Book Chat BY PHAEDRA GREENWOOD
WICKED WOMEN OF NEW MEXICO
AN ATLAS OF HISTORIC NEW MEXICO MAPS 1550-1941
By Donna Blake Birchell 2014, 126 pages, $16.99 The History Press 888-313-2665 www.historypress.net
By Peter Eidenbach 2012, 184 pages, $45 University of New Mexico Press 800-249-7737; www.unmpress.com
New Mexico Territory, with its rowdy frontier towns, was a good place to hide for outlaws and “women on the run.” These frontier women were not so much “wicked” as they were desperate. Many of them had been abused and abandoned. Fourteen-year-old Lizzie McGrath, who had given birth to a baby, probably fathered by a family friend, turned to prostitution. Later she became the respected “Lily of Copper Avenue” in Albuquerque with her own covey of “soiled doves.” Whether it was by stealing or gambling, murder or marriage, a few “shady ladies” landed on their feet, snagged a significant share of the profits from drunken gamblers and miners and started their own businesses. Others morphed into raving maniacs, grabbed the nearest gun or knife, and ended up on the gallows. Paula Angel was hanged twice for stabbing her false lover in the back. A most gruesome end. RIP.
Eidenbach, an archaeologist and historic preservation planner, teaches at New Mexico State University, Alamogordo. “History without geography is incomplete and misleading,” he says. Though we have topographical and satellite maps, much of our broad landscape is still “unknown.” Exploring the rural landscape of the Tularosa Basin, Eidenbach often finds things “not seen in a long time.” He says, “Because most of these maps plot important historic events and archeological sites whose exact locations are protected by law, the public seldom gets to share in this quest.” Traditionally, important maps were kept secret, and access to old, fragile maps were restricted to scholars. As libraries go digital, the Internet can provide a wealth of historic images. But books can show more detail. This beautiful collection with diagrams of our landscape allows you to explore the past as experienced by the historic inhabitants. Five stars!
A MODERN WOMAN'S GUIDE TO AGING: TOGETHER WE CONSIDER OUR OPTIONS By Claire Haye 2015, 280 pages, $25 Mira Digital Publishing 575-776-5175 www.amodernwomansguide.com Claire Haye, a long-time Taos artist best known for her line of attractive jewelry, has self-published an informed and thoughtful guide for aging women (or men!) that covers a rich variety of topics. She considers fitness, food, cosmetics, money management, how to maintain your joie de vivre, how to order your life for those who must pick up the pieces, cremation versus burial, and A Global Bill of Women’s Rights. Her substantial research is backed by three pages of bibliography. She warms the journey with vignettes from her life, glimpses of her family that resonate with both humor and grief. In her farewell poem to her daughters she writes, “Take the best of me/you cannot escape/I dance in your DNA.” Blank pages for your thoughts and question and answer pages may spark discussion. An excellent book for a workshop or study group.
DIRT BIKES, DRONES, AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY By Conrad Wesselhoeft 2014, 352 pages, $17.99 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 855-969-4642 www.hmhco.com If you’re riding along for the thrill of high places, pushing sharp edges laced with sacrifice, this story will keep you up long past your bedtime. It’s fun when the plot veers in unexpected directions. Arlo Santiago, aka Jett Spence, is a young hero who sometimes fails, but keeps on keeping on. As the world’s top-scorer in the video game Drone Pilot, Arlo is lured by the military to fly surveillance drones in Pakistan, to locate a notorious terrorist. Arlo’s goal is to earn enough money to cover his sister’s medical expenses and level his father’s mountain of debt. Then out of the blue there’s a mare giving birth to a foal? Arlo/Wesselhoeft is not past showing off, but still adheres to a code of modesty and humility. The author was previously a tugboat hand in Singapore and a Peace Corp volunteer in Polynesia. Five stars! To submit a book for review: include contact information and where to order.
Feature story: Christmas Cheer for our military.