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Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

Viva la France!

by Eddie Kolbinskie on

Now that it’s been more than a week since we grilled burgers and enjoyed fireworks for the Fourth of July, it’s time to celebrate a different red, white, and blue. Bastille Day, also known as French National Day, is this Monday! While I don’t have any direct French descendants, how could I pass up an excuse to practice my elementary French and indulge in gougères and macarons? 

Just as Americans celebrate the Fourth to commemorate the declaration of our independence from the United Kingdom, and Mexicans celebrate 16 de Septiembre to honor independence from Spain, France’s Bastille Day is observed to celebrate the beginning of the French Revolution, a period in which the French broke free from monarchical rule within their own country. 

Bastille Day traditions in the states are usually more low-key than those that honor our independence. However, if you’re lucky enough to celebrate in France during the holiday, you’re in for an amazing weekend. Parades and festivities are held nationwide and more closely resemble the ones we have here in the U.S. If you’re like me and don’t have the time to travel to Houston or Dallas where huge French festivals are being held on Monday night, then you make up your own celebration! 

Eat at a quaint French bistro. Sport a snazzy beret. Break out those leftover sparklers. Or crank up Phoenix to channel your inner-Francophile. Viva la France, San Antonio!


Summer Reading!

by Eddie Kolbinskie on

Things have been hectic in San Antonio. We've been preoccupied with the madness surrounding the Spurs’ fifth NBA championship and the World Cup, the release of blockbuster films like The Fault in Our Stars and Maleficent, and the lake, river, and beach (OH MY). As temperatures rise, here are some great titles to check out when you're ready to take a break from the heat.

Two of our favorites are from Rebecca Solnit, author of our forthcoming The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness. The first, Men Explain Things to Meaddresses the cultural phenomenon in which men believe that what they have to say always takes priority over women's opinions. It's a serious topic, but Solnit manages to get the point across while putting readers at ease. The second, Solnit's collection of memoir-heavy essays, The Faraway Nearby, is a must-read for anyone who enjoys storytelling.

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, a novel from Bob Shacochis, author of Domesticity: A Gastronomic Interpretation of Love, shows that war is essentially never ending. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, which won the 2013 National Book Award, tells the story of a boy who meets abolitionist John Brown in a tavern and recounts his historic raid on Harpers Ferry.

Finally, we recommend The Keillor Readera compilation of Garrison Keillor's work, including some of his best-loved essays and monologues and never-before-published poems.

Happy reading!

These Spurs Were Made for Walking

by Char Miller on

The San Antonio Spurs taught me my place.

Not by what they did on the basketball court, impressive though their slick shooting, quick passes, and tight D have been over the years, but by my vocal reaction to watching their championship runs. I yell and groan and take players to task. That’s perfectly acceptable at the games, whether they have been played in the intimate, sight-line-challenged HemisFair Arena or the cavernous Alamodome, or now in the AT&T Center.

Apparently it’s much less so at home, when everyone in the family is jammed on the couch, watching television in close quarters. Every so often I’d get tossed out, like Bob Bass, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Larry Brown, or Pop ejected from a game. So I’d go for a walk, which is when my lessons began.

I learned the first one quickly enough: if I wanted to monitor the ebb and flow in a pre-smart-phone era, I had better not stroll through my leafy neighborhood of Olmos Park. The houses are too big, too separated from one another, too well sealed (to keep the air conditioning inside). I could tell by the flickering lights that folks were watching Los Spurs, but I couldn’t decipher the game’s progress because nary a sound or word escaped outside in this buttoned-down enclave.

Across McCullough Avenue and the railroad tracks to the west, updates were much easier to come by. Working my way through Olmos Park Terrace, Northmoor, and adjacent neighborhoods, weaving along Mandalay, Lovera, Thorain, and Mariposa, running up and down Howard or Belknap Place, the homes are smaller, windows up, and televisions loud. So were the inhabitants; like the light pooling on the front lawn, their voices spilled through the screens, slipped past chain-link, and filtered through oak and crape myrtle, becoming an audible record of the game’s momentum. The cheers, boos, and silence served as my play-by-play.

Occasionally I’d pass others walking through the noise and dimming sky. Had they, too, been shown the door? I stumbled on an answer during the 2005 NBA finals. The Spurs had squared off against the Detroit Pistons, as tight and tense a series as there had been in a decade (the Spurs won in seven). Asked to do something more useful than bemoaning our fate, I headed to the local H-E-B to buy groceries. The store was unnervingly empty, as the streets had been; at game time in San Antonio, you hunker down.

Inside the too-bright store, a small television, set within an endcap devoted to Spurs paraphernalia, had the game on, and as I loaded the cart I made certain to pass it coming and going. By the time I reached the only available checkout line, so had the handful of others who had been cruising the aisles. While the cashier rang up my purchases, I felt compelled to admit that I had been exiled so my family could watch in peace. Several folks behind me started to laugh. “We were, too!” they said.

My people.

I found them again at the celebratory river parade on June 18, following the Spurs’ utter dismantling of the Miami Heat, its fifth championship since 1999. After each triumph, the newly crowned NBA champs have piled on to an armada of barges and chugged along the Riverwalk, bathing in their fans’ thrilled adulation. At moments like these the Spurs remind us of the river’s central function, I wrote in Deep in the Heart of San Antonio, as our “communal artery and civic stage.” The place where we come together and act out, releasing the pent-up anxiety stored during the long regular season and compressed during the playoffs, finally to explode in unfettered joy when the first boat swings around the bend.

This year the electricity sparked while I was standing with a sweat-stained throng jammed on the Convent Street bridge. As his craft plowed toward us, Tony Parker sensed our energy and raised his arms in a V. We screamed. I don’t know what I was yelling, but I loved that I could.

Char Miller, a Spurs fan since 1981 when he and his family moved to San Antonio, teaches at Pomona College (where current Spurs coach Gregg Popovich once coached). He is the author of Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land and Life in South Texas and On the Edge: Water, Immigration, and Politics in the Southwest, and editor of On the Border: An Environmental History of San Antonio, all with Trinity University Press.

Photo credit: Spurs Facebook page.



Only five days left until Father's Day !?!? Think books!

by Burgin Streetman on

That's right. If you're like me, you've whiled away the first days of summer having fuzzy thoughts about your dad/husband/brother-with-three-kids rather than moving into action for a holiday that looms a mere five days away. What do you get daddy dearest before it's too late and you have to scramble to the store for an insert-name-of-favorite-sports-team-here T-shirt or a random grill gadget he most definitely doesn't need? If your dad is like my dad, he might be interested in more uncommon pursuits, like world history or the fine art of birding. If that's the case, Trinity University Press is here to the rescue. 

Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico is the perfect choice for a father interested in learning more about one of the most spectacular personal tragedies and political failures of the nineteenth century. Or perhaps A Gathering of Birds, an anthology of ornithological essays from some of history's most important naturalists, edited by forgotten midcentury naturalist Donald Culross Peattie, would appeal. If fiction is your dad's thing, try Outside, six stories by acclaimed author Barry Lopez in an illustrated gift edition. For fathers who enjoy tossing the ball around or at least watching on TV, consider Baseball in the Lone Star State, which chronicles the history of the Texas League. Maybe your pop has made the switch to an reader, in which case check out our classic WPA Guides to America series, available for forty-nine states on more than thirty e-book platforms. 

Rest assured, there's a book for every breed of father, no matter the holiday.

Flourishing Optimism for Memorial Day

by Eddie Kolbinskie on

This Memorial Day weekend, most of us will spend time remembering loved ones or simply relaxing with friends and family. As I reflected on the holiday, I noticed a copy of Kenneth I. Helphand’s Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime near my desk. After reading a few chapters, I was reminded of why it’s such a wonderful day of reverence for those who have served in the Armed Forces.

In the book, Helphand explores the idea of "defiant gardens"--basically wartime gardens created to help alleviate the severities soldiers faced. The book details the harsh living conditions soldiers endured during some of the most brutal events in history and shows how these gardens were a source of hope and a representation of the beauty that exists in the world.

On Memorial Day many people will reflect on cherished memories with family members and friends they've lost. We at TU Press want to remind those who have suffered the loss of a loved one through military service to stay hopeful. Through all of the darkness in this world, there is a lot of beauty that surrounds us. Just as these defiant gardens signify soldiers' optimism in extreme conditions, this day should represent joyful memories as well solemn ones, an acknowledgment of both the sacrifices and the light.