What We’re Reading Now:

Michael Noll, Program Director  

They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems by David Bowles
Cinco Puntos Press
November 27, 2018

I can remember a time when a novel-in-stories was an experimental concept, but thanks to writers like Jacqueline Woodson (National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming) and Kwame Alexander (Newbury winner Crossover), the form hasn’t just gone mainstream, it’s become an almost perfect form for middle-grade readers. A new book to add to the list of middle-grade novels-in-poems is David Bowles’ They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems. Bowles is a smart, astute writer, comfortable in linguistics (check out his tweet-threads about Spanish and Nahuatl), folklore (he wrote the book Border Lore Folktales and Legends of South Texas), and the humorous and fantastic (as his entry into the Unicorn Rescue Society series, The Chupacabras of the Río Grande, demonstrates).
They Call Me Güero does an expert, joyful job of creating a character who is at once tentative and uncertain and full of brash promises and desire. He’s also written a book that takes on politics directly, as in this scene where Güero’s family drives through a border patrol checkpoint on a shopping trip to San Antonio:
Dad, like he can feel the bad vibes
coming from the back seat, tells us to chill.
“It won’t always be like this,” he says,
“but it’s up to us to make the change,
especially los jóvenes, you and your friends.
Eyes peeled. Stay frosty. Learn and teach the truth.
Right now, what matters is San Antonio.
We’ll take your mom shopping,
go swimming in the Texas-shaped pool,
and eat a big dinner at Tito’s.
Order anything you want.”

Sam Babiak, Member Services Director / Program Coordinator 

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
May 14, 2019

Set partially in Texas, Washington D.C., and London, this debut romance novel is both familiar and refreshing. Red, White, & Royal Blue follows Alex, the First Son of the United States as he falls in love with none other than, Henry the Prince of Wales. Witty, moving, and bubbling with chemistry, this book has everything you need in a romance. But while Alex is the First Son of the United States, he’s also the first Latino SOTUS. The intersection of Alex’s identity, paired with his sexual awakening in the world’s harsh spotlight, make for a dynamic read. This book explores the first woman president (Alex’s very Texan mother), the first (half) Latinx First Family, and a gay royal. This fun read is the perfect reprieve from our own political landscape and one of my favorite “enemies to lovers” romance. A must read!

Neena Husid, Leadership Austin Fellow 

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry
Simon & Schuster
April 7, 2020

The Roxy Letters, Mary Pauline Lowry’s romp through an Austin fast going corporate gets a thumbs up from this reviewer. Bravely, Lowry employs the occasionally besmirched epistolary form to give readers a window into Roxy: a horny, underachieving Whole Foods ‘deli maid’ who recruits an unlikely posse for an eco-grrl-graffiti response to the gentrification of her beloved town. But then, what else would a thwarted UT art major do?

In fast, funny, often pissy letters to Everett, her ex-boyfriend roommate, Roxy bemoans her city’s transformation in the whiny fashion of all who have lived in Austin over three years. How many Austinites does it take to screw in a light bulb? You know the answer.

For many of us UT grads that never left, The Roxy Letters can’t help but recall Sarah Bird’s breakthrough novel Alamo House-a smart, snarky send up of the frat house co-op wars of a pre-condos everywhere campus. But it’s hard to equate Lowry’s 2012 Austin with Bird’s eighties version. Or is it?

Since 1972 when I made my home in a city that had not yet audaciously dubbed itself the live music capitol of the world, we Austinites have been complaining. We complained when Armadillo World Headquarters fell, when Liberty Lunch was razzed,and when South Austin stopped being referred to as Bubba Land. Conversely, we cheered for ACL, SXSW, and the resilience of Oat Willies, Peter Pan Mini-Golf and a twice-flooded Whole Foods. And though Waterloo Records still stands proud, the object of Roxy’s fury, Lululemon, has truly swallowed up its video sister in a swath of see-thru yoga offerings. Pants that Roxy discovered during a reconnaissance mission, gave her the “ass of a vixen.”

What to do about an ever-morphing paradise full of old memories and new possibilities? Roxy has a plan for keeping it weird. Check it out and laugh as you try hard to forget Whole Foods is now a Jeff Bezo’s acquisition. You can pre-order this book now!

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