Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: LAS NALGAS DE JLO by Bárbara Renaud González

'Daughter of a Mexican mother and a Tejano father, González “tried to share the conversations [her] community was having around the kitchen table.”'
I reviewed Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writing by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995–2005 (Aztlan Libre Press) by Bárbara Renaud González for Lone Star Literary Life

Bárbara Renaud González
Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writing by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995–2005
Aztlan Libre Press
Paperback, 978-0-9897-7823-7, 290 pgs., $24.00
March 1, 2017

Bárbara Renaud González writes deep and wide: politics from the city council to the United Nations; culture and the appropriation thereof; the links between poor education and an ever-increasing prison population; the deference afforded to, and the outsized power of, big business; climate change, feminism, gender, sexuality, immigration, art, religion, identity—you know, everything. But above all and always, class in our supposedly classless society.

Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writing by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995–2005 is the first collection of González’s writing. It includes columns, essays, poems, speeches, reviews, articles, and commentary from such outlets as the San Antonio Express-News, the Los Angeles Times, the Texas Observer, Z Magazine, the Dallas Morning News, Ms. Magazine, and NPR. Daughter of a Mexican mother and a Tejano father, González “tried to share the conversations [her] community was having around the kitchen table.”

González calls out the malicious: “If you’re poor, Black or Latino in this state, our racist history seasoned with our hang-em-high frontier, laced with an eye-for-an-eye Christianity has created a lethal stew of punishment and cruelty.” She’s acerbic with the nonsensical: “it’s ugly to be born brown, but it’s a status thing if you are able to return the color of iced-tea from a visit to Cancún … Brown depends.”

She’s relentless with the hypocritical: “For a man who hung out with lepers, [and] cripples, … Jesus [is] … now real close and personal with senators and governors … Jesus didn’t die … for school vouchers as an answer to unequal public schools … If he were here today, he … wouldn’t live very long before getting shot or going to jail.” González educates the oblivious: “We acquire the trappings of the ethnic—the spiritual retablos and saints, and turquoise drops, the Spanish red roofs. We visit the Paseo of the Arboretum, the suburbs of Las Colinas, the fiestas of summer … But as we continue to acquire, to feast and market a culture, we deny the existence of the culture’s guardians—those Mexican people who have become aliens on their own … we must examine and not just acquire the cultural effects that divide us … our culture [must not be] for consumption only.”

Sometimes González’s writing is unexpectedly lyrical. The frijoles negros in Guatemala are like “a chocolate breeze, a palmful of caviar, the flametip of cognac all at once.” Barbacoa is “silky and juicy and ay, how good it tastes, how the kids are laughing and the grease delicious, like memories slipping from the mouth to the chin to the table. Staining us with the past.”

González insists that we look and that we see. It can be disheartening and infuriating to read the dates on these pieces (“Blaming the Immigrant,” 1996) and realize how much remains the same: “there is here … yesterday has begun again.” Las Nalgas de JLo is an important collection, a gift, not only for Texas, but especially for Texas.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 6/19-25

Bookish events in Texas for the week of June 19-25, 2017: 

Special Events:
11th Annual African American Book Festival, Austin, June 24

Dallas Author Expo, The Colony, June 24

Ongoing Exhibits:

Sandra Cisneros: A House of Her Own Exhibition, San Marcos, February 15-July 1

Of Texas Rivers and Texas Art, Austin, June 5-August 13

Print Houston 2017, June 5-July 3

Illustrator of the Century Garth Williams, Abilene, June 8-September 1

Monday, June 19:
BookPeople, AMELIA GRAY speaking & signing Isadora (in conversation with Susan Quesal), 7PM

Dozen Street, Chicon Street Poets featuring Donna Hilbert (plus Haiku challenge and open mic), 7PM

Murder By the Book, Mike Maden will sign Tom Clancy Point of Contact, 6:30PM

Tuesday, June 20:

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

Blue Willow Bookshop, Carolyn Parkhurst will discuss and sign her novel HARMONY, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Jennifer Latson discusses and signs THE BOY WHO LOVED TOO MUCH, 7PM

Architecture Center Houston (ArCH), AIA Houston, ArCH, and the Houston Public Library present Authors in Architecture: Pino Shah and Stephen Fox discuss and sign Architecture of The Lower Rio Grande Valley: An Introduction, 5:30PM

Four Leaf Towers, World Affairs Council of Greater Houston hosts retired CIA operations officer Charles Goslin discussing and signing Understanding Personal Security and Risk: A Guide for Business Travelers, 6:30PM

McGovern Centennial Gardens at Hermann Park, Doug Hoerr will discuss and sign Movement and Meaning, which features the McGovern Centennial Park, plus a tour of the gardens, 5PM

Moody Center for the Arts, Celebrate the release of Gulf Coast Journal Issue 29.2, 7PM

Air Race Classic, Sarah Byrn Rickman will be signing Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot, 11AM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Edie Jarolim discusses and signs Getting Naked For Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All, 5PM

Sugar Land
B&N - First Colony, Storytime With Local Author Maria Ashworth, 10AM

Friday, June 23:

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Will Jensen reads and signs Cities of Men, 5PM

Saturday, June 24:


Deep Vellum Books, Dark Moon Poetry reading series, 7PM

El Paso
El Paso Public Library - Memorial Park, Tumblewords Project workshop: "Catharsis: A Workshop on Emotional Literature" with Evan Taylor, 12:45PM

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen Center, Urban Cowgirl: Decadently Southern, Outrageously Texan, Food, Family Traditions, and Style for Modern Life book signing with Sarah Penrod, 2PM

Galveston Bookshop, N. E. Brown signs The Altercation, the 6th installment of the Galveston Indignities series, 11AM

Galveston Bookshop, Birney T. “Chick” Havey signs his WWII memoir, Never Left the Battlefields, 2PM

Half Price Books - Clear Lake, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

Half Price Books - Kirkwood, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie author Sarafia Jones–Hall and pick up her latest release, while supplies last

Houston Public Library - Young Branch, Author ALOUD with romance author Cydney Rax, 2PM

Murder By the Book, Haylen Beck (Stuart Neville) will sign and discuss Here and Gone, 4:30PM
B&N - La Cantera, Guest author Aurora Dawning book signing, 1PM

Ruiz-Healy Art, Helen Kleberg Groves will read and sign copies of her new book, Bob and Helen Kleberg of King Ranch, 2PM

The Twig Book Shop, Eric Sirotkin signs Witness: A Lawyer's Journey from Litigation to Liberation, 2PM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Reflejos de Estrella: Cuentos que sanan el alma (Star Reflexes: Stories That Heal the Soul) discussion, reception, and signing with author Blanca Dominguez, 1PM

B&N - Town Square, Paige Bowers signing The General's Niece, 1PM

Sunday, June 25:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: IN THE VALLEY OF THE SUN by Andy Davidson

I reviewed In the Valley of the Sun (Skyhorse Publishing) by Andy Davidson for Lone Star Literary Life. This powerful, audacious debut is an unexpected, original synthesis of horror and Western. If Stephen King and James Lee Burke had a love child, he would be Andy Davidson.

Andy Davidson
In the Valley of the Sun: A Novel
Skyhorse Publishing
Hardcover, 978-1-5107-2110-4, (also available as an e-book), 384 pgs., $24.99
June 6, 2017

In the autumn of 1980, drifter Travis Stillwell washes up west of the Pecos in the fictional town of Cielo Rojo, Texas. After a surreal night at a local watering hole where he meets Rue, a young woman with “skin … light as bone, her hair as red as a fortunate sky,” Stillwell wakes covered in blood inside the camper on his rattletrap pickup, parked in the otherwise deserted lot of the Sundowner Inn, with no memory of the previous night. The old motel and its café are owned by Annabelle Gaskin, “solemn and pretty and not unlined by the life she had made here in the desert,” a young widow and mother of a ten-year-old son. She hires Stillwell to clean up the motel in barter for his stay. You’ll want to point and holler as danger walks among them unrecognized, while the Gaskin farmhouse sits atop a hill overlooking the Sundowner Inn like Norman’s manse in Psycho.

In the Valley of the Sun, Andy Davidson’s debut novel, is an original synthesis of horror and Western with a dollop of police procedural. Part From Dusk Till Dawn, part Fargo, part Something Wicked This Way Comes, it bucks the trend of glamorous vampires. These aren’t Anne Rice’s Old-World vamps, nor Charlaine Harris’s Bon Temps vamps; they are distinctly American, brutally Old-West undead. If Stephen King and James Lee Burke had a love child, it would be Andy Davidson.

Intricately plotted, fast-paced, packing serpentine twists, In the Valley of the Sun progresses inexorably from curious to creepy to oh-my-good-lord-somebody-DO-something. Davidson gifts his characters nuanced backstories, informing their motivations and choices. Two Texas Rangers provide comedic relief as the veteran schools his junior partner. Subplots add dimension without clutter. Ironically, we meet Annabelle on the day of her baptism, another way to be renewed by blood.

Minimal detail subtly anchors the stark West Texas setting with its mesquite, arroyos, pumpjacks “plunging and rearing like giant birds tearing at the land,” and the red Pegasus taking flight from a defunct Mobil Oil station.

Third-person narratives alternate between hunter and quarry; sometimes the two switch places. There’s a cadence to Davidson’s sentences, his arresting phrases. In New Orleans, Rue’s enhanced senses “taste the dirt between the sidewalk pavers, the green grass growing up through the cracks, the salt in the air, the bogs and muddy slick lizard stink of alligators miles away.” In another passage, “A sudden inexplicable sense of the universe in total, a God’s-eye view of all the strands that formed the web,” seizes the veteran Ranger. “Some were straight and true, and others made patterns without purpose, as if the weaver were lost or drunk or simple.” There’s your Burke.

Relentless momentum bounding toward the climactic scenes had me unconsciously holding my breath, consciously trying to stop my eyes from straying furtively to the next page. The payoff is satisfying and unexpectedly graceful. In the Valley of the Sun is a powerful, audacious debut.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Promo: THE REBIRTH OF HOPE by Sau Le Hudecek

My Journey from Vietnam War Child to American Citizen
Sau Le Hudecek

  Genre: Memoir / Inspirational
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press
Date of Publication: June 15, 2017
Number of Pages: 160

Scroll down for Giveaway!

Born in a demilitarized zone during the Vietnam War to a Vietnamese mother and American soldier, Sau Le arrived in the United States as a young woman with only twenty dollars in her pocket. Though bullied and abused since childhood, she nevertheless came to her new homeland armed with courage and determined to build a decent life for herself, her infant son, and her traumatized mother. This is the story of how she overcame every conceivable hurdle—significant culture shock, a daunting language barrier, serious illness, heartbreak, and betrayal—to become a landlord, a successful business owner, a joyous wife and mom, and a woman blessed with generous, loyal friends. She describes an arduous journey, both physical and emotional, from a place of terror and utter despair to a life overflowing with love and prosperity. Ultimately, this is a story of hope, something Sau Le thought she’d lost long ago in the minefields of Vietnam. Her goal is both to uplift and to remind everyone born on American soil that anything in this land is possible for those willing to put dedication, faith, and passion to work.

Praise for The Rebirth of Hope:

"Sau Le has an innate abundance of beauty, wisdom, loyalty and dignity which led her to overcome unbelievable challenges and fully realize her dream in America. Thus proving once again that adversity builds character. I couldn't put it down."
—Dan Jenkins, bestselling author of Semi-Tough

“Sau Le lifted her head and walked through years of hard work and determination, inspiring other women along the way! Every word of her personal journey was written to remind all of us!” 
—Robin Sanders, Sanders Travel Agency

“An inspiring story of a Vietnam refugee’s journey to achieve the ‘American Dream.’ This book is a lesson for everyone.” 
—Martin C. Bowen, financial executive

“To have written this remarkable story is one more example of the focus and tenacity that Sau Le Hudecek has shown in achieving her previous goals. You will remember this gripping tale of resilience and courage.” 
—Gail Williamson Rawl

“A truly inspirational story of a fearless person who overcame unbelievable odds to make a better life and obtain the ‘American dream.’” 
—Janie Beggs


Sau Le Hudecek owns a successful salon in Fort Worth, Texas, while still serving her own elite clientele.  In 1993, she arrived in the United States at the age of 22 and was sworn in as a citizen in 2001. She lives with her family in Granbury enjoying the sunsets from their home on the lake.

Connect with Texas Christian University Press:
June 7-June 16, 2017


Author Interview
Scrapbook 1
Scrapbook 2

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 6/12-18

Bookish events in Texas for the week of June 12-18, 2017: 

Special Events:
Teen Slam Camp, Dallas, June 12-16

Kate Forsyth Cactus & Kangaroos Readerathon and Writers Intensive, Dallas and Richardson, June 16-17

Inspirational New Writer's Event, San Antonio, June 17

Ongoing Exhibits:

Sandra Cisneros: A House of Her Own Exhibition, San Marcos, February 15-July 1

Of Texas Rivers and Texas Art, Austin, June 5-August 13

Print Houston 2017, June 5-July 3

Illustrator of the Century Garth Williams, Abilene, June 8-September 1

Monday, June 12:
Blue Willow Bookshop, Sarah Dessen will discuss and sign her new novel, ONCE AND FOR ALL, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Haroon Moghul discusses and signs HOW TO BE A MUSLIM: AN AMERICAN STORY (in conversation with Dina Kesbeh, founder of MuslimVox), 7PM

Tuesday, June 13:
Abilene Public Library - Main, Young Audiences: Storyteller Bernadette Nason, 10:45AM & 3PM

Dallas Museum of Art, Arts & Letters Live hosts Jonathan Safran Foer discussing and signing Here I Am (in conversation with Will Evans of Deep Vellum Publishing and Cinestate), 7:30PM

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

B&N - Stonebriar, Once and for All book signing with Sarah Dressen, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, poet Gina Ferrara reading from and signing FITTING THE SIXTH FINGER, 7PM

Fix Coffeebar, Poetry Fix featuring Mary Wemple & Chuck Wemple, 6:30PM

Houston Maritime Museum, HMM History Lecture Series: Paul Matt

San Antonio
The Korova, PuroSlam!, 10PM

Wednesday, June 14:
Crescent Club, DFW World Affairs Council hosts William Hogeland discussing and signing Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the U.S. Army & that Opened the West, 6:30PM

Denton South Branch Library, Professor's Corner: A Literary Discussion Group featuring Poems by Texas Poet Laureate Jan Seale, 7PM

Murder By the Book, Joseph Finder will sign and discuss The Switch, 6:30PM

San Antonio
San Antonio Public Library - Forest Hills, Amy Stone discusses and signs Cornyation: San Antonio's Outrageous Fiesta Tradition, 6PM

Thursday, June 15:
River Oaks Bookstore, Randy Guttenberger discusses and signs Managing Your Crazy Self! Turning your Turbulence into Tranquility, 5PM

South Irving Library, Out of This World YA Author Panel with Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns), Roshani Chokshi (A Crown of Wishes), Stephanie Garber (Caraval), Tricia Levenseller (Daughter of the Pirate King), Alex London (Proxy), and Kayla Olson (The Sandcastle Empire), 7PM

Collin County Higher Education Center, DFW World Affairs Council hosts William Hogeland discussing and signing Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the U.S. Army & that Opened the West, 11:45AM

Friday, June 16:
Saturday, June 17:
Flying Fish Restaurant, Workshop: "Becoming a Better Self-Editor" with Special Guest Blake Atwood, 4PM

Brazos Bookstore, Kayla Olson reads and signs SANDCASTLE EMPIRE (in conversation with Joy Preble), 3PM

Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Clayton Library Lecture Series & World War I centennial commemoration: Andrew Carroll launches his new book, MY FELLOW SOLDIERS: General John Pershing and the Americans Who Helped Win the Great War, 2PM
B&N - Preston & Park, Liana LeFey reads and signs Scandal of the Season, 3PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Adria Andresen signs The Bunny Weaver, 11AM