Trinity University Press

Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

Posts by Eliza Perez

Words Without Walls: Writing from Alternative Spaces

Apr 27, 2015 (12:57 pm)

Writing done in alternative spaces — be it a prison, a rehab center, or a shelter— can help people recover or work through whatever is happening in their lives. Writing gives people the opportunity to be vulnerable and open themselves up to new ways of thinking. Words Without Walls is a creative writing partnership between graduate students in Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and Allegheny County Jail, the State Correctional Institution of Pittsburgh, and Sojourner House (a drug and alcohol treatment facility for mothers and their children). From two of the programs founders comes the book, Words without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration, a collection of more than seventy-five poems, essays, stories, and scripts by contemporary writers – serving as inspiration for other writers and mentors in these alternative spaces.

By sharing these stories, co-editors Sheryl St. Germain and Sarah Shotland are contributing to some greater truth that makes writers a part of something bigger than themselves. 

The following is an excerpt of the poem, “Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye, a Trinity University graduate who has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Lannan Fellow, as well as the reciepient of numerous awards for her writing which include the Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, four Pushcart Prizes, and many more. 


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Valentine's Day: A Gastronomic Interpretation of Love

Feb 11, 2015 (7:00 am)

Last month, as people were returning to San Antonio after winter vacation, I went to the event Domesticity: A Gastronomic Evening of Love with Bob Shacochis at the Pearl Stable, where Shacochis and his wife—better known as Miss F to readers of Shacochis’s book, Domesticity—discussed their whirlwind romance and food.

Shacochis and Miss F were lively, their conversation full of tongue-in-cheek banter moderated by Texas Monthly’s food critic, Patricia Sharpe. They reflected on their marriage and the connection between heart and stomach as students from the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio provided tastings of the recipes from Shacochis’s book.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, readers can enjoy their own gastronomic interpretation of love with delicious recipes from Domesticity, such as the recipe below for a raspberry charlotte with berry purée.

Nothing says love like a homemade dessert. The challenge this Saturday, dear reader, is “to seduce your eater,” as Shacochis says.



Makes 6 to 8 servings


1 cup milk

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

3 egg yolks, beaten smooth

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup water


15 ladyfingers

1 cup whipping cream

1 pint raspberries


In a medium-size saucepan, heat milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt to boiling point. Remove from burner and beat in egg yolks. Return to heat and stir constantly, until mixture starts to thicken; don’t allow to boil. Remove from heat. Thoroughly dissolve gelatin in water, then stir into hot milk-egg mixture. Cool until mixture begins to thicken (refrigerate if necessary). Lightly butter sides (but not bottom) of a 12-inch charlotte or soufflé mold. Arrange ladyfingers vertically along sides of mold, pressing gently to make them stay. Sprinkle sugar in bottom of mold to make unmolding easier. Beat cream in an ice-cold bowl until stiff peaks form. Beat milk-egg mixture vigorously if it has gelled. Carefully fold whipped cream into milk-egg mixture with a rubber spatula until well blended. Pour a third of mixture into mold, add a layer of raspberries (reserve a dozen or so berries for garnish); layer another third of mixture, then raspberries and, finally, mixture to fill. Cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, dip bottom of mold in warm water for a couple of seconds, then invert over a serving plate. Garnish with reserved berries. Serve with berry purée (recipe follows).



2 pints raspberries

1/2 cup sugar

Juice of 1 lemon


Puree berries in a food processor with sugar and lemon juice. Serve with charlotte.

On the Eighth Day: A New Path for Our Imperiled Planet

Jan 30, 2015 (11:27 am)

People trying to save our planet from catastrophic climate change navigate the world according to the ethical values they hold in order to take responsibility for their world. 

Kathleen Dean Moore is Distinguished Professor of Environmental Philosophy Emerita at Oregon State University and coeditor of the award-winning book Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. As a philosopher and nature writer, Moore makes a moral argument for doing the right thing for the Earth’s future—its environment, animals, and people.

On Thursday, February 5, Moore will give a talk, “On the Eighth Day: A New Path for Our Imperiled Planet,” about why changes to our lifestyle to slow climate change are critical.  

We hope you can join us!

On the Eighth Day: A New Path for Our Imperiled Planet

Evening Lecture: Thursday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m.

Holt Center at Trinity University

106 Oakmont Court, on the corner


Free and open to the public

Holiday Gift Guide

Dec 1, 2014 (3:51 pm)

The holidays are right around the corner, and one of my favorite things to do, other than make tamales with my mom and watch classic Christmas movies with my sister, is shop for gifts. I feel great whenever I find the perfect gift for someone I care about. The smile on their face is thanks enough. 

If you’re having trouble shopping for gifts, consider these books for the readers on your list.

For the future architect: Writing Architecture: A Practical Guide to Clear Communication about the Built Environment, the perfect primer on writing about architecture.

For your favorite feminist: The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, essays by Rebecca Solnit exploring politics and place the world over.

For the storyteller: A Muse and a Maze, the engaging follow-up to the bestselling Maps of the Imagination, connecting mystery, puzzles, and magic to the craft of writing.

For the poet: Nobody Home: Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places, affectionate, thoughtful interviews and letters between poet Gary Snyder and South African writer Julia Martin.

For the fiction aficionado: Outside, stories by Barry Lopez, with illustrations by Barry Moser, exploring the relationship between humans and animals, and creativity and beauty.

For the nature lover: Reissues of books by Donald Culross Peattie, one of America’s most beloved naturalists, which have been out of print for decades. 

Happy holidays from all of us at TU Press! 

Happy University Press Week!

Nov 12, 2014 (3:47 pm)

President Jimmy Carter declared University Press Week in 1978 "in recognition of the impact, both here and abroad, of American university presses on culture and scholarship." At TU Press, we know what an impact these programs make and how important it is to recognize the amazing work of nonprofit publishers everywhere. Send us a note this week to let us know how a university press has contributed to your community through the great books they've published!


Author and Activist Rebecca Solnit to Visit San Antonio

Nov 10, 2014 (2:55 pm)


When I was a child, my father made me aware that the world was not always a good place, that there were people who wouldn’t like me solely because of the color of my skin and the country my parents were from. These whispered warnings made me appreciate honesty that could help me navigate the world.

Though it wasn’t always explicitly stated, my parents taught me to be proud of my roots, to remember where—and who—I came from.

Leaving for Trinity University made it clear why it was important not only to remember my family but to look for anything that might help me survive in a new environment. For me this came in the form of writing and books. From my first writing workshop with Dr. Coleen Grissom years ago to my current independent poetry study with Professor Jenny Browne, writing and reading have always been dear to me.

When I started working as an intern at Trinity University Press, I had no idea who Rebecca Solnit was. I felt a bit guilty that I hadn’t heard of this internationally acclaimed author and activist. But I got a chance to read the final manuscript for her new book, “The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness,” and I’m so happy I did. Solnit’s writing is a great example of how honesty can help people find their way.

For the full article, head over to the Rivard Report.

Rebecca Solnit will speak about her new book, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, on Wednesday, November 12, at the Holt Center at Trinity University. Reception at 5:30 p.m., lecture at 6:30 p.m., followed by Q&A and continued reception and book signing. Free and open to the public.

Day of the Dead: A Holiday Full of Life

Oct 30, 2014 (1:34 pm)

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is fast approaching, beginning November 1 for children through November 2 for adults who have passed away. It is a celebration to honor the dead and is observed by those in Latin America, particularly Mexico and Central America, as well as Latinos in the U.S.  It is a blending of both Indigenous and European Catholic traditions.  Most importantly, it shouldn’t be mistaken for Halloween.

Rather than a somber occasion, these days are filled with lovely festivities to commemorate our loved ones who have passed away. From museums in the Rio Grande Valley that are hosting poetry readings and altar viewings to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio hosting an entire celebration with music, face painting, altar viewings, and cemetery tours, Dia de los Muertos is always full of life. 

Traditionally people visit their loved ones graves and create homemade altars for them. In the U.S. this tradition has transformed and now altars can be found in museum or festival exhibits too.  In fact, the acclaimed Latina author Sandra Cisneros has created an altar installation at the Smithsonian this year to honor her mother.

Alters are all unique and personal, usually including the deceased person’s favorite foods, water, candles, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), calaveritas de azucar (sugar skulls), flowers, and even literary offerings.  My mother usually creates a small altar for her father, setting it up with his photograph, candles, water, and some food.

Dia de los Muertos festivities also have a literary tradition in the form of calaveras literarias, short poems written as epitaphs for the living. These are often politically motivated, but can be about any living person you want to criticize or write about in a humorous, yet morbid, manner. Here are a few I’ve translated:


Ahí viene la calaca vestida de morado para todos los enamorados.

Here comes the skeleton Death, dressed in purple for all the lovers.  


Como con la boca,

camino con los pies

pasa la huesuda y

me caigo sin querer.

I eat with my mouth,

I walk with my feet

the Bony Lady passes me

and I fall unintentionally.


This November 1, I’ll be volunteering with the Esperanza Center for their Dia de los Muertos event. So if you’re in San Antonio, you should stop by to get a better understanding of what Dia de los Muertos means to Latinos in the United States. It’s definitely something many of us want to share with our communities and dispel any confusion about it being a Latin American version of Halloween, as well as continue passing down our traditions for further generations. 

Speaking Out for Mother Earth

Oct 15, 2014 (9:27 am)

On Friday, October 3, I attended Nina Wilson’s lecture, at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, on the rights of Mother Earth from a First Nations person’s perspective. Wilson is one of the co-founders of the Idle No More movement for the rights of native peoples to protect the lands and waters.

Though I’ve lived in San Antonio for a couple of years, I’d never been to the Esperanza building. As I walked up the stairs I saw a small concession stand selling melon, tacos, and aguas frescas near what looked like papier-mâché figures hanging from the ceiling. The smell of burning sage washed over me as a man offered the smoke to people to waft toward them. The room was filled with friendly faces, both locals and visitors passing through. 

A First Nations man led us in a blessing—or what some might call a blessing, for lack of a better word. He and his family sang as he kept a rhythm on a hand drum. Wilson greeted us in her indigenous tongue, and the talk began.

Wilson discussed environmental issues that have affected First Nations people in southeastern Saskatchewan, Canada, and made them easy to understand for those not familiar with the topic. Big industries have come to the land with promises of more jobs and local funding and have in turn contaminated the water, polluted the air, and introduced illnesses related to nuclear waste and radiation. Wilson’s sincerity shone through as she spoke candidly about the issues, although this has made her a social pariah among her people.

Despite being ignored by some and judged by the elders, Wilson continues to speak out. “We need to appreciate what’s natural,” she said, and encouraged us to learn about the land’s history. This won’t repair the environmental damage, but it can help teach future generations that the earth is important and that we all have a responsibility to keep it safe. “I may not be a scientist,” she said, “but I know it’s all part of the process.”

Wilson discussed the origins of Idle No More, whose name refers to the movement’s founders’ need to do something to make a change in the world. She’s honest about the challenges of being an activist, in terms of both the emotional and the economic tolls. Nevertheless, she continues to take on the big industries that are using up resources in Canada and leaving people ill.

She sees a parallel between the damage done to earth and the abuse inflicted on women. “Earth is abused when our women are abused,” she said. “Our species won’t survive [without female leadership].” Her youngest child is already able to point out systematic racism when she encounters it—a leader in the making.

By the end of Wilson’s talk, the audience was feeling energized and ready to defend the rights of the earth, even if we’d be risking our good standing. “Truth is freeing,” Wilson said, “but it can be dangerous.” 

For more information on the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center's campaigns against fracking watch a video with journalist and activist Amy Goodman featured in Rachel's latest blog post 

Artwork from the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.

Improving the Environment One Talk at a Time

Sep 23, 2014 (9:46 am)

Being a new intern at TU Press, I've quickly learned that the environment is important to the press be it through sustainable printing practices or through the publication of books that focus on nature and one’s place in the world. 

Perhaps you've read Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril or Wisdom for a Livable Planet or On the Edge: Water, Immigration, and Politics in the Southwest? These books explore environmental issues our planet faces and the people working to improve the state of the environment. If you have or if you’re simply interested in learning about our planet, then head over to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. There are still a few more installments of their community school summer series, “The Rights of Mother Earth.” This is a great opportunity to learn for anyone in San Antonio! These events are free and open to the public.

This Friday, September 26, the Esperanza will screen the film “Rooted Lands/Tierras Arraigadas,” a short documentary about the first county in the U.S. to ban fracking. After the screening, Eleanor Bravo, the Southwest organizer for Food and Water Watch, will share her experiences and insight on working with different communities to ban or restrict fracking. 

The following Friday, October 3, Nina Wilson, co-founder of Idle No More, will give a lecture on the rights of Mother Earth from a Native person’s perspective. If all goes well, we’ll be sending someone to this lecture and we’ll report back for any of you that may have missed it. So no worries if you’re not in San Antonio! 

It’s times like this that I miss my best friends from home who are my usual go-to companions for lectures and documentary screenings. We love going to events like this together, not only for the great lectures and discussions, but for the wonderful people you meet. And if you go to events in San Antonio enough times, faces start becoming more familiar and suddenly you’re part of new community and that’s the best feeling when you’re away from home.

For more details, check out the Esperanza website. I hope to see you there! 

Artwork from the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Sep 22, 2014 (10:24 am)

Yesterday, September 21st, marked the first day of this year’s Banned Books Week in which we celebrate the freedom to read and the importance of preventing censorship. Here at TU Press we know how powerful books can be in shaping the lives of current and future generations. Books offer us a multitude of interesting perspectives and inspire people to change the world, be it through involvement in environmental issues or through the understanding of one’s self in the world. 

Some of my favorite books, that have incidentally changed my life in some way, are regularly challenged or banned. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya and Animal Farm by George Orwell are both books I read as a freshman in high school and helped grow my love of reading and creative writing. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa had me in tears the first time I read it as a junior in high school. It was one of the first books that spoke to me on a level no book had ever been able to. San Antonio’s first poet laureate Carmen Tafolla’s book of poetry, Curandera, has also been challenged and banned. It is also currently sitting on my bookshelf at home, a constant inspiration for me. 

As a lover of books and a supporter of the right to read, I understand that banning books isn’t good. However, parents and teachers can still be wary of allowing children to read certain books; the best thing we can do is talk to children about the issues these books present and figure out which books are appropriate for them. As they get older, they’ll be able to choose to read books that may have been deemed too mature for them as children. 

This year the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom is sponsoring a free webinar on Wednesday, September 24th over regional issues for banned books in 2014 which will showcase three activists from both the U.S. and the U.K. If you miss out on the webinar, there are still many ways you can get involved and exercise your rights. 

Even after Banned Books Week ends, I encourage you all to stay informed on which books are being challenged or banned, along with speaking out against censorship in your community. Head over to the American Library Association’s Banned Books website to see a list of Frequently Challenged Books and learn how you can help support the continued freedom to read. 

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.