Trinity University Press

Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

Three Things with Char Miller

by Burgin Streetman on

In each edition of Three Things, we ask one of our authors to tell us three interesting things about their lives and writing, and the answers are often surprising. This time we set our sights on Char Miller, director of the environmental analysis program and W. M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College, and author of our books On the Edge: Water, Immigration, and Politics in the Southwest and Deep in the Heart of San Antonio, and editor of On the Border: An Environmental History of San Antonio and Fifty Years of the Texas Observer.

1. What was the last book you read? 

I'm just finishing Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets, an unsettlingly funny novel about a character who does almost nothing right—leaves his job just as the economy implodes, starts selling drugs in hopes of reversing his fortunes (good luck with that), and then blows up his marriage, only to repair it with a maturity that had eluded him for so long. 

In advance of a talk at Angelo State, I also reread Arnoldo De León’s They Called Them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes toward Mexicans in Texas, 1821–1900, which I first encountered shortly after arriving in San Antonio. It proved pivotal in shaping my thinking about this new, strange place. De Leon is a brilliant, painstaking historian who upended the prevailing narrative that had deeply discounted the malevolence of the Lone Star State’s brutal and discriminatory politics. Because he taught at Angelo State for forty years, it seemed an appropriate homage to integrate his insights into my talk there, “Reservation/Preservation: The Language of Conquest in the American West,” a probe of the unsettlingly tight relationship between the establishment of Indian reservations and the creation of national parks in the late nineteenth century.

 2. Who was your hero when you were little?

I read a lot as a child, but my fascinations were sports driven, and therefore so were those I thought heroic. Y. A. Tittle, the embattled and bloodied quarterback for the New York Giants; Maurice (the Rocket) Richard, the fast-scoring forward for the Montreal Canadiens, whose balletic moves on ice were impossible to replicate (though I tried often enough on the black-ice pond behind our house in Connecticut); and the 1962 New York Mets, who in their inaugural season were so very bad that they became great in my young eyes. 

3. What is your favorite place in the whole world? 

Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, a spit of land at times connected to Martha’s Vineyard Island and at times (like now) not. My mother, Hutze, owned homes overlooking its waters from the 1940s until her death in 2009, and it is a landscape I most associate with her. And like my mother, it is tough and resilient. It's not a little raw, even wounded, studded with scrub oaks that have survived despite fierce winds, crashing waves, and infertile soil.

Holiday Gifts from TU Press

by Rachel Cooley on

For the curious child in your life: The Complete ArteKids Book Set

These five books allow children to explore art in English and Spanish, as well as shapes, colors, numbers, and animals, in a unique and engaging way. Featuring artwork from the San Antonio Museum of Art. 

For your favorite archaeologist or armchair historian: Painters in Prehistory: Archaeology and Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands

Texas native or not, this book will interest those fascinated by culture with images of rock art and descriptions of the lives of ancient Rio Grande canyon dwellers. From basketry to botany, from warfare to shamanism, this book has something interesting for everyone. 

For the nature-lover or writer: Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape

This visionary reference of the American landscape combines geography, literature, and folklore to thrill language-lovers and tree-huggers alike. Literary descriptions of our land and water forms, now available in a smaller, field guide edition. 

For fans of poetry and the environment: The Ecopoetry Anthology

This poetry anthology celebrates the mysteries and wonders of nature and offers insights into the human experience with nature and the biological beauty that sustains us. 

For those curious about ecology and philosophy: The Donald Culross Peattie Library

Nine reissued works by a celebrated mid-century naturalist contemplate plants and animals, the American landscape, and the history of trade goods. Any one of the Peattie books will excite friends and family interested in nature or the environment this holiday season. 

For the foodie or relationship expert: Domesticity: A Gastronomic Interpretation of Love

This tour-de-force romp through the worlds of eating and eroticism will satisfy the food lover (and who doesn’t love eating at the holidays?) or the person in love. Shacochis muses on the relationship between heart and stomach, with essays and seventy-five recipes that nourish the senses and the soul.

National Recycling Day is Today!

by Rachel Cooley on

National Recycling Day is November 15 this year, and we at TU Press want you to do your part for the earth by reducing, reusing, and recycling, in that order. There are so many easy and convenient ways to reuse or recycle if you simply make the choice to do your part.

Check out America Recycles Day for events and to take a pledge to recycle more. Go to I Want To Be Recycled to learn about the recycling process, and Earth 911 for ideas about more things to reuse or recycle. 

Recycling Day aims to increase awareness and education about recycling, but environmental conservation cannot just happen one day a year. 

Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril argues for the moral importance of united and deliberate action to protect the environment, not only because it is right but because it is necessary for our survival. In the essay “Who We Really Are,” Thomas Friedman argues that environmental action also defines who were are as humans: 

“Environmental law expert John Dernbach once remarked to me that in the final analysis, ‘the decisions Americans make about sustainable development are not technical decisions about peripheral matters, and they are not simply decisions about the environment. They are decisions about who we are, what we value, what kind of world we want to live in, and how we want to be remembered.’ We are the first generation of Americans in the Energy-Climate era. This is not about whales anymore. It’s about us. And what we do about the challenges of energy and climate, conservation and preservation, will tell our kids who we really are.”

Happy Halloween Southern-Style

by Rachel Cooley on

The southern literary tradition includes spooky tales, often set in deserted plantation houses or among eerie trees covered in Spanish moss. From haunted mansions to vampires in New Orleans, celebrate Halloween by reading southern tales like Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice or gothic shorts from William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.

Check out some of the creepy stories in our Literary Cities series, including “The Haunted Library” by Margaret Wayt DeBolt and “The Gold Bug” by Edgar Allen Poe, that master of suspense.  

In “The Haunted Library,” DeBolt tells the history of a house near a cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, haunted by the ghosts of past inhabitants. She writes: “A full moon shone in the windows, illuminating the room. As he glanced about his strange surroundings, he was startled to see a man—the man of the portrait, in uniform—now seated near him in a large leather armchair. The frame of the painting above him was empty. Then he realized in terror that the other elaborate frames were vacant as well, for the persons who had occupied them were now moving about the room.” 

Got the willies yet? 

Continue reading the hair-raising story in Literary Savannah, and have a well-read Halloween!

A Vivid Girl from the Mountains

by Rachel Cooley on

Dorothy Stafford, teacher and widow of poet William Stafford, died last Thursday at the age of ninety-seven. We'd like to express our condolences to Dorothy’s friends and family, including son and TU Press author Kim Stafford. 

Dorothy was an inspirational teacher in Lake Oswego, Oregon, the mother of four children, and supportive partner of William Stafford for fifty years. Born on a farm in Nebraska and raised in California, Dorothy accompanied her minister father to a camp for conscientious objectors in 1943 and there met William, a Kansas farm boy, who told his draft board that he learned not to kill in Sunday school and believed it still. The two went on a walk and married a year later. 

In his poem "Passing Remark", Stafford described his wife lovingly as "a vivid girl from the mountains." His forthcoming book, The Osage Orange Tree, a short story of young love during the Great Depression, is dedicated to Dorothy. 

Read more about Dorothy’s inspirational life on