Monday, November 18, 2019

This Wednesday: atCentral with Stephen Harrigan and 'Big Wonderful Thing'

Wednesday, November 20
Doors at 6:30 PM
Begins at 7 PM
with Stephen Harrigan and Jeff Salamon
Thursday, November 20 at 7 PM
Central Library Special Events Center
Stephen Harrigan has devoted much of his life to exploring and explaining Texas, ever since his family crossed the Red River from Oklahoma in 1953. He's written numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including A Friend of Mr. Lincoln and The Gates of the Alamo.

Join us for a celebration of Harrigan's latest work, a big wonderful history of Texas! Harrigan will talk about the book with Texas Monthly senior editor Jeff Salamon, followed by a book signing with book sales provided by BookPeople.

This is event is free, but advance tickets are encouraged. Doors open at 6:30 PM, with priority seating for ticket-holders. For front-row seating and priority in the author signing line, become a member of The Library Foundation.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Q&A on Quinceañera Style with Rachel Valentina González

Quinceañera celebrations, which recognize a girl’s transition to young womanhood at age fifteen, are practiced in Latinx communities throughout the Americas. But in the consumer-driven United States, the ritual has evolved from a largely religious ceremony to an elaborate party where social status takes center stage. Examining the many facets of this contemporary debut experience, Quinceañera Style: Social Belonging and Latinx Consumer Identities by Rachel Valentina González reports on ethnographic fieldwork in California, Texas, the Midwest, and Mexico City to reveal a complex, compelling story. Along the way, we meet a self-identified transwoman who uses the quinceañera as an intellectual space in 
More info
her activist performance art. We explore the economic empowerment of women who own barrio boutiques specializing in the quinceañera’s many accessories and made-in-China gowns. And, of course, we meet teens themselves, including a vlogger whose quince-planning tips have made her an online sensation.

Disrupting assumptions, such as the belief that Latino communities in the United States can’t desire upward mobility without abandoning ethnoracial cultural legacies, Quinceañera Style also underscores the performative nature of class and the process of constructing a self in the public, digital sphere.

Give us the elevator pitch for your research and the resulting book.

Quinceañera Style explores the cultural practices of quinceañera celebrations as unexpected spectacles of luxury in Latinx communities.

How did you get interested in the subject of your book?

I never had a quinceañera, but in graduate school I was asked to present to a group of undergraduates on the significance of dress in the tradition and I realized how little research had been done. I decided I wanted to fill in those gaps.

What kind of expectations are placed on young Latinas for their quinceañeras?

It depends on who asks. Families expect young women to put a good face forward—as young women and as respectable young adults. The church wants them to manifest obedience. I think American society, however, wants Latinas to remember their place; they want to see humility and deference to assumed cultural narratives of poverty, undereducation, and social trauma. Instead, girls defy these expectations and demand to be seen.

Can you establish what you’re looking at when you say quinceañera consumer practice?

Quinceañeras are a cultural practice, but dependent on consumer practices like shopping for goods and services. I am invested in how Latina/os spend their money, and how it reflects what's valuable in their lives.

Did the regions and communities you studied differ in surprising ways?

Not really. What I found most interesting is how consumer practices, especially those circulating through deterritorial forms like internet ads and online shopping, create communities through a shared practice of consumption. While each region has its own identity, overall the styles of dresses vary because individual designers are eager to set themselves apart in a national and international versus regional fashion scene.

Briefly position your research and book in the context of other studies on quinceañeras.

My book examines US Latinx contexts of cultural production and is also interested in the church as a major framing discourse. This is not a religious history of the sacramental or even a study of ethno-racial identities, but instead is examining secular quinceañera practice through a lens of consumer citizenship.

How does your background as a folklorist make your book unique?

Being a folklorist means my primary goal is to look at the creative acts of everyday people. And in working with Latinx communities, that means that my perspective is one of examining art as a form of social resistance and place making for people who have been historically, socially, and economically marginalized in the narratives of ideal Americanness. But it also means that the primary interlocutor in this study is the practice itself—and being open to following the practice and its variations into a variety of different ideological and physical places.

Rachel Valentina González is an assistant professor of Mexican American and Latina/o studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She was a Woodrow Wilson Early Career Fellow and is the coeditor of Race and Cultural Practice in Popular Culture.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Andrew Smith on the 25th Anniversary of George Foreman's Historic Heavyweight Title

Olympic gold medalist. Two-time world heavyweight champion. Hall of Famer. Infomercial and reality TV star. George Foreman’s fighting ability is matched only by his acumen for selling. Yet the complete story of Foreman’s rise from urban poverty to global celebrity has never been told until now.

Raised in Houston’s “Bloody Fifth” Ward, battling against scarcity in housing and food, young Foreman fought sometimes for survival and other times just for fun. But when a
More info
government program rescued him from poverty and introduced him to the sport of boxing, his life changed forever.

In No Way but to Fight: 
George Foreman and the Business of Boxing, Andrew R. M. Smith traces Foreman’s life and career from the Great Migration to the Great Society, through the Cold War and Culture Wars, out of urban Houston and onto the world stage where he discovered that fame brought new challenges. Drawing on new interviews with George Foreman and declassified government documents, as well as more than fifty domestic and international newspapers and magazines, Smith brings to life the exhilarating story of a true American icon. No Way but to Fight is an epic worthy of a champion.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of George Foreman becoming the oldest heavyweight champion, we asked Andrew Smith to recount Foreman's path to this historic distinction. No Way but to Fight publishes January 10, 2020.

George Foreman's 1994 Heavyweight Title

By Andrew Smith

In 1987, almost ten years and at least 50 pounds away from his last prize fight, George Foreman had a dream. “I’m not trying to rain on [Mike] Tyson’s parade,” he told the New York Times’ Dave Anderson. “He’s the youngest champion, I just want to be the oldest.”

The 38-year-old Foreman wouldn’t have to wait very long to meet the age requirement. He was chasing the record that “Jersey” Joe Walcott set in 1953. At 37, Walcott beat Ezzard Charles to win the heavyweight title. Two years later he relinquished his title to Rocky Marciano and promptly retired from boxing.

Foreman said he intended to win the heavyweight title at 40. It didn’t quite work out as planned. His 40th birthday came and went, and although he kept fighting—nearly 20 times in two years—he struggled just to get his bouts with lackluster opponents televised, let alone secure a title shot.

Maybe it was an impossible dream. No one over 40 had ever worn the heavyweight crown. A quarter-century after Walcott’s last fight, the 36-year-old Muhammad Ali became champion for the third time, but abdicated his title the next year. Ali had one more shot at the title when he was 38, but he was badly outmatched by Larry Holmes. He retired for good the next year, like Walcott, before he turned 40.

Foreman kept his eye on the heavyweight prize as he eased into his comeback, while Holmes—just ten months younger than Foreman—had never really left. Although Holmes lost his championship at 36, he threatened Walcott’s record by challenging Tyson two years later. “Kid Dynamite” was 17 years younger and only needed 12 minutes to rebuff Holmes’s shot at history. Rumors swirled that Tyson would also give Foreman a chance at the championship belt—and the record that he coveted. Though Foreman’s chances of beating Tyson were not much better than Holmes’s had been, he would never have the opportunity to test them. Tyson lost to James “Buster” Douglas, who promptly gave it up to Evander Holyfield while Tyson was convicted of rape, and sent to prison.

Holyfield gave Foreman his shot, making his first title defense against the now 42-year-old in 1991. Their “Battle of the Ages” was much more competitive than expected, with the sport’s elder statesman taking Holyfield the full twelve rounds, even winning one or two, depending on who was counting. Foreman was still standing at the end of the fight, but so too was Walcott’s record. “I played too much jazz,” Foreman said of his conservative approach to Holyfield, and many wondered if that was in fact his swan song.

Two years later, however, the World Boxing Organization pitted him against Tommy “The Duke” Morrison for its vacant championship. Foreman was the betting favorite, but Morrison, who claimed to be a nephew of John Wayne, channeled his inner sheriff and marshalled Foreman around the ring. Now 44, Foreman could be seen more often on television commercials than in a prize ring. Like other aging yet popular athletes, it seemed that “Big George” would be relegated to the broadcaster’s booth, calling the fights for a new generation of champions, including Holyfield’s next defense against Michael Moorer.

More than four decades after Walcott’s last stand in 1953, it seemed the age gap in heavyweight boxing had only widened as Holyfield and Moorer—both a chiseled 214 pounds—faced off. Although he was outside the ring, Foreman didn’t pull any punches in his commentary. He questioned the action, the scoring that gave Moorer a contested decision, and how much influence Moorer’s management had over the outcome.

In retaliation, Moorer’s people insisted that he would not fight on an HBO broadcast again if Foreman was in the booth. They got their wish, in a way: Moorer’s first title defense was on HBO, but Foreman wasn’t calling it from the table, because he was in the other corner. The nature of the sport, especially after Tyson’s redemption story lost all redeeming qualities, meant that Moorer could earn the highest purse not by fighting the best contender, but the most popular one. The bald, round Everyman of the prize ring, George Foreman, fit the bill.

On November 5, 1994, George Foreman—now 45-years-old—got one more chance. Nine rounds of boxing only seemed to prop up Walcott’s record. Moorer circled Foreman throughout the fight, landing punches seemingly at will. But boxing is one sport where 27 minutes of dominance can be undone in the blink of an eye; 90 points can be obliterated in just one shot. During the tenth round, Foreman caught Moorer with a left jab, and followed it up with a straight right hand that went through Moorer’s gloves and hit the point of his chin. Moorer collapsed to the mat. When he regained his senses, he was staring up at the oldest heavyweight champion in modern boxing history.

Andrew R. M. Smith is an assistant professor of sport management and history at Nichols College. Originally from Guelph, Ontario, he lives with his wife and daughters in Woodstock, Connecticut. Visit his website at:

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

UT Press at the 2019 Texas Book Festival

Next weekend, October 26 and 27, the University of Texas Press and many of our authors will enjoy the 24th annual Texas Book Festival on the Capitol grounds in downtown Austin and environs.

Read about the poster artist
We are also proud that the author of our new contemporary history of Texas is one of the featured authors at this year's First Edition Literary Gala! Stephen Harrigan (Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas), joins Sarah M. Broom (The Yellow House), Sharon Robinson (Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963), and Alexander McCall Smith (To the Land of Long Lost Friends) as honored Gala authors.

The First Edition Literary Gala is always a memorable evening packed with literary luminaries, dignitaries, and cultural arts supporters, helping the Texas Book Festival make an impact in communities across Texas. Proceeds from the Gala help keep the Festival Weekend free for everyone and fund the Festival's Reading Rock Stars and Real Reads programs, which provide author visits and book donations to students in low-income schools, and more programming across the state.

Visit our booth at the corner of Colorado and 11th (507-508). We’ll have tons of titles for sale at a great discount. There are a lot of wonderful authors in attendance this year! We’ve distilled our authors' appearances into a single UT Press schedule (browse the full schedule here):

Also, mark your calendar for University Press Week 2019—November 3 to November 9—a week in celebration of the many ways university presses move national and international conversations forward on critical and complex issues. This year we encourage readers to explore research on topics that affect everyone and to reflect on what they read, in the hope that the work of university presses bringing scholarship to readers will stimulate positive conversations and actions in the world.


11:30 AM - 12:15 PM

Big, Wonderful Thing: A New History of Texas
More info

Author: Stephen Harrigan
Location: First United Methodist Church (1201 Lavaca Street)
Booksigning: 12:30-1:30 at Murcheson Chapel, next to First United Methodist Church

The Texas publishing event of the decade has arrived! Bestselling author and historian Stephen Harrigan, a living legend among Texas writers, has dedicated years to researching and writing this new, comprehensive history of Texas. Big Wonderful Thing invites us to walk in the footsteps of ancient as well as modern Texans, blending action and atmosphere with impeccable research to bring to life with novelistic immediacy the generations of driven men and women who shaped our state.

Follow Stephen Harrigan online: @stephenharrigan | Website

More info

12:15 PM - 1:00 PM

Author: Karen Tongson with Andrea Lawlor
LocationCapitol Extension Room E2.026 (1100 Congress Avenue)
Moderator: Jack Kaulfus
Booksigning: 4:30 PM Adult Signing Tent on Congress Avenue

From Donna Summer to Karen Carpenter, Madonna, Lady Gaga and beyond, pop music has provided anthems of queer identity for decades, giving people a safe and celebratory space to explore and affirm gender and sexuality. Novelist Andrea Lawlor (Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl), who drops references to pop songs and musicians throughout their hilarious and moving epic of gender exploration, talks with cultural critic Karen Tongson (Why Karen Carpenter Matters) about the unique role pop music plays in queer identity. 

Follow Karen Tongson online: @inlandemperor | Website 

1:00 PM - 1:45 PM
More info

Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.036 (1100 Congress Avenue)
Booksigning: 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Texas Monthly TBF Book Signing Tent, Congress Avenue

Earl Campbell was a force in American football, winning a state championship in high school, rushing his way to a Heisman trophy for the University of Texas, and earning MVP as he took the Houston Oilers to the brink of the Super Bowl. Austin American-Statesman writer Asher Price shares his exhilarating new look at Campbell, a timely story of hard-earned success and heart-wrenching sacrifice in an age when concussion revelations and player protests against racial injustice rock the NFL.

Follow Asher Price online: @asherprice

More info

1:15 PM - 2:00 PM

Authors: Keith Carter
Moderator: DJ Stout
Location: The Contemporary Austin-Jones Center (700 Congress Avenue)
Booksigning: 2:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. Texas Monthly TBF Book Signing Tent, Congress Avenue

Legendary Texas photographer Keith Carter shares a selection of 250 of his most compelling images, celebrating a lifetime of exploring humanity's landscape through an artistic lens. These photographs explore the mythos of time and terrain, the familiar and the magical, and the varied creatures that inhabit our earth and become a meditation on aging and loss, which have affected Carter profoundly in recent years, spurring him towards a sense of discovery, not despair.

Follow Keith Carter online: | Website 


12:15 PM - 1:00 PM
AuthorsStephen Harrigan, Elizabeth Crook, Steven Davis
Moderators: Bill Broyles, John Spong
Location: Capitol Auditorium E1.004 (1100 Congress Avenue)

Bill Wittliff is one of our greatest Texas writers and filmmakers. We were deeply saddened by his passing earlier this year and are grateful for the tremendous body of work he created in his lifetime. Today, his friends and colleagues come together to celebrate his work, including his new book of solar photography, Sunrise/Sunset.

Follow Stephen Harrigan online: @stephenharrigan | Website 

Related titles:

A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove
By John Spong
Photographs by Bill Wittliff

More info

12:30 PM - 1:15 PM

Author: Kathryn E. Holliday
Moderator: Christy Taylor
Location: Capitol Extension Room E1.014 (1100 Congress Avenue)
Booksigning: 1:30PM - 2:30PM. Texas Monthly TBF Signing Tent, Congress Avenue

In 1980, David Dillon launched his career as an architectural critic with a provocative article in the Dallas Morning News. Kathryn E. Holliday discusses how Dillon connected culture, commerce, history, and public life in ways that few columnists and reporters ever get the opportunity to do.Her new book gathers more than sixty key articles that helped establish Dillon’s national reputation as a witty and acerbic critic, showing readers why architecture matters and how it can enrich their lives.

More info

2:30 PM - 3:15 PM

Author: PJ Stoops and Benchalak Srimart Stoops
Moderator: Paula Forbes
Location: Central Market Cooking Tent (Congress and 11th Street)
Booksigning: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Texas Monthly TBF Book Signing Tent

The Texas Gulf is home to more than two hundred species of fish and seafood. Join the Stoopses as they celebrate this regional bounty and showcase their experience as longtime fishmongers. Their new book, Texas Seafood, is a cookbook and comprehensive guide to wild-caught delicacies, including recipes for such delectable dishes as Steamed Curried Crab, Chicken-Fried Ribbonfish, Crispy White Shrimp, and more.

3:00 PM - 3:45 PM

The Essential J. Frank Dobie
AuthorStephen Harrigan and Sarah Bird
Moderator: Michael Barnes
LocationCapitol Extension Room E2.028 (State Capitol)
Booksigning: 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Texas Monthly TBF Book Signing Tent, Congress Avenue

Steven L. Davis, literary curator of the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University and past president of the Texas Institute of Letters, has combed through the works of renowned Texas author J. Frank Dobie to gather together in one volume Dobie’s most vital writings. Join him, Sarah Bird, and Stephen Harrigan as they discuss the enduring legacy of Dobie’s work.

Related titles:

More info
More info
More info

Monday, October 7, 2019

Q&A with C.J. Alvarez on His History of Construction on the US-Mexico Divide

From the boundary surveys of the 1850s to the ever-expanding fences and highway networks of the twenty-first century, Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the US-Mexico Divide examines the history of the construction projects that have shaped the region where the United States and Mexico meet.

Tracing the accretion of ports of entry, boundary markers, transportation networks, fences
More info
and barriers, surveillance infrastructure, and dams and other river engineering projects, C. J. Alvarez advances a broad chronological narrative that captures the full life cycle of border building. He explains how initial groundbreaking in the nineteenth century transitioned to unbridled faith in the capacity to control the movement of people, goods, and water through the use of physical structures. By the 1960s, however, the built environment of the border began to display increasingly obvious systemic flaws. More often than not, Alvarez shows, federal agencies in both countries responded with more construction—“compensatory building” designed to mitigate unsustainable policies relating to immigration, black markets, and the natural world. 
Border Land, Border Water reframes our understanding of how the border has come to look and function as it does and is essential to current debates about the future of the US-Mexico divide.

Give us the elevator pitch for your research and the resulting book.

The US-Mexico border is at the center of an unprecedented national debate, yet very few people from either the United States or Mexico have ever been to the international divide. This book explains the complex history of construction projects on the border that have been underway for over 100 years.

How did you get interested in the subject of your book?

I thought this was an important subject to write about not because it has become especially controversial but because I grew up in the border region. To us border dwellers, the international divide and the various ecosystems through which it passes have always been relevant.

Why is it important to study the built environment on the US-Mexico border?

Government policies—whether we’re talking about the “drug wars” or immigration law—are often enacted through physical construction projects. Fences and walls are the most obvious examples of this, but it’s important to understand other, less-obvious kinds of building, such as border survey markers, roads and highways, surveillance infrastructure, bridges, and massive storage dams.

In what ways did engineering and police projects affect the geography, environment, and communities on both sides of the international divide?

One of the most surprising conclusions I came to through my archival research was that the Rio Grande border has undergone a far higher degree of environmental transformation than the land border. There is almost nothing “natural” about the Rio Grande watershed, and this has produced fascinatingly complex results in border communities. On one hand, some of these river modifications made it easier for immigration police to surveil the international divide, and on the other hand, an untold number of people have been saved from disastrous floods.

What context might be missing from contemporary debates about the ongoing “drug wars” of the border region and border enforcement policy?

Government and business interests in both the United States and Mexico have spent over a century painstakingly building connective tissue between our two countries. First it was the railroads of the 1880s, then, with the invention of automobiles and trucks in the early twentieth century, more complex road networks were introduced: after the 1950s, that meant the interstate highway system, and after the free trade agreements in the 1980s and 1990s, superhighways and port-of-entry expansions. These were all bilateral projects; you can’t build only half a port of entry. The US-Mexico border is designed to be open to commerce, which means you can’t cherry pick those who cross it, weeding out illicit business and the unauthorized movement of people, no matter how many fences you build.

C. J. Alvarez is an assistant professor of Mexican American and Latina/o studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Biographer Fred Goodman Remembers Lhasa de Sela

An artist in every sense of the word, Lhasa de Sela wowed audiences around the globe with her multilingual songs and spellbinding performances, mixing together everything from Gypsy music to Mexican rancheras, Americana and jazz, chanson française, and South American folk melodies. Tracing de Sela’s unconventional life and introducing her to a new generation, Fred Goodman's book Why Lhasa de Sela Matters is the first biography of this sophisticated creative icon.

Lhasa de Sela was born on September 27, 1972, and on the anniversary of her birth, biographer Fred Goodman pays tribute to her and her legacy, revealing the ways her unorthodox life shaped her creativity. Following Fred Goodman's tribute is his curated playlist that serves as a musical introduction to America's first world music chanteuse [ Spotify | YouTube ]. Why Lhasa de Sela Matters is the latest book in our Music Matters series and publishes November 11, 2019.

Remembering Lhasa de Sela

By Fred Goodman

More info

The singular, otherworldly American singer Lhasa de Sela—who wrote and recorded in Spanish, French, and English and performed songs in nearly a dozen other languages—would have turned forty-seven on September 27. A spiritual and artistic pilgrim, she possessed an insatiable hunger for knowledge and left behind a musical legacy culled from her unique affinity for the romantic, mystic, and cerebral.

Beginning with her first album in 1997, Lhasa’s multilingual songs and her spellbinding shows made the singer-songwriter a sensation in Montreal and Europe. But even today, nearly ten years after her death, her work and individuality have yet to register with listeners in her homeland. Contradictory and complex, Lhasa was both a naïf and a melancholic, a pixie with an enduring apprehension of life’s hardships as well as its magic. In the course of a heartbreakingly brief career of just thirteen years and three albums, she worked her own musical turf, part Edith Piaf, part Tinkerbell.

She came by her artistic and spiritual wanderlust honestly. Raised in a family of bohemian nomads, Lhasa was born in an unused Catskills Mountains ski chalet in Big Indian, New York, twenty-five miles northwest of Woodstock. The attending hippie doctor, shirtless and in overalls, focused most of his medical supervision on splitting a gallon of Gallo burgundy with the expectant mother. Beautiful and healthy, the as-yet unnamed baby was wrapped in a blanket; with no cradle to hand, she slept in a dresser drawer.

Her peripatetic life began just a few days later, when the family was kicked out of Big Indian and set off for Mexico. But it wasn’t until five months later that her parents finally found a name they felt suited their new daughter. Having read Timothy Leary’s popular handbook on LSD, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the couple then tackled the original Buddhist tome that had inspired Leary. Along with providing a spiritual guide to navigating bardo, the state in which a Buddhist’s consciousness sits suspended between death and rebirth, the book told of the holy city of Lhasa, built high on the Tibetan plateau. The name means “place of the gods,” and somehow, those rarified heights and aspirations felt like an appropriate christening and wish.

“They were incapable of having a middle-class life,” Lhasa de Sela would say years later when asked about her mother and father. “Their parents were well-off, but they were the black sheep of their families. They took a lot of hallucinogenic drugs and took incredible risks.”

Raised in a converted school bus crossing back and forth between Mexico and the United States, Lhasa and her three sisters were homeschooled and grew up without a telephone or television. And while their parents rejected the bulk of mainstream America’s material and social assumptions, they were fierce about instilling in their children an unquenchable curiosity, a deep devotion to spiritual and intellectual advancement, and the veneration of creativity.

“What was really passed to us in the way we were raised is that life is an interior search,” says her sister Miriam. “A lot of soul-searching and trying to be truthful to your intuition. And in a very vague way trying to trust something that’s invisible. I would have to say that was a huge part of Lhasa’s life: constant self-searching.” That spiritual and intellectual search would, in turn, illuminate her writings and performances.

An exhilarating childhood, it was also a life of uncertainty, isolated and lived without nets. The month that Lhasa turned eight, she was living in a broken-down bus behind an Exxon station in Elk Grove, California. Her father was picking melons by day and rebuilding a replacement engine salvaged from a junkyard by night; Lhasa and her sisters studied with their mother in the mornings and worked gathering tomatoes in the afternoons. On her birthday, there was a Raggedy Ann party in the bus; Lhasa’s mother made a doll, her sisters crafted a piñata, and friends provided a Raggedy Ann cake. As an adult, Lhasa would tag it her most memorable birthday.

Though lived close to the bone, that unorthodox upbringing proved a petri dish for nurturing a family of extraordinarily focused iconoclasts and autodidacts. Lhasa’s sisters would go on to careers as circus performers—a tightrope walker, a trapeze artist, and a gymnast—with Lhasa at one point taking a break from her own career to join their circus troupe in France. A loner at heart, Lhasa would always remain somewhat estranged from society at large; her unusual upbringing and the lessons imparted by her parents—particularly, that life is an adventure not to be missed—left her unable to fathom the lack of curiosity and discipline in so many of the people she met. “She kind of fit in everywhere but also nowhere,” says her half-brother, Mischa Karam.

At the age of twelve, Lhasa heard Billie Holiday for the first time and became obsessed with transforming herself into a singer. A move at nineteen to Montreal, with its thriving dual French and English music scenes, broadened her perspective. Lhasa’s unique ability to incorporate whatever came her way, forged in that unlikely, supercharged childhood, would lead her as a musician to make use of anything she deemed moving and meaningful, from Gypsy music to Mexican rancheras, Americana, jazz and fado, chanson française and South American folk melodies. She had an eye for the authentic, an unfailing ear for the heartfelt.

Though she was likely this country’s first world music chanteuse, Lhasa nonetheless remains virtually unknown in the United States. In recent years, reggaetón and Spanglish pop hits such as “Despacito” have worked their way into America’s pop lexicon, but that wasn’t the case twenty-odd years ago, when Lhasa released her first album, the all-Spanish La Llorona. A musical séance calling up ghosts from a long-lost world of legend and romance, the album became a bestseller in Canada and made her a star in France and much of Europe but never registered here. Her trilingual second album, The Living Road, was one of the United Kingdom’s most critically lauded albums of 2003, and critics there acclaimed Lhasa “a multilingual global diva.” Her continuing American anonymity feels inexplicable. “The language really did not make any difference,” observed the Canadian music journalist Nicholas Jennings. “What she was putting forth transcended language, she was such an intense performer. She had all the depth of emotion of an actress or an opera singer. You couldn’t take your eyes off her.”

As ambitious as she was artistic, Lhasa had set her eyes on conquering the United States. She didn’t imagine her time was running short. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, Lhasa nonetheless continued to plot an American tour while writing and recording her only all-English album, 2009’s Lhasa. But for Lhasa, America would prove a dream that has yet to come to fruition: she died at her home in Montreal on New Year’s Day, 2010, at the age of thirty-seven.

About the author: Fred Goodman is a former editor at Rolling Stone whose work has appeared in the New York Times and many magazines. His previous books include the award-winning The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Meet Stephen Harrigan On Tour for ‘Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas'

The University of Texas Press is pleased to announce a fall book tour celebrating Stephen Harrigan's comprehensive, definitive history of Texas titled Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas. Join us in October and November in:

About the book

Big Wonderful Thing:
A History of Texas

Stephen Harrigan
$35.00 Hardcover

The story of Texas is the story of struggle and triumph in a land of extremes. It is a story of drought and flood, invasion and war, boom and bust, and of the myriad peoples who, over centuries of conflict, gave rise to a place that has helped shape the identity of the United States and the destiny of the world.

Harrigan’s book brings to life with novelistic immediacy the generations of driven men and women who shaped Texas, including Spanish explorers, American filibusters, Comanche warriors, wildcatters, Tejano activists, and spellbinding artists—all of them taking their part in the creation of a place that became not just a nation, not just a state, but an indelible idea.

Confirmed Tour Dates

October 1 — Austin, TX
Interview with Dan Rather

October 4-5 — Boerne, TX

October 8 — Dallas, TX
In Conversation with Skip Hollandsworth

October 15 — San Antonio, TX
In Conversation with Clay Smith

October 17  Waco, TX

October 26-27 — Austin, TX

October 29 — Tempe, AZ
In Conversation with Mark Athitakis (tentative)

November 3 — Albuquerque, NM
In Conversation with Paul Hutton (tentative)

November 5 — Tulsa, OK

November 6 — Oklahoma City, OK
In Conversation with Lou Berney

November 8 — Dallas, TX
Texas Monthly Live! with

November 13 — Houston, TX

November 18 — New York City, NY
In Conversation with Elise Jordan

November 19 — Washington, D.C.

November 20 — Austin, TX
In Conversation with Mimi Swartz

December 5 — Kerrville, TX

December 6 — Alpine, TX

December 14 — Dallas, TX

Praise for Big Wonderful Thing

"Exhilarating . . . As good a state history as has ever been written and a must-read for Texas aficionados."

Kirkus, Starred Review

“Harrigan uses his stupendous storytelling skills to great effect [in Big Wonderful Thing]. He covers the state's major historical events from inventive angles, introduces newly discovered archaeological and archival research, and excels at puffing up many of Texas's larger-than-life personalities.”

Foreword Reviews

“Harrigan describes post-Columbian Texas in novelistic style in this eloquent homage to the Lone Star state...History lovers will enjoy this packed, fascinating account of a singular state.”

Publishers Weekly

“Stephen Harrigan has given us a wonderful new history of Texas. It tells us all we need to know and little that we don't need to know. A splendid effort.”

—Larry McMurtry

“History at its best—comprehensive, deeply informed, pleasurable, and filled with surprise and delight. It is at once a gift to the people of Texas and an unflinching explanation to the world at large of America’s most controversial state.”

—Lawrence Wright, author of God Save Texas

“No one tells the story of Texas better than Stephen Harrigan. He brings to Big Wonderful Thing contemporary and thoughtful analysis along with the most graceful writing anywhere. Harrigan pulls no punches but uses humor and pathos to examine the complexities and contradictions that have made us who we are. Finally, Texas has the rich and honest history it deserves.”

—Mimi Swartz

“Harrigan tacks brilliantly through the shifting winds of Texas history by telling a series of rip-snorting good tales.”

—S.C. Gwynne