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Comparing notes: It was a good year for readers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As with many of you readers, I have a list of my favorite books from each year. Here are some titles by New Mexico authors that I’ve culled from that long list.

ALEXANDRA DIAZ’S award-winning “The Only Road.” It’s aimed at middle school readers, but really the story appeals to adult readers as well. It’s about two young people – Jaime, 12, and his cousin, Angela, 16 – who try to make their way from their embattled Guatemalan village, through the dangers of Mexico to a safe haven in the United States.

Though fiction, it is based on real events and real people. The Spanish edition is titled “El único destino.”

The author is the daughter of Cuban immigrants.

JANET CHAPMAN’S lighthearted novel “Madcap Masquerade.” Set in Santa Fe during Fiestas in the mid-1920s, it’s about young love complicated by disguises and mistaken identities. Chapman said the story was inspired by the crazy plots of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies and the author’s own research about Santa Fe’s bubbling arts community of the ’20s.

BENJAMIN ALIRE SÁENZ’S “The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” is a novel that touches on issues of value to today’s teenagers, among them understanding identity, managing grief and finding joy. (Sáenz is a native of Doña Ana County who lives in El Paso, Texas.

MARGARET RANDALL’S book “Exporting Revolution: Cuba’s Global Solidarity” is an instructive analysis for the general reader about the place of communist Cuba in the international community. Its balanced interpretations should provoke readers to rethink their opinions of Fidel Castro and the humanitarian and military aid the island-nation gave other countries. Randall, who lived in Cuba for 11 years, is also a feminist poet, essayist, translator and photographer.

• You owe it to yourself to take your time paging though JOHN NICHOLS’ “My Heart Belongs to Nature: A Memoir in Photographs and Prose.” It’s a book to savor. More than a memoir, it shows off nature in its ineffable beauty. And it’s an introduction to a variety of fauna whose names you may not know except to identify them by color or shape.

ANNE HILLERMAN’S “Song of the Lion” is the final installment of a fictional trilogy that wraps Navajo lore and present-day life around a mystery. She continues to bring forth the characters of Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito, all of whom had appeared in the novels of her late father, Tony Hillerman. But Hillerman the daughter has her own clear voice, her own style.

CHLOE RACHEL GALLAWAY’S literary debut is a poignant memoir titled “The Soulful Child: Twelve Years in the Wilderness.” Literally in the wilderness. No TV, no electricity. Amenities city folk take for granted that Gallaway and her siblings didn’t have. They learned survival skills on property miles outside Lindrith, itself a remote community, in Rio Arriba County. Their parents were part of the “back to the earth” movement of the 1960s and ’70s.

RUDOLFO ANAYA, dean of Chicano literature, is indefatigable. He’s 80 and still at it. His latest is the children’s book “Owl in a Straw Hat/El Tecolote del Sombrero de Paja.” Two of the critical qualities that make the book so attractive are the subject of literacy – young Ollie the Owl can’t read – and the bilingualism – the text is in English and Spanish.

At the back of the book is a two-page glossary of Spanish words with English translations. The illustrations by El Moisés (Moisés Salcedo) enliven the story and make the characters larger than life.

ROSS VAN DUSEN’S “What Makes the Lightning?” is a children’s picture book that may be charming but is also needed. Needed because it’s a science book for early learners. Science need more young fans and kids need a better understanding of the expanding worlds of science. Van Dusen is the author and the illustrator.



Suggested on ABQjournal