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Literature

08 Aug 2014
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In Katie Gale, anthropologist Llyn De Danaan chronicles the life of a 19th century Salish (Pacific Northwest Native American) woman who married a white man, gave birth to four children, became a successful oysterwoman, suffered greatly in a divorce settlement, and watched two of her children die of tuberculosis before succumbing to the disease herself. An extraordinary life? Not really. An exemplary one? No. But Katie Gale represents more than an individual: She stands in for an entire generation of Native American women trampled under the boots of white expansion. “Of this I am certain: Katie Gale was a refugee, a person displaced by war and threats of war from her country of origin,” argues De Danaan. Katie’s tribe lived on the oyster-rich Washington coast “before the first non-Indian oystermen arrived in Oyster Bay with their values, dreams and aspirations that rapidly turned a largely subsistence harvest to one based…
27 Jul 2014
Jerry D. Mathes’ second nonfiction book, Ahead of the Flaming Front, portrays the day-to-day life of a wildland firefighter. With a poet’s sense of language, Mathes describes his experiences as a rookie, gaining knowledge as he rises through the ranks. Mathes works mostly for the Krassel Heli-Rappellers, a fire crew that works out of the Payette National Forest in Idaho. He performs a variety of jobs—not just sliding down ropes into remote fires, but also pitching in on hand crews to build fire lines, working as a sawyer, and traveling to fill in on other crews throughout the West. Although the landscape and environment change, the physical routine and the danger of the work do not. Mathes introduces us to a range of characters—perhaps too many to keep track of—but he gives us vivid portraits of the women and men who pursue this hazardous and sometimes tedious job. What emerges…
25 Jul 2014
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Idyllwild has always been known for its arts community—and now, it’s become a destination for lovers of literature. For 10 consecutive Sundays during the summer, the mountain town, located an hour’s drive from the CoachellaValley, hosts authors at Café Aroma to discuss their craft, thanks to the Idyllwild Authors Series. This year’s series will conclude on Sunday, Aug. 3, with an appearance by Dete Meserve, author of the novel Good Sam. Eduardo Santiago, the founder and host of the series, said Idyllwild is a perfect place for literary events. “Idyllwild welcomes the arts,” Santiago said. “All of the arts are represented all the time. We have a lot of musicians in our town, so there’s always music everywhere—every restaurant you walk to, and every plaza. We have a lot of art galleries, so you get to see a lot of sculptures and paintings.” However, something was missing from the Idyllwild…
15 Jul 2014
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Most communities across the West, urban and rural, are home to the animals in Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s new book, The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild, a collection of joyful meditations on the fauna that scamper over our lawns and roost on our power poles. While eastern gray squirrels, crows and the other denizens of Haupt’s bestiary make up the most accessible of the local wildlife, Haupt worries that their very familiarity renders them somehow “unwild” to us, and therefore not worth our notice. We imagine wildlife as, say, a moose wading in some distant boreal swamp, but consider nearby and more common animals like racoons and starlings as much less important, reducing them “to fluffy cuteness or mere annoyance.” That simplification, Haupt argues, robs us of a better understanding of the world and our influence on it. “I come to this understanding by exploring wilderness with a pack on…
11 Jul 2014
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Josefina Lopez has lived an incredible life—and that life has inspired her acclaimed work as a playwright and now as a novelist. She’ll be appearing at Café Aroma as part of the Fourth Annual Idyllwild Authors Series at 3 p.m., Sunday, July 13. Lopez is best known as the award-winning writer of Real Women Have Curves, a play which went on to be adapted into a film. Her personal story, in some ways, is one of living the American dream: Lopez was 5 years old when she came to the United States with her family from Mexico. She grew up in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, was part of the first graduating class of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. During a recent phone interview, Lopez discussed the shock she felt when she learned she was undocumented. “I didn’t know I was undocumented until…
12 Jul 2014
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For 40 years, Barry Lopez has been at the center of the national and international conversation about social justice, and the fate of humanity and the Earth. In Conversations With Barry Lopez, the National Book Award-winning writer’s thought, precision and intelligence are brought gracefully to the page in three candid personal interviews with his longtime friend, William E. Tydeman, a writer and archivist at Texas Tech University’s Southwest Collections/Special Collections Library. The book also features an introduction to Lopez’s life and work, 19 black-and-white photographs and a comprehensive bibliography. Tydeman’s close relationship with Lopez allows the two men to travel through the kind of conversational territory that begins in restraint and formality, and leads into the heart. If Lopez’s manner appears rehearsed, it also lacks pretense; rather, it reflects his careful and heartfelt consideration of his art and of the world in which we all live. Lopez and Tydeman take…
05 Jul 2014
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Rancher Leonard Self is the type of elderly man who keeps “his shades drawn, his talk necessary, his actions to the problem at hand.” In the wake of the death of his wife, Inetta, he’s been winnowing his ranch goods, his farmhouse, his life itself, succumbing to a darkening that “was not pain but bone-deep numbness. Not nightmares but short dreamless sleep and long wakefulness. Not chaos but an empty, unbudging sameness.” On the anniversary of Inetta’s passing, he plans to scatter her ashes off a cliff—and leap to his own death. Len, the protagonist of Charlie Quimby’s Monument Road, is a thoroughgoing old codger who doesn’t know how to live without his wife or deal with the changes in his Western town. He doesn’t know what to make of the tattooed waitresses slinging pizza to cheerful mountain bikers. He still buys his gas with cash, mends his clothing and…
24 Jun 2014
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Sid Dulaney leaves his cheating girlfriend behind in Massachusetts and returns home to Tucson, Ariz., in Sunland, Oregon writer Don Waters’ hilarious first novel. Sid had worked as an itinerant teacher, but finds himself jobless in Tucson, where he spends his time looking after his beloved grandmother, Nana. He starts crossing the border to buy 88-year-old Nana’s medications more cheaply in Mexico. When Nana’s fellow residents at the Paseo del Sol retirement community ask him to do the same for them, he becomes a prescription drug-runner for grateful senior citizens. “At first,” Sid explains, “I had trouble accepting the little amounts people could pay me for delivering drugs. My problem was that I liked these old folks too much. I liked their unending kindness, their teary eyes and their crazy fashion sensibilities. … Very few people had the time to sit down, prepare a pot of tea, and talk to…
20 Jun 2014
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Most people who think of Portland, Ore., today picture charismatic bridges spanning the sparkling Willamette River, cozy coffeehouses and brewpubs on rain-slick streets, and passionate environmentalists bicycling to farmers markets. But behind the scenes, Portland in the 1990s teemed with crack-dealers and users willing to sacrifice home and family for a night’s partying. And if you were African American, according to author Mitchell S. Jackson, life could be a specific sort of hell fraught with racial profiling and a lack of educational and employment opportunities—unless you were very, very good at basketball. “Let them quit screaming your name,” he writes of young black athletes in his debut autobiographical novel, The Residue Years, “and worse-case you just might rob a bank (who gets away with that?), just might hatch a (hand to God this happened) flawed murder-for-insurance plot. But maybe it’s just here. In my city. Not yours.” The Residue Years…
17 Jun 2014
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Welcome to Oakpine, a fictional small town on Wyoming’s eastern plains where four high school pals reunite in 1999, after 30 years spent leading very separate lives. In his latest novel, Return to Oakpine, award-winning author Ron Carlson tells a moving but quiet tale about a group of regular guys who don’t say much to each other as they try to figure out where their lives have gone to so far—and where they’re headed now. Two of the characters have never left Oakpine: Craig, a second-generation hardware-store owner, and Frank, proprietor of the Antlers bar and a novice microbrewer. Two are returning: Mason, a disillusioned Denver lawyer, and Jimmy, an accomplished New York City writer with AIDS who’s come home to die. In a subtle, bittersweet farewell to Jimmy, the friends decide to reconstitute Life on Earth, their not-so-hot high school garage band, in order to enter a Battle of…