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Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song by Donna Walker-Nixon

Multicultural, multiethnic, and multidisciplinary, Her Texas includes stories, essays, memoirs, poetry, song lyrics, paintings, and photographs by 60 Texas women. Texas, once a country unto itself, has engendered myths and legends that rival the magnetic force of national identity. At first, Texas writers looked toward the men who embodied the larger-than-life stories of cowboys and Indians, pioneers and outlaws, cattle barons and oil kings. Although the female writers, poets, songwriters, artists, and photographers of this collection know this heritage, they also illuminate a Texas that is large enough in landscape, history, and spirit to include a multitude of experiences and identities. Discover women who write with intelligence, humor, pain, and joy of experiences rooted in the far-flung landscapes and cityscapes of Texas, and who enlarge the definition of “Texan” to include multifaceted lives lived in fertile intersections where myths and realities meet: a teenage mother from San Antonio compares her dreams with her real life; a Tejana recalls her downtown childhood in terms of a magical-realist game of loteria; a cop from Houston takes her place in a historically male environment; a popular blues musician pays homage to the grounding influence of her mother; a photographer shares her vision of the beauties and environmental degradations of Texas landscapes; a woman helps her injured horse regain his health while she recovers from the wounds of unemployment; a young mother and professor faces breast cancer; a tent-revival organist’s daughter manifests a spirituality of her own; a grandmother in an Iranian-American family struggles to survive in the isolation of suburbia; a nun ties herself in the midst of a hurricane to the orphans in her care; while at a Dallas flea market, an African-American woman comes to terms with her relationship with her African sister-in-law; a renowned poet illuminates her husband’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease; an anthropologist explores the haunting cave paintings of Palo Duro canyon; and a Tejana poet describes mid-life, her love for her mother, and her love for her son. Issues covered in this anthology include sexual abuse and recovery; struggles against disease, poverty, and isolation; ethnic identity and heritage; musical roots; environmental degradation of water, air, and landscape; family and relationships; political and intellectual struggles, and more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609404239
Publisher: Wings Press
Publication date: 03/01/2015
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Donna Walker-Nixon, a recipient of the Minnie Stevens Piper Award, is the founding editor of Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature and the cofounding editor of Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas. She is the author of the novel Canaan’s Oothoon. Her short story “Tented Amusements” was published in the Journal of Texas Women Writers, and her fiction has appeared in Descant, Echoes, and Concho River Review, Red Boots and Attitude, Texas Short Stories, and Writing on the Wind. She lives in Temple, Texas. Cassy Burleson is a professor of English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Rachel Crawford has worked as a high school English teacher, a university English professor, an editor, and a writer. Her poetry has appeared in various journals, and she is a recipient of the Beall Poetry Festival’s Poetry in the Arts Award. They both live in Lorena, Texas. Ashley Palmer teaches sociology, sociology of religion, and gender studies courses at Baylor University, where she is a former assistant director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning. Her work has been published in the Review of Religious Research. She lives in Waco, Texas.

Read an Excerpt

Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song

By Donna Walker-Nixon, Cassy Burleson, Rachel Crawford, Ashley Palmer

Wings Press

Copyright © 2015 Wings Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-426-0


Lou's Passion

Charles Rodenberger

Lou was one of the first women students at Texas A&M University. Professor Sid Cox, who taught folklore and Southwest literature, was a major influence in her later teaching career. Teaching courses in Folklore and Southwest literature as a graduate student fulfilled her desire to pursue this genre. Sid encouraged her to join the Texas Folklore Society and that led to meeting authors such as Elmer Kelton and Joyce Roach. She read and collected books in these genres by both men and women writers. Publisher Bill Shearer knew of her interest in women writers and chose her to edit her first book of Texas women writers. As she explains, this event became a cause célébre for her. Meeting and visiting with these writers and reading more of their writings led her to believe that they were as good as or better than men, igniting her passion about supporting them. Someone placed an excellent summary of her writings on Wikipedia. From the first book for Shearer Publishing, women were celebrated in Texas Women Writers and other collections edited jointly with Dr. Sylvia Grider. Her best-selling book was Quotable Texas Women, written with Susie Kelly Flatau and published and distributed by Glenn Dromgoole in several printing runs.

Teaching folklore became another passion. One of her classes celebrated the end of the semester by having a cookout at our home in Bryan with each one contributing unusual dishes like squirrel, possum, snake, and armadillo, along with folklore stories of all kinds. Most of her students kept up with her. We couldn't go out to eat in the Bryan-College Station area without one of the waiters acknowledging Lou as her or his teacher.

As she worked on her memoirs, I told her repeatedly to write the story, then go back and research to fill in with more facts, but she insisted on doing the research first. As ovarian cancer took her strength, we moved her files from her upstairs office down to her recliner and laptop. With files located on all sides, she looked at every letter, clipping and document from years back. Lou started filing newspaper clippings when she was in high school, and they filled filing cabinets in the office. As a result, this memoir only covers the first years of her publishing efforts. It is too bad that we weren't able to collect the later events. All of her files were transferred to Texas Woman's University, where they are available to researchers who can mine the details.


Her Texas: A Literary Critic's Memoir

Lou Rodenberger


I can't imagine now that I had such nerve, but the need to know overruled what my mother had taught me about questions I had no business asking. I've never met a woman writer in Texas who did not provide material for a good story. The long-time professional writer Norma Patterson was one of the first. One fall morning in 1982, Bill and Kathy Shearer, my husband, Charles, and I sat in the writer Norma Patterson's old-fashioned living room in San Antonio, sipping champagne and getting acquainted. Norma was elated that her short story "The Boy Who Couldn't Be Saved" had been included in Her Work, the first original publication of the fledgling Shearer Publishing. As editor, I had corresponded frequently with Norma. Her informal, personal letters fueled my curiosity. I wanted to learn more about her career. How long had she been writing? I guessed from what I had already learned that she had been publishing for many years. If so, she surely must be past 80. I had to know. I turned to her sister, "How old is Norma, anyway?"

"Oh, my dear," she said matter-of-factly, "only God knows."

Nine years later, the headline on Norma's obituary in the Dallas Morning News answered my question: "Writer Norma Patterson Dalton dies at 102." She was 93 that fall day when I got my come-uppance for asking a question I should have known no one asked women of her generation. I was soon to learn that other Texas women in the first decades of the twentieth century seriously pursued careers as writers, but in biographical sketches, none lists her birth date or discusses her age.

A charter member of the Texas Institute of Letters, Norma Patterson published her first short story in 1912, six decades before I met her that fall morning of 1982. Harper's, Good Housekeeping, Holland's, Woman's Home Companion, Saturday Evening Post, as well as other popular publications, bought dozens of her short stories for the next five decades. Between 1930 and 1943, Farrar and Rinehart published eleven novels by Patterson, six of which became best sellers. Several of her novels appeared first as serials in McCall's, a popular woman's magazine in the mid-twentieth century. Although she wrote to appeal to women readers, her subjects varied from war stories during World War I to the rough-and-tumble life of oil boom towns. Several of her stories, as well as one of her novels, she wrote in collaboration with her huusband, Crate Dalton, a Dalla attorney. Edward O'Brien, first editor of Best Short Stories of America, cited "What They Brought out of France" as one of five great stories to come out of WWI. Several of her stories were included in anthologies as early as 1918.

I would learn those facts about Norma later, but Norma's professional history represented more than the story of how a failed elementary schoolteacher became a best-selling author. On the day of our visit, she stood with me in front of a bookcase with glass doors where she casually pointed out her novels lined up on one shelf. On an upper shelf, curiously, were all of George Sessions Perry's works. I had to know the connection. She smiled and said proudly, "I was George's mentor." Norma was expecting luncheon guests, and our time for visiting was limited. Not until I began research for Texas Women Writers: A Tradition of Their Own, a history of women writers in the state, did the significance of Norma's declaration lead to need for clarification.

In her 1973 biography of Perry, Maxine Hairston verifies that Norma and her husband, during a visit in 1937, realized their friends George and Claire Perry were facing a financial crisis. Norma later described her reaction to her friend George, who was, she says, "turning out pages and pages of inspired beauty." The problem? Norma knew. Her observation: "Nothing sold. It seemed probable that nothing ever would. George was writing for George then."

Norma and her husband advised Perry to aim for commercial publication in popular magazines. So after six years of writing what he presumed the Atlantic or Harper's would see fit to publish but never did, Perry began to slant his essays for appeal to editors at Saturday Evening Post, Redbook, and Cosmopolitan. With the aid of Norma's literary agent at Curtis Brown Agency in New York, in the next two years, Perry sold a dozen stories, a novel, and was summoned to Hollywood to work on a movie script. In 1949, Perry dedicated his memoir of life with his indomitable grandmother, My Granny Van, to Norma Patterson.

Over the two decades since I met Norma Patterson, I soon realized that notable women writers abound in Texas. Because little had been written about many of these women, whom I discovered had contributed both insight into Texas culture as well as a much needed woman's perspective on Texas history and life, I began to think of writing a literary history of Texas women writers after Her Work was published. With the able partnership of three creative Texas scholars, I've edited or co-edited three collections, which I believe have contributed to expanding knowledge of the writing women in Texas. J. Frank Dobie would likely pigeonhole me as a "mere compiler." If I had known this old folklorist, who in his heyday reigned supreme in mid-twentieth century Texas writing circles, I most likely would have grinned and said, "You got that right, J. Frank, and the reward has been the pleasure of getting to know these writing women through correspondence as well as visits with many." I might also add that their stories, like Norma's, reveal lives of talented and often fascinating Texans, unknown to critics like Dobie perhaps, but contributors, nevertheless, to Texas culture and society. If J. Frank had bothered to notice the stories revealing the richness in the lives of successful Texas women writers in his time, he probably would have become intrigued. Dobie always knew a good story when he heard one.

One of our male friends, an engineer, told me with considerable emphasis that he never read what women write. He expressed a truth about most men readers in the state. Such a generalization does not apply to the many men writers, critics, and publishers who have been most valuable to my career as a "mere compiler." But knowledge of reading habits does explain why essays on Texas literature often cite few women writers.

Without purpose at first, but with a growing sense that women writers seemed to get short shrift, for whatever reason, in Texas critical literature, I have spent 25 years thinking and writing about what I have discovered. Definitive reading of works by male writers reveals to me that only a part of the story of Texas emerges in their often well-crafted fiction, critical studies, and histories. Extensive reading of novels and short stories and of nonfiction, including memoirs, essays, and histories by Texas women writers, convinced me that these writers add a needed dimension to what their male counterparts perceive as characteristic of Texas life. This study explores how, from their unique perspectives, women writers illuminate and even have fostered change in prevalent notions of who Texans are and what their intentions and purposes have been from the days of Austin's colony to today's diverse society. In discussions of selected works by Texas women writers, I have considered topics relevant to the development of the state's culture, beginning with the observations of those women passing through the state in the nineteenth century. Other writers prove how indispensable women were to frontier life. Many challenge Texas myth, including the development of the cowboy as icon. Motherhood and family life, politics and education, and folk life and storytelling all have provided material for "her story" of Texas. Tejana and African-American writers have now added dimension to the literary contributions of Texas women. What emerges from my connections with women writers are stories that confirm my judgment of their contributions to the Texas literary tradition.

As framework for my opinions, I have chosen a hybrid genre to explore the influence women writers have had in this state of many regions. I come from a family of storytellers, and many of my experiences with Texas letters always have seemed rich with possibility. So I share also, as memoir, many of the events that have led to growing knowledge and appreciation of the state's women storytellers. So although I have been chiefly concerned here with exploring women writers' points of view, I also share my own perspective as a native Texan. Many of my opinions originated earlier in scholarly research, but this work focuses on what women I have read reveal in what they write and in what I have learned through personal contact with many contemporary writers. I adhere to no theory of history or literary criticism, nor do I attempt to generalize without supporting my opinions.

I recognize that male literary critics, most accomplished in analysis of what Texas men write and in many cases of what women write, share with intelligence and insight the male point of view. Except for consideration of Larry McMurtry's carelessly titled, and somewhat carelessly written 1981 Texas Observer essay, "Ever a Bridegroom: Reflections on the Failure of Texas Literature," which has inspired so much point and counterpoint in Texas letters, as well as demonstrates ignorance of women's contributions to the state's literature, my discussion centers on women writers. This is not to say I don't appreciate the knowledge and illumination of things Texan that men, including McMurtry, have provided in what they write. As a life-long reader, I've read most major creative works, nonfiction and criticism by Texas men writers, many of whom are accomplished in their fields. But this work concentrates on a view of the state not yet much explored.

Life in Texas might be described as a colorful tapestry, far from complete, but in production for almost 200 years. In their short stories, novels, poetry, and nonfiction, Texas women writers illuminate the state's mythology and legend, share personal experience, and describe landscape in all of its regional diversity, where cultures are uniquely affected by climate and geography. The artist Georgia O'Keeffe's attraction to life in the West began when in 1916 she found Panhandle sunsets worthy of her artistic vision. These Texas women writers respond just as vividly with their pens.

Often the stories I treasure involve men writers' and publishers' interaction with women writers, although readers will find here little literary criticism or refutation of the story of Texas that men writers tell. Rather, this work attempts chiefly to examine the "rest of the story" — how Texas women shape their stories of the development of state politics and business, home and family, and the mythology that defines citizens as Texans and how I have come to know many of them. By examining my life for answers to why I have developed a deep interest in this subject and by sharing my stories, my interpretation of what women write, although far from definitive, I share here my perspective on Texas letters not yet examined.

Chapter 1

Probing memory sends me plodding through foggy terrain searching for landmarks that tell me where I have been. Suddenly, a vivid image arrests this fumbling process of looking backward, and the consciousness calls a halt. Why do I remember that moment in my history? And why do so many of those recollections focus on women, usually teachers, who in some never-before-examined way have become landmarks in memory searches? Conducting a search to recall motivations that shaped my personal history surprisingly has evolved into discovery of a motif that somehow influenced choices most of my life. Heroic women in life and fiction have provided both inspiration and motivation for choices I have made since childhood.

A quiet, dedicated one-room schoolteacher probably turned me into a lifelong reader. How I became a bookworm seems a miraculous transformation to me now. I flunked first grade. I apparently also flunked "reading readiness." My harried teacher that year softened her judgment of my failure by promoting me to "high first." Not quite five when I entered first grade, I was a lost child among 30 or 40 country kids divided into the first three grades. I remember little about that year, except that I waited on the front steps for my dad to drive in from town on a fall afternoon, sure my promised box of eight bright crayons would be in the grocery sack. Now it is clear that I spent that year coloring the animals and birds on handouts the overworked teacher gave out daily.


Excerpted from Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song by Donna Walker-Nixon, Cassy Burleson, Rachel Crawford, Ashley Palmer. Copyright © 2015 Wings Press. Excerpted by permission of Wings Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Frontispiece, "Este Recuerdo," Kathy Vargas Introduction by the Editors xi

"A Texas Photographic Sampler" Deana Newcomb 2

Creative Nonfiction

"Lou's Passion" Charles Rodenberger 8

"Her Texas: A Literary Critic's Memoir" Lou Rodenberger 10

"Mockingbird Lane" Donna M. Johnson 25

"The Man at the End of the Hall" Guida Jackson 34

"Let Her Roll" Christine Warren 43

"Lotería: La Rosa" Mary Guerrero Milligan 50

"An Uncommon Proposal" Betty Wiesepape 55

"My Memorial Day" Frances Brannen Vick 63

"Blue Hole" Susie Kelly Flatau 67

"Stall Rest" Gail Folkins 71

"A Cowgirl's Life for Me" Paula Reynolds 79

"Gender" Sarah Cortez 92

"On Forgiving" Leslie Jill Patterson 96

"Collared by the Jaguar" Catherine Rainwater 104

"The Tetris Effect" Cheryl Clements 114

"Tne Awrul Rowing Toward God" Betsy Berry 120

"Where There's a Will, There's a Way" Elizabeth Bates 133

"Fruit of the Orchard to the Keystone XL Pipeline" (photographs) Tammy Cromer-Campbell 137


"The Tapestry is Rich: Women's Voices in Texas Music" Kathleen Hudson 144

"Wings of War" Christine Albert 155

"Mama Said" Ruthie Foster 165

"Joaquin" Tish Hinojosa 167

"A Lesson Learned: The Story of Joaquin" 169

"Four Song" Amanda Pearcy 172

"Tie Me to an Angel" Emy Taylor 186

"A Small Story of the Universe" (photographs) Karla K. Morton 189


"Picture Postcard from a Painter" Rosemary Catacalos 194

"La Casa" 196

"Homesteaders" 197

"Swallow Wings" 199

"Valentine Outlaws" Karla K. Morton 200

"Six Bottles of Red" 201

"Destiny" 202

"Shine Shine Shine" 203

"Waste" Sarah Cortez 204

"K-9" 205

"Espadrilles" Frances Hatfield 206

"Waiting for Rain" 207

"Pickups and Love" Sherry Craven 209

"Coleman, Texas, and Us" 211

"Magnolias" 212

"I Sit Here Knitting" 213

"Farming" Naomi Shihab Nye 215

"Room for You Here" 216

"Song Book" 217

"Loving Working" 218

"Este Recuerdo" (photographs) Kathy Vargas 219

"The Gulf, 1987" Deborah Parédez 223

"Tía Lucia Enters the Nursing Home" 224

"Bustillo Drive Grocery" 225

"Four Sisters and the Dance" Hermine Pinson 227

"Dove" 229

"from one music lover to another" 230

"A Short History of the Cold War" Melissa Morphew 232

"Dallas, 1959" 234

"As If Our Lives Starred Joanne Woodward &c Paul Newman in a Script by Carson McCullers" 235

"Las Girlfriends" Sandra Cisneros 237

"Original Sin" 239

"Biettvenido Poem for Sophie" 241

"Mechanics and Menopause" Carmen Tafolla 242

"You Can Tell We're Related" 243

"Feeding You" 245

"Survival Instruction: Summer, a Hundred and Three" 247

"Amid the Storm She Dances" Susie Kelly Flatau 248

"Heading to Hell by Choice" 249

"Late February Snowflakes" 250

"Wish in the Penney's Parking Lot" Rebecca Balcárcel 251

"Behind the Piano" 252

"Swings" 253

"Each into One" Ysabel de la Rosa 255

"En el estado de no estar" 256

"Family Tree / Árhol de familia" 258

Anne McCrady, "Camp Song" 259

"Dusk" 261

"Dove Season" 262

"A Fine Blue Stone" Marilyn Robitaille 264

"For My Aunt Flossie (Winona) and Summer, 1957" 265

"A Frank Sinatra Sighting in New York City: Winter 1991" 267

"Fourth of July" Betsy Berry 269

"the song he sang …" June Zaner 271

"Senior Prom Redux…" 272

"Melora's Origami" 274

"Insomnia is no promised land …" (with drawings by June Zaner) 275

"Rugged and Common as Stone" Charlotte Renk 276

"Rocking from the Irrawaddy to Walmart" 278

"Hurricane Reverie: Persimmoued Memory" 280

"She, the Owl" Frances Treviño Santos 282

"Once Awake" 284

"Walking Straight" Jan Seale 285

"Power" 286

"Hyponiimia (forced laughing)" 288

"Haiku Cycle on Pills" 289

"How to Fight Like a Girl" Loretta Diane Walker 292

"The Help's Daughter" 293

"Abundance" 295

"Buffer" Celeste Guzmán Mendoza 296

"La Pisca" 298

"Marriage: Hunger" 300

"The Little Helens" (artwork) Helen Kwiatkowski 301


"Outsiders" LaToya Watkins 306

"I'm Her(e)" Laurie Champion 316

"The Night Wind's Lullaby" Mary Russell Rogers 320

"Mr. Robinson and His Friends" Jeanne Bennett 328

"Bottom Land" Diane Fanning 332

"Nineteen-Aught" Susan White Norman 339

"The Fallen" Sobia Khan 341

"The Midnight Bather" Diana López 354

"Quiet Miracles" (photographs) Ysahel de la Rosa 363

Lagniappe: An Editorial Extrusion

"First Names" Rachel Crawford 368

"Disposable Parts, Interchangeable Hearts" Cassy Burleson 379

"One Less Rat in Thomaston Tonight" 381

"Hershey's Chocolate Soldier" 383

"Just Sayin" 384

"A Poet Is Never Alone or Lonely…" 385

"Twilight Fantasy" 387

Ashley Palmer, "Agnosia" 388

"Johnny Messy Skin" Donna Walker-Nixon 394

"A Single Day" (photographs) Danielle Kilgo 402

Acknowledgments 407

Contributors 411

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