IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES:A JOURNEY TO THE SOUL OF BLACK TEXAS By Bill Minutaglio SOUTHWESTERN WRITERS COLLECTION SERIES UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS PRESS 183 PAGES, $24.95 SURF BILL MINUTAGLIO’S website at billminutaglio.com BROWSE THE Southwestern Writers Collection Book Series at txlo.com/swwc blues pianist Alex Moore, who died at 89 while carrying groceries home on a city bus. As Minutaglio noted, “People that age should never have to wait at bus stops. People that age should never stand alone at night, big brown bags of groceries tucked under their arms.” You can imagine how some editors at these newspapers reacted to the New York kid’s pushy agenda. Minutaglio often had to fight to get his stories in the paper, and he heard murmurs about being a “lover” of certain types of people. Gradually, as diversity came into favor and his stories began winning awards, Minutaglio’s position became more secure. By the end of his career as a newspaper journalist in the 1990s, Minutaglio had published hundreds of stories on African Americans in Texas. His writing is informed by a deep passion for the blues, and he works in a rhythmic, circular motion, gathering groups of words until, startlingly, they take flight. Minutaglio’s journalism has evolved into history, chronicling people and places that otherwise would have been lost. This is where the Southwestern Writers Collection Book Series steps in. Our newest title is In Search of the Blues: AJourney to the Soul ofBlack Texas, by Minutaglio. As series editor, I take my cues from people like Americo Paredes, the rebellious soul who became the godfather of Chicano literature. In 1958, Paredes noted the plethora of books on the Texas Rangersa phenomenon that continues unabated to this dayby observing that, “If all the books written about the Rangers were put one on top of the other, the resulting pile would be almost as tall as some of the tales they contain.” Like Paredes, I believe that we have too damn many books on the Texas Rangers. And let’s not forget the Alamo. How many more times are we going to have to fight that battle? The perpetual fixation on violent conflict speaks to an adolescent streak in our culture. I would prefer to see Texans grow up a bit. Maybe it’s time we begin investigating how people live with each other, rather than how people kill each other. As editor of the book series, my goal is to publish books about the “other Texas”and to produce these books using our state’s best writers. For me, this Texas includes the same folks King identified in 1976: Texas Mexicans, African Americans and the working class. I expand the definition to include women writers, along with topics such as the environment, music and politics. Our series even ventures behind East Texas’ Pine Curtain, where Observer contributor and novelist Joe Lansdale explains how Elvis Presley ended up in a nursing home and teamed up with JFK to battle an Egyptian mummy named Bubba Ho-Tep. The series springs from the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos. It is published primarily by the University of Texas Press. For several years, I worked closely with Connie Todd, who served as series editor from 1998 to 2008. One of the most important books we’ve done is Hecho en Tejas, the first-ever anthology of Texas Mexican literature, edited by the writer Dagoberto Gilb. The Wittliff Collections recognized that Texas Mexican writers have been marginalized by the literary establishment since … well, since the fall of the Alamo. The theme of recovering lost history is present in In Search of the Blues. This volume collects Minutaglio’s best and most enduring writing about African Americans in Texas. From his report on a neglected community on the outskirts of Dallas, where running water remains a dream, to his profile of Percy Sutton, the San Antonio native who became Malcolm X’s lawyer and owner of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Minutaglio’s stories shift the axis of our state’s literature, opening a world too long hidden from most white Texans. Minutaglio’s work demonstrates why writingand publishingmatters, even in this age of social media and 140-character tweets. Minutaglio’s book succeeds as “art” while contributing to our understanding of humanityin particular the “other Texas.” In Search of the Blues is an excellent example of why our book series exists. El Steve Davis is an assistant curator at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University-San Marcos, which holds the literary papers of some of the region’s leading writers. His books include Texas Literary Outlaws and J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind. THEHIGHTOWERREPORT PULLING THE CURTAIN ON THE FED SURELY I’M DREAMING. This is beyond fantasy. It’s got to be a hallucination. I don’t know whether to weep, shout hallelujah or just pass out in disbelief. But there it is in the official record: ninetysix to zero. That was the shocking vote in the U.S. Senate on May 11 to subject the secretive, imperious, all-powerful Federal Reserve System to a tiny ray of demo cratic sunlight. This had never happened before. Weak-kneed leaders of both parties have been more frightened of the Fed than the Cowardly Lion was of the Wizard of Oz. The Fed, a convoluted and anti-democratic fabrication that allows private banks to wield government authority over our nation’s financial system, has long asserted that it must work its wonders with complete independence from the people’s will and should never have its actions scrutinized by common Congress critters. But that was before the recent Wall Street collapse caused our current economic catastrophe. As this crisis unfolded, the Fed’s coziness with the powerhouse banks it’s supposed to regulate was exposed, and Fed officials were caught funneling some $2 trillion in public funds to Wall Street. Worse, they refused to tell the public or Congress how much was given to whom or what was done with our money! The giveaway reeked of such deep institutional corruption that even the Senate gagged. Under the shrewd legislative guidance of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the members have now voted unanimously to open the Fed’s books to a public audit of its backdoor bailout. This is only a start, since the audit is likely to reveal a whole nest of nastiness. At long last we maybe headed toward democratic reform of this plutocratic system. Stay tuned! JIM HIGHTOWER FIND MORE INFORMATION on Jim Hightower’s work and subscribe to his awardwinning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown at www.jimhightowercorn 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG
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