Books

Patricia Etter's Picks

Blue Tattoo, The: The Life of Olive Oatman
No doubt about it, Olive Oatman's story is a good read. Here is Indian captivity, murder and adventure, Indians and the army, a long lost brother and sister reunited, a splinter sect of Mormon converts, the Methodists, an array of interesting cultures and innocent children. Hundreds of ;publications over time have distorted and magnified the story for its prurient interest. Mifflin gets it all in but lessens the drama by putting Olive's story in a cultural and historical perspective. The reader is left to reflect about Olive's complete acceptance of Mohave society since she expected never to return to her while world. Yet she did, and we become sympathetic to her situation and imagine the dilemma she faces in transition.
Chaco and After in the Northern San Juan: Excavations at the Bluff Great House
Chaco Canyon, northwest New Mexico, became a major center of ancestral puebloan culture thriving about 1,000 years ago. In addition to monumental Pueblo Bonito, the canyon was home to other "great houses" as they came to be called. Ultimately, over 200 centers containing great houses are built in numerous sites in the San Juan basin. Great houses were pre-planned multi-storied public buildings with distinctive masonry, formal earthen architecture,and a great kiva. Archaeologists continue their interest in the Bluff site in southeast Utah with a detailed,comparative study of relationships with those in Chaco Canyon. Appendices on CD-ROM contain detailed descriptions of hundreds of artifacts recovered at the site.
Naked Rainbow and Other Stories, The = El Arco Iris Desnudo y Otros Cuentos
The author's childhood village of Ojo del Padre (modern Guadalupe) in the Rio Puerco Vally southeast of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, provides the inspiration for these stories about the common folk in the tiny town. Whether it is the group of variously disabled men who meet regularly to curse their condition, or the village women who created their own method for permanently ridding the village of a cheating peddler, or the constantly maligned three-breasted woman who lived happily ever after, there is something to be learned about the human condition. Sometimes serious, often funny, perhaps even bawdy, the vignettes are a delight to read. The stories are also repeated in Spanish, an added incentive for those interested.
New Mexico Colcha Club: Spanish Colonial Embroidery & the Women Who Saved It
Early migrants to Spanish Colonial New Mexico packed only necessiti4es for the 1500-mile journey from Mexico City. But the women did bring needle and thread and the knowledge of one stitch they called Colcha. Using this one stitch with wool from churro sheep, th4e created multiple and colorful designs on wool or cotton bedspreads, clothing, altar cloths, table linens and more. At the same time, the author carefully weaves in the history of New Spain along with the art of weaving and evolution of the colcha decoration in the Espanola Valley, while noting its ultimate decline and revival. All is presented in color in a beautifully designed volume that should be prized by weavers. As an aside, this reader recently visited the famous Centinela Weaving Shop in Chimayo, where a number of lightly woven blankets decorated with Colcha caught my attention. But one small weaving caught my attention. The artist, Lisa Trujillo, had covered a piece of twill fabric with an original and colorful design, a perfect size for framing. The website by the way, lists Colcha weavings anywere from $800 $3500.
Simon J. Ortiz: a Poetic Legacy of Indigenous Continuance
Simon Ortiz is a gentle,friendly, and unassuming individual who turns out to be a giant in the field of indigenous literature. This book celebrates his life and literary legacy. He is from Acoma pueblo and early on worked in the uranium mines, served in the U. S. Army and attended the University of New Mexico. He has taught in many places and recently returned to the United States following a number of years at the University of Toronto and is currently professor of English at ASU. This volume contains a number of in-depth interviews along with critical discussion and tributes to the poet by M.Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo, Laura Tohe, Leslie Marmon Silko and many more. Ortiz has some two dozen publications to his credit with more to come in the future.
Telling New Mexico: a New History
What a great way to get a history lesson! Sit down, open this book anywhere and enjoy. Perhaps this is because forty-three New mexico historians wrote in their area of expertise in such a way that one can hardly wait to turn the page. For sure, the Land of Enchantment has an exciting history from the Spanish entrada to Denis Chavez and the making of modern Mexico. Here we have the Santa Fe Railroad and American Indians promoting tourism, the dramatic story of Los Alamos and World War II, commentary on the artistic community from Mabel Dodge Lujan to Georgia O'Keeffe, Rosewell and its flying saucers, Buddy Holly and his music, hippies in Taos, and Mexican immigrants. Let us not forget the flag, Camino Real, acequias, and oh yes, Billy the Kid. This is for a general reader, the scholar and probably should be in every New Mexico classroom.
Through the Lens: Creating Santa Fe
Climate, backdrop, adobe architecture, Native peoples, the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Americans, the artists, and the tourists have all had a hand in creating this unique and wondrous town, the oldest capital in the U.S. since settlement in 1609. Then about 1859, on came the photographers: Wittick, Vroman, Jackson, Nusbaum, Lummis, Porter, and more, to record the town's history in all its forms to the present day. These are just a few of the 800,000 images stored in the photo archives of the Palace of the Governors that preserve the history and show change over time. For example, an 1868 photo of the Palace of the Governors shows a plain adobe building with many doors and no embellishment. Later pictures show how it evolved to the building we see today. Nine authors have contributed essays to bring history and photographs together. A masterful work.
To Walk in Beauty: a Navajo Family's Journey Home
"Walking in Beauty" is a state of being that can best be described as grace and creation of balance in the universe. These concepts helped the Begay family face various challenges in their return to Jeddito Wash in the Navajo Nation and to reclaim their cultural identity. Integral to the story of the Begays, is their effort to raise Churro sheep, considered a sacred practice. Author-photographer, Stacia Spragg-Braude chronicled the family's activities over a period of ten years. These include the Blessingway Ceremony that honors new life and the Kinaalda Ceremony that celebrates introduction into womanhood. Included are powerful black-and-white images showing how one family overcame life's adversities and sucesses.
West of the Imagination, The
Outstanding! Every one of the 600 pages is a delight to read and view faultless reproductions of great works of visual interpretation of the West whether they be drawings, lithographs, paintings, or photographs. This second edition is expanded from thirty-three chapters to in the 1986 publication to forty-one. Though cataloged as a book of art, it is much, much more. In spite of artistic license, here is a history of the West in all its varied forms: the Indians, the battles, western expansion, railroad surveys, magnificent views, and of course the enduring figure of the West, the cowboy. Added to this edition are representations of McKenny & Hall's great works, Currier & Ives, the works of Jackson Pollock, Fritz Scholder, Alan Houser, Gutzon Borglum, Jerry Bywaters, T. C. Cannon and more. This is indeed a winner.

About Patricia Etter

Etter is a member of Arizona State University’s Emeritus College Council and serves on the Advisory Board for ASU’s University Club. She recently completed terms on the Board of Directors of the Oregon-California Trails Association and the Editorial Board of the Western Historical Quarterly. She introduced and edited the journal of William Goulding, published by the Arthur H. Clark Company, titled California Odyssey: An Overland Journey on Southern Trails, 1849. A favorite activity is talking books with the panelists of Southwest Books of the Year.

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