Tucson Writers Read And Discuss Their Works In This Ongoing Program.
By Margaret Regan
THERE ARE ENOUGH writers living in Tucson, says Trudy Mills of Antigone Books, that "if we had the time and energy we could do a weekly thing every week of the year."
Maybe it doesn't happen all year long, but this month the local feminist bookstore is doing a weekly thing: book readings by local writers to fill up a month of Sundays. On four successive Sundays in June, Tucson writers are reading, giving talks and signing their works. The diversity is impressive: Starting with last week's poetry reading in honor of Gay & Lesbian Pride Month, offered up by six local poets, the remaining readings include a scholarly work by a UA history professor, a new book of essays by the nationally known Leslie Marmon Silko, and a fiction trio by three writers who've won grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
"There are a lot of great local people," Mills says. "And since they're all doing different things they attract different audiences."
Everyone has her own explanation for why so many writers live in the Old Pueblo--ranging from what once upon a time was a cheap cost of living to the phenomenon of a community of writers exerting a magnetic attraction on other writers. As Mills points out, quite a few are connected with the UA: Apart from such scholarly writers as the historian Karen Anderson, who reads Sunday, June 16, there's a host of poetry and fiction writers who teach in the creative writing program. Elizabeth Evans, who will read on June 30 from her novel The Blue Hour, is one of those, and so is poet Boyer Rickel, who read last week. Karen Falkenstrom and Mark Wunderlich, also on last week's poetry roster, are both associated with the UA Poetry Center, Wunderlich as acting director.
And, says Mills, apart from all these perfectly sensible reasons for writers eking out a living in the Baked Apple, "It's gotta be the desert too."
Here's the lineup for the rest of the month.
Sunday, June 16, 7 p.m.: Karen Anderson, former head of the UA Women's Studies Program, will talk about her book Changing Woman: A History of Racial Ethnic Women in Modern America (Oxford University Press, New York, $35). This ambitious feminist work gives "historical perspectives on the lives of American Indian, African American, and Mexican American women in the United States over the course of the last century," Anderson writes in her opening chapter. A book of comparative history, it's the first scholarly work that looks at women in all three racial ethnic groups, teasing out what black, Indian and Chicana women have in common and how their experiences differ. In chronicling the migration of African Americans from the rural farms to the urban North, the travails of Native Americans under shifting U.S. Indian policy, and the demonization of Mexican Americans in xenophobic anti-immigration rhetoric, the book also offers a history of 20th century America. Studded here and there in the analysis are the words of the women themselves, gleaned by Anderson through interviews and archived tape recordings.
Sunday, June 23, 7 p.m.: As a nice counterpoint to Anderson's scholarly presentation, Leslie Marmon Silko offers her personal observations on life as a woman of mixed Indian, white and Mexican ancestry in Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today (Simon & Schuster, New York, $23). Silko is a nationally known author who's probably most famous for the lyrical novel Ceremony, which is widely used as a text in Native American and women studies' classes around the country. Her most recent novel, Almanac of the Dead, a sprawling work that Larry McMurtry called brilliant and haunting, stunned her fans by the bleak tragedy of its vision. The new book of essays both personal and political helps us understand some of the rage that fueled Almanac. Though there are softer passages about her great-grandma, A'mooh, and her childhood love for horseback riding, mostly Silko writes with a hot passion about the injustice of the U.S. legal system, the coercion and co-optation of tribal councils by outside interests and the new police state in the Southwest, ruled by the sovereign Border Patrol.
A gripping essay called "The Border Patrol State" details her own numerous, and sometimes scary, encounters with the border police. Her crime? Her skin is "yellow."
Sunday, June 30, 7 p.m.: A trio of fiction writers, those who got the ACA grants, read from their works and provide a discussion of finding the time to write and finding a publisher. Elizabeth Evans is the author of The Blue Hour (Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, $17.95), a dark novel about a troubled family set in 1959. Evans does a masterful job of assuming the point of view of the 10-year-old daughter. Candice Leigh Brown, a former professional ballerina, wrote The Body of Dancers (Baskerville Publishers, Dallas, $18), a fictional account of a young ballet dancer treading through the danger zones of professional ballet. Rita Maria Magdaleno's short story "Cuatas" appeared in Walking the Twilight (Northland Press, Flagstaff, $14.95), a collection of fiction by women writers living in the Southwest, edited by Kathryn Wilder.
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