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Queen of America
By Luis Alberto Urrea. Little, Brown and Company. 479 pp. $25.99.
Top Pick
Urrea wields his pen like a magician waving a wand. In this luminous sequel to "The Hummingbird’s Daughter" (Southwest Books of the Year Top Pick, 2005), he recounts the further adventures of Teresita, the “Saint of Cabora,” as she flees revolutionary Mexico, pursued by assassins and acolytes, to Tucson, El Paso and eventually Clifton, AZ. It is obvious that Urrea has something exceptional in store for readers when he depicts his heroine as a Gilded Age superstar. Struggling to find herself and her place in a world bent on using her saintly image for its own purposes—good, evil and downright crass—Teresita makes her way across America, looking for happiness and testing the boundaries between faith and commercialism. Beautifully written, with wry wit and gentle wisdom, Queen of America separates the woman from the saint and offers up profound, sometimes aching, and always entertaining insights into the nature of faith and the pitfalls of fame. []
Urrea, a distant relative, re-names Teresita Urrea, known as the Saint of Cabora (see “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” in our 2005 list), a queen for the adoration that those who believe in her healing powers bring to her. Driven out of Mexico by politicos who fear her following among the people, she struggles to find out who she truly is while she is hounded both by those who wish her dead and those who wish to tap into her power. In it’s episodic style Teresita’s story may remind some readers, as it did this reviewer, of those grand Victorian literary adventures experienced by the likes of Huck Finn, or even the much earlier Tom Jones. []

Quincy Tahoma: The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist
By Vera Marie Badertscher, Charnell Havens. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.. 240 pp. Index. $50.00.
Top Pick
During a decade of research assembling material for this fine biography of Quincy Tahoma, the authors interviewed people who knew him, studied his work, and compiled a hefty list of awards and exhibits of this outstanding artist. Orphaned at an early age with one arm partially atrophied due to an accident, he entered Santa Fe Indian School. Dorothy Dunn played a major role in developing Tahoma’s artistic talent. His later output was astounding and some 260 examples are reproduced in vibrant color. Tahoma painted action photos of buffalo on the hunt, horses flying through the air, delightful little animals, and Navajo women tending their flocks. Some of his Santa Fe contemporaries were Harrison Begay and Gerald Nailor, and in those early days, they often sold painting for a quarter or half dollar for spending money. Today, they auction for thousands. A problem with alcohol caused his early demise at 35. The authors have deftly told the story of how it came to be. []
This is not only a beautiful art book and thoroughly- researched biography of Quincy Tahoma (c. 1920-1956), but is also the complete story, told for the first time, of a gifted artist whose life reflects not only his own personal challenges but the multiple difficulties of being an American Indian trying to thrive in an Anglo American-dominated culture. The reproductions of Tahoma’s are stunning, the text clearly organized and presented with easy to follow endnotes, helpful appendices on exhibits, collections, awards and a timeline of his life. This is a keeper. []

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