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Clicking on a book cover will search for the book in the catalog. If it is not part of our collection, you may request it by clicking on the Can't Find It link. An icon indicates if the book is chosen by a panelist as one of the year's best.

Sagrado: A Photopoetics Across the Chicano Homeland
By Spencer R. Herrera, Levi Romero. University of New Mexico Press. 160 pp. Notes on photographs included.. $29.95.
Where do you feel truly at home? Among family and friends, or in a certain place? Who are you? These quests arise as a condition of being human, and in this book we follow an essayist, a poet, and a photographer as they search for their homelands in Old and New Mexico. They visit with chile pickers, families, horseback charros at a funeral, descendents of Comanche captives called Genízaros, centuries-old churches, graveyards, and a Yaqui poet at a historic mission. Among the common and worldly, they find sagrado – the sacred – wherever “two or more people gather in the name of community.” The blend of poems, essays, and photographs is a compelling swirl of color, laments of lives “going upward on a downhill road,” vatos locos, and faith in tomorrow, and the result confirms Hispanic pride and roots. Que viva! []

Scratchgravel Road
By Tricia Fields. Minotaur Books. 308 pp. $24.99.
A body in the desert, a decommissioned nuclear weapons plant, torrential rain, and two endangered women are just a few of the problems confronting small-town police chief Josie Gray. Fields, whose debut novel "The Territory" won the Tony Hillerman Prize, stretches her wings in this nifty police porcedural set in the West Texas borderlands. Fans of Nevada Barr and J.A. Jance will welcome Gray to the sorority of tough, smart, and empathetic female detectives. []
Things are getting hot for small town police chief Josie Grey, and it’s not because of the oppressive summer heat in the tiny Texas town of Artemis. A dead body scarred with mysterious lesions, a heat stroke victim who won’t—or can’t--- say why she was out wandering in the desert, and a nuclear power plant clean-up company with a hidden agenda are all adding up to something beyond business as usual—and when the torrential rains threaten to unleash decades of nuclear waste stored at the old power plant, things really get interesting. Tricia Fields delivers a very readable yarn with plenty of plot twists in this second outing for Chief Josie Grey, first introduced in the Hillerman Award-winner “The Territory.” []

Searchers, The: The Making of an American Legend
By Glenn Frankel. Bloomsbury USA. 416 pp. Index. $28.00.
Top Pick
Frankel tosses a broad loop as he describes how history, art, and popular culture intersect in the iconic 1956 John Ford motion picture based on the captivity of Cynthia Ann Parker and filmed in Monument Valley. The result is mesmerizing and instructive as Frankel sets the historical stage, examines the Alan LeMay novel adapted for the screen, describes the complex relationship between director Ford and actor John Wayne, follows the course of filming in Navajo country, provides an appraisal of the movie that consistently ranks among the top five Hollywood westerns, and firmly fixes its place in the American psyche. This is both a masterpiece of film criticism and a thoughtful examination of how legends are made. []

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir
By Linda Ronstadt. Simon & Schuster. 256 pp. Index. $26.00.
Top Pick
So, apparently there's more to getting to Carnegie Hall...or Madison Square Garden than "practice, practice, practice." That girl from Tucson who became a huge rock star did the practice thing, but she was also smart and consideredxx about the route she took through her career. In addition to tracing her own career trajectory, Ronstadt celebrates the work of other musicians and discusses the nature of music in this memoir.

To her credit, Ronstadt wrote the book herself-- her prose very accessible--tumbling, descriptive, sometimes politically tinged, very like her speaking voice. She writes of her childhood in Tucson, of the music traditions of her Mexican-American family, the roots in performing in local venues; of her move to LA instead of going to the UA; of the heady musical environment of the sixties, and of how she went from being part of a band to solo girl singer...and then versatile star, as she crossed genres, and ventured out of rock into musical theater, American standards, opera, and mariachi. She doesn't dish (well, aside from one unattractive portrayal of a drunken Jim Morrison), doesn't take us into her famous romantic partnerships, but the memoir reveals a musician appreciative of other musicians, and a serious student of musical styles, forms, and expressions.

Sister Rabbit's Tricks
By Emmett "Shkeme" Garcia. University of New Mexico Press. 40 pp. $18.95.
This trickster tale is inspired by one of the many rabbit
stories of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.
While I enjoyed the story, I was put off by the amateur illustrations so will not pick it as a SWBY. []

Smoke Signals: Native Cinema Rising
By Joanna Hearne. University of Nebraska Press. 242 pp. Index. $30.00.
Building a strong case for the strength of new movies starring and/or produced by Native Americans, Hearne builds her arguments around the 1998 hit “Smoke Signals”. []

Son of a Gun
By Justin St. Germain. Random House. 242 pp. Memoir. $26.00.
Top Pick
In the late summer of 2001, Debbie St. Germain was brutally murdered by her fifth husband in their trailer outside Tombstone, Arizona. In his soul-searching memoir, Debbie's son sifts through the shards of his mother's tragic life for clues to her death and to make sense out of his own fractured childhood. More than just another meditation on personal loss, this stubbornly unsentimental book, spun out against the backdrop of Tombstone's glorification of Wyatt Earp and the O.K. Corral gunfight, is a sobering commentary on unmoored personalities and the violent mythology of the Old West. []
Ten years after his mother was shot to death by her unstable fifth husband in the desert outside of Tombstone, Justin St. Germain returned to the Southwest to try and make sense of the tragedy. No apologist for her unconventional lifestyle or her penchant for unsuitable and sometimes violent men, St. Germain instead ponders how his mother’s life (and his own dysfunctional childhood, by extension) might have been different had she made other choices. Most tellingly, would she have escaped death at the hand of an angry man had she not opted to live in a town that celebrates its culture of gunplay, anger and violence? Rather than allowing her passing to be dismissed as “…a real old Wild West murder,” as it was characterized by the local news affiliate, the author offers a clear-eyed portrait of a woman who tried to be tougher than her surroundings. With deft prose and the even-handedness born of a decade of retrospection, St. Germain makes an interesting case for the way the mythology we allow to define us as a community can impact the way we live and, tragically for some, the way we die. []

Son, The
By Philipp Meyer. Ecco/HarperCollins Publisher. 561 pp. $27.99.
Eli McCullough, born in the year of Texas independence, learns a fundamental lesson from the people who killed his family and took him captive as a child: "It had become clear to me that the lives of the rich and famous were not so different from the lives of the Comanches: you did what you pleased and answered to no one." In this breathtakingly original novel, Meyer explodes our cherished myths of frontier settlement as Eli amasses a fortune in cattle and oil, leaving a finely crafted cast of McCullough descendants to deal with the consequences of an old man's obsession. With humor and pathos, Meyer challenges the American dream of wealth and power and assesses the cost of success for the winners and losers. []
Philipp Meyer takes history by the horns this epic saga of the McCulloughs, a family dynasty descended from the first white male born in the newly-established Republic of Texas. Through the simultaneously-told accounts of patriarch Eli, his grandson, Peter, and his great-great-granddaughter, Jeanne, the mythology of the American West is parsed to reveal the resilience and determination of the players, but also (and more importantly) the unfathomable greed, racism and awful violence that marked the struggle for dominance. Kidnapped by Comanches as a boy, pragmatic Eli knows no particular loyalty, raiding with his native captors as freely as with the Rangers. By contrast, Peter is handicapped by his own humanity and rendered a family outcast, and Jeanne eschews fulfilling relationships in her dogged pursuit of recognition in a business world blind to women. Guggenheim Award-winner Meyer delivers an account that is as mesmerizing as it is harrowing. []

Southwest Aquatic Habitats: On the Trail of Fish in a Desert
By Daniel Shaw. University of New Mexico Press. 112 pp. Index. Barbara Guth Worlds of Wonder Science Series for Young Readers. $34.95.
It has been many moons since I was a young reader, but I confess to enjoying books with larger print and happy stories. So please make no complaint that I had fun reading this book about youngsters discovering fish, doing chemistry, and paddling rafts in Southwest ponds and streams. The experiments and concepts provide a good foundation for rookies of any age. I hope I’m never too old to learn about isopods, gar fish, streamflow, mayflies, and indicator species. Even know-it-alls will find a good review of the basics here. []

Spider Woman's Daughter
By , Anne Hillerman. HarperCollins. 320 pp. $25.99.
Picking up where her late father Tony left off, Hillerman gives us a new episode in the Leaphorn and Chee stories. Her first novel (she has published several other books) starts with a bang, literally, as Officer Bernadette Manuelito (now Mrs. Jim Chee) watches helplessly through a restaurant window as Lieutenant Leaphorn is gunned down in a parking lot. Hillerman has room for improvement to become the magnificent storyteller her father was, but this is a good start in that development. []

Strong Rain Falling
By Jon Land. Forge Books. 368 pp. A Caitlin Strong novel.. $25.99.

By Don Waters. University of Nevada Press. 208 pp. $25.95.
Top Pick
He’s unemployed and broken-hearted, but Sid Dulaney’s no criminal and he certainly didn’t set out to be a drug runner when he left Massachusetts and his two-timing girlfriend and came back to Tucson to care for his Grandma. But the rent for his beloved Grandma’s assisted living won’t pay itself, so to keep her in comfort he makes regular forays into Mexico to smuggle out cut-rate medications for her quirky neighbors in the retirement village. Sid is an anti-hero for our times, flying beneath the Border Patrol’ radar in an un-air conditioned Honda Civic while dodging a decidedly off-beat Mexican drug lord, all for the most compassionate of reasons. Dan Waters, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, offers a first novel rich in quirky characters and gentle humor, and it’s a charming and very readable take on filial love triumphant. []

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