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Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song by…

Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song

by Donna Walker-Nixon

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We round out the first Women Writers Month on “Likely Stories” with a wide-ranging and interesting collection of writings in multiple genres, Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song. Creative non-fiction leads off, followed by song, poetry, fiction and an interesting section on “Lagniappe: An Editorial Extrusion.” A lagniappe is a small gift given to a customer by a merchant following a purchase, for example, a thirteenth doughnut when someone purchases twelve. Three of the editors contributed to this section. Rachel Crawford begins with “First Names,” an interesting short story. Cassy Burleson adds five fine poems, and novelist Donna Walker-Nixon contributes an excellent shorty story, “Johnny Messy Skin.”

This volume, published in 2015 contains so many impressive works, I hardly know where to begin to offer samples, as I usually do. Among the creative non-fiction pieces, I especially liked Betty Wiesepape’s interesting and detailed story of a marriage in the beginning of the twentieth century. Wiesepape writes, “Ransom Filmore Holland took Vera Kate Bruner to be the mother of his five children on December 24, 1913. It was not the kind of wedding young women dream about. No courtship, no matching gold bands, no long white wedding dress – only a hurried buggy ride to purchase a marriage license and stand before a justice of the peace before the Smith County courthouse closed for the Christmas holiday” (55). Santa never delivered a wedding present quite like he did that day.

Amanda Pearcy wrote four songs, and I especially appreciated “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor.” Perry wrote, “Mama prepare, prepare a room for me. / Mama make me a pallet on the floor to sleep / I’m comin’ home to you / I’m comin’ home to you / I ain’t gonna go on like this no more // Papa bring your mean, bring your mean on me / Papa ain’t no mean I ain’t known or seen / I’m comin’ home to you / I’m comin’ home to you / Like the Prodigal Son, I’m comin’ home” (179). Like many of the works in this collection, women’s anguish, hope, fears, and joy are expressed with words of truth and emotion.

The collection of poetry contain a number of well-known writers. Anne McCrady has a reputation in Texas, and someday, I believe her value as a poet will expand well-beyond the Lone Star State. In “camp Song,” she wrote, “In the pale light / of a canvas tent dawn, / cicadas kazoo / the last verses of their camp song, / that tinnitus of summer. / Hidden in beds of thin grass, / crickets whistle / their own tinny hymn / and out by the pond, / amorous tree frogs blurt / wet advances too late for now / for evening love” (259). A poet, who can write such a tender, pleasing poetry, full of vivid images, certainly deserves a wider audience.

The fiction selection also presented some difficult choices for a favorite, but since I love – and play – word games, I am going to go with Laurie Champion’s neat and compact little slice of life story, “I’m Her(e).” A couple meet up in a motel room and duel with pronouns. Champion writes, “We laughed a lot. ‘Knock-knock,’ you said one morning when you heard my knock at your hotel door. // ‘Who’s there?’ I asked. //’It’s I’, you said. You cracked open the door. // ‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘It’s me.’ You told me I should keep my pronouns straight, said something about subjects and objects and explained the difference between the use of me and I, her and she. I listened to you, watched you smirk. I stood outside the room and waited for you to open the door wider, invite me in. You finished talking, paused, and looked at me, gazed at me as though sizing me up. Not quite sure what to say, I finally twisted one corner of my mouth into a faint smile and said, ‘It’s you,’ I said. ‘I’m here.’ // ‘This is he,’ you said. // ‘I’m hemmed,’ I said. I rolled my eyes and wondered why I told these stupid jokes, played dumb word games. Perhaps it was part of our agreement. Our unspoken promise to each other not to take things seriously, or too seriously, as you once put it” (316). Seems to me these two have a case of the nerves, and from the mention of another woman, I am betting this is a tale with a tryst.

Interspersed among the writing are many interesting black and white photos of children, adults, and flowers, portraits and landscapes. Also included are a number of photos of drawings and paintings. These images make wonderful decorative elements among the words.

While Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem, & Song Edited by Donna Walker-Nixon, Cassy Burleson, Rachel Crawford, & Ashley Palmer does have some pieces less equal than others, it most certainly would make a wonderful gift to the reader in your life. This celebration of woman belongs on every reader’s book shelf. It has plenty of writing to justify 5 Stars.

--Jim, 3/15/15 ( )
  rmckeown | Mar 15, 2015 |
Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song:
A Collection by Texas Women Artists, Writers, and Thinkers
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.

This review was originally published in Lone Star Literary Life. ( )
  TexasBookLover | Mar 8, 2015 |
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