgomery, Writers in Performance Series presents Pushcart Prize-winning author Daniel Pena, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Richard Russo reads and signs EVERYBODY’S FOOL, 7PM

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Poetry Slam and Catalogue Release Party, 6:30PM

Merfish Teen Center Ballroom, Author Talk with Kim Friedman and Kate Siegel, author of Mother, Can You Not?, 7:30PM

Murder By the Book, Harry Huniscker will sign and discuss The Devil's Country, 6:30PM

Friday, March 24:
UTA Central Library, Professor Max Krochmal discusses and signs Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era, 7:30PM

BookPeopleCartoonist & Illustrator SARAH ANDERSEN speaking and signing Big Mushy Happy Lump, 7PM

Malvern Books, I Scream Social Reading Series with local women writers, + open mic, 7PM

UT Hogg Auditorium, March On! A Conversation: Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell discuss their National Book Award-winning graphic memoir series, March, 11AM

Dallas Museum of Art, Arts & Letters Live presents Adam Haslett, author of Imagine Me Gone, in conversation with Will Evans of Cinestate, 7:30PM

The Wild Detectives, Join "The Reality Is" podcast for an evening of candid discussion highlighting the importance of the woman’s role in society, live music and poetry in celebration of Women’s History Month, 6:30PM

Fort Worth
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "Portraits" with Victor Hernández, 12:45PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Celebrate Women's History Month at The Dock: Enjoy drumming, story telling, artistic expressions, games, food and more, plus buy a $5 bag and fill it up with books, 4PM


B&N - Westheimer, N.B. Grant signing A Journey to Freedom Through Prayer, 12PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Jennifer Hamburg launches her new novel for children, HAZY BLOOM AND THE TOMORROW POWER, 3PM

Johnson City
TASTE Wine + Art, Margie Crisp and William Montgomery sign The Nueces River, 4PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, six contributing authors signing When Heaven Touches Earth, 1PM

Sunday, March 26:

Brazos Bookstore, Jack Davis discusses and signs THE GULF, 5PM

Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, Author Talk: Lisa F. Smith, author of Girl Walks Out of a Bar, 7PM

San Antonio
San Antonio Public Library, San Antonio authors Bonnie Lyons and Deb Field, along with photographer Linda Harris, will introduce their book, Wow: Wonderful Old Women, 3PM

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I reviewed The Inexplicable Logic of My Life (Clarion Books) by El Paso's Benjamin Alire Sáenz for Lone Star Literary Life. This is a heartwarming coming-of-age story in which Sáenz inhabits Sally on the cusp of “life beginning,” bringing his first-person narration uncannily alive in beautifully rendered relationships. Sáenz has done the thing that is the reason for fiction.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
Clarion Books
Hardcover, 978-0-5445-8650-5, (also available as an e-book, an audio book, and on Audible), 464 pgs., $17.99
March 7, 2017
“just because my love isn’t perfect doesn’t mean I don’t love you”
Seventeen-year-old Salvador “Sally” Silva likes his life. What he doesn’t like is change. Beginning his senior year at El Paso High School, Sally has a great relationship with Vicente, his adoptive father; a steadfast best friend of many years, Samantha “Sammy” Diaz; and a loving extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and his grandmother Mima. But when Sally, an easygoing guy with “a control thing over [himself]” who prefers “keeping it calm,” gets into a fistfight on the first day of school, he begins to wonder about his “bio father” for the first time, and doubting that he really knows himself at all. “Maybe the kind of guy I was was like someone I didn’t know,” Sally thinks. “You know, the guy I’d never met whose genes I had.” Then Sally’s Mima gets sick, his father’s former boyfriend returns, and his friends’ lives are turned upside down, forcing Sally to confront impending adulthood and question what it means to be a man.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is the new young-adult novel from PEN/Faulkner award-winning Benjamin Alire Sáenz. This is a heartwarming coming-of-age story in which Sáenz inhabits Sally on the cusp of “life beginning,” bringing his first-person narration uncannily alive in beautifully rendered relationships.

Sally wants the human heart to make rational sense, but he and his friends learn that there are as many ways of loving as there are people on the planet. Mima feeds people; Vicente loves his sports-loving brothers by reading the sports pages of the newspaper so he can have a conversation with them; Uncle Mickey loves by slipping money into the hands of his nieces and nephews. Sally discovers “love is difficult and complicated,” and that love, not blood, creates a family.

These characters are sharply delineated individuals. Sammy is beautiful, smart, ambitious, and emotionally volatile. “She could be a storm. But she could be a soft candle lighting up a dark room.” Vicente is a Columbia-educated painter and professor of art, a gay Mexican American who loves art because “it civilized the world.” Fito is an “intellectual” who ends every other sentence with “and shit,” who walks “like a coyote looking for food” and whose mother barters her Lone Star card for meth.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a long book, but a quick read; it just flows. Language and the magic of words are important to these characters, and Sáenz’s choices are precise. His teenage dialogue sounds authentic, especially the “verbal volleyball” between Sally and Sammy. Happily, El Paso is a presence in this story. “I like that you could see and smell the border in the air and on the streets,” Sally says, “and in the talk of the few people we passed who spoke the special kind of language that wasn’t really Spanish and wasn’t really English.”

I will miss these characters. To paraphrase Sally, I like who these kids are becoming. Sáenz has done the thing that is the reason for fiction.

Originally published by Lone Star Literary Life.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017



  Genre: Literary Fiction
Date of Publication: March 1, 2017
Number of Pages: 194

Scroll down for Giveaway!

Gordon Atkinson, of the popular blog RealLivePreacher, brings us Foy, a recently- divorced, recently-resigned pastor in the midst of redefining personal meaning. As Foy travels to New Orleans, hoping to find a new identity separate from the church, he keenly observes the everyday, rendering ordinary moments unexpectedly significant. Atkinson’s own background as a preacher and blogger inspires Foy’s confessional voice, the voice which characterizes this story about how our own experiences impact the universal search for meaning. 


“If the magnitude of difference between the stars and humankind is the purest of religions, reminding us of our insignificance (so thinks Foy), then that magnitude is collapsed in the hands of Atkinson, whose words elevate the most insignificant of objects, acts, and characters to startling heights. A key shifted on a desk, a communion cup offered to an old woman despite a philosophical mismatch, a baby's bottle first ignored and then retrieved for a frazzled stranger on a bus. Each commands, each arrests, each persists. And we suddenly remember that what we create with mere words can be as lasting as the luminaries.”
-- L.L. Barkat, author of Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, twice named a best book of 2011

“Few writers can match Gordon Atkinson's ability to tell stories about the sacred in our everyday lives. Foy is a work of power, beauty, and clarity--I saw myself and the world more clearly after reading it. I think you will too.”
-- Greg Garrett, author of The Prodigal and Entertaining Judgment

“I really, really like Gordon Atkinson's Foy. I like the character Foy himself. He's Everyman and he's me and he's Gordon, all at the same time. Nice trick. I like Gordon's writing -- straightforward, but with a simple elegance. But what I really like is the no-holds-barred honesty. This feels real because it is real. Foy at his worst, Foy at his best, Foy at his most wonderful/awful. It's an on-going series, just like life. I look forward to the next chapter.”
-- Robert F. Darden, author of Nothing but Love in God’s Water, Volume II: Black Sacred Music from Sit-Ins to Resurrection City

Atkinson is the author of the books (Wm. B. Eerdmans), Turtles All the Way Down, and A Christmas Story You’ve Never Heard.  He was a contributor for the magazine Christian Century and founding editor for the High Calling website, which brought together hundreds of independent writers and featured their work. 

His writing career started on Salon where he was among the most read bloggers on the site.  One of his essays was chosen to be included in The Best Christian Writing 2004 (Jossey-Bass) and his book won the Independent Publisher Book Award in the creative non-fiction category.



Grand Prize: Signed Copies of Foy: On the Road to Lost, Turtles All the Way Down, and A Christmas Story You Never Heard
2nd Prize: Signed Copy of Foy: On the Road to Lost
3rd Prize: Signed Copy of
March 1 - 15, 2017
Video Guest Post 1
Excerpt 1
Video Guest Post 2
Author Interview 1
Video Guest Post 3
Excerpt 2
Video Guest Post 4
Author Interview 2
Video Guest Post 5

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