Literary El Paso

Literary El Paso, edited by Marcia Hatfield Daudistel
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press
2009, 572 pages, hardcover, $30

I CAN'T FIGURE out if I’m an indecisive person or a person who wants everything, in every facet of life. My reading appetite is no different. I love both fiction and nonfiction, and I have difficulty in choosing one over the other. If you’re off the wall like me, then check out the anthology Literary El Paso. Editor Marcia Hatfield Daudistel does an excellent job of weaving fiction and nonfiction to depict a Texas city like no other city in the country.

Literary El Paso is divided into three sections—history, lifestyle, and environment—and features sixty contributing authors, including Tom Lea, Dagoberto Gilb, and Tomas Rivera. These individuals, in particular, offer a mix of perception and culture through genuine reporting, using either fiction or nonfiction. Literary El Paso has a little for everyone, whether it’s history, politics, fictional narrative, poetry, or journalism.

Daudistel has rounded up writers who are either from El Paso or have lived there, and who in any case are so connected to the city that they’re compelled to write about it. Reading, one has the sense that there is something simple about this West Texas city, as there is also something beautiful. In an array of perspectives, the included pieces point to this beauty and simplicity, painting a rich portrait of a unique city. For instance, in his essay “Pride,” Dagoberto Gilb describes the landscape: “Seeing the beauty: look out there from a height of the mountain and on the north and south of the Rio Grande… The desert land is rock-dry and ungreen. It is brown. Brown like the skin is brown. Beautiful brown.”

With Daudistel’s anthology, you can take a mental journey to El Paso, where the language is as rich as the culture, where perspectives are as varied as the citizens, and where the stories are as beautiful as the landscape. Literary El Paso will delight you in the way a treasure hunt delights a child. The search is filled with adventure and strange lands, along with struggle and glory. In short, you’ll have no difficulty finding treasures in this book. But don’t worry about which one to take with you. Be like me: keep them all.

—Robert J. Zertuche