Powerful reads: Book of the week reviews - Albuquerque Journal

Powerful reads: Book of the week reviews

Making a list of holiday gifts and checking it twice? Before you make your final check, allow me to intervene to suggest books for your gift-giving.

• “Some Are Born Under a Star/Unos nacen con estrella,” by Jim Sagel (Museum of New Mexico Press).

This is a charmingly told bilingual novel set in the fictional northern New Mexico town of San Buenaventura. There are parallels between townspeople and the characters they portray in the traditional Christmas play “Los pastores.” For one, there’s Marta Chacón, who gives birth to a boy, Jesús. She portrays Mary in the play. A guiding star over Bethlehem unexpectedly foreshadows her demise; she doesn’t know she has only 23 days to live. But the main stories in the novel are about the intersecting lives of the Hispanic townspeople, especially the extended families of the Chacón and Mascareñas clans and their friends.

Jim Sagel

Sagel’s novel, his only novel, is now published 20 years after the Española resident’s death. Sagel wrote well-remembered short stories and poetry but he was widely known for the columns he penned for the Journal in the 1980s and ’90s. The forward of “Some Are Born Under a Star” is by Las Cruces author Denise Chávez, who wrote, “This book will live long. Many will find in it mercy, compassion and understanding of the great drama that unfolds for each of us and for those we love – the miracle we call life.” Michael L. Trujillo, associate professor of American studies and Chicano/a studies at the University of New Mexico, edited the novel and wrote an introduction and a preface.

• “Dewey – The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World” by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (Grand Central).

This is the 10th anniversary edition of a book that tells a hard-to-believe but true story. Myron and the town of Spencer, Iowa, adopted Dewey Readmore Books, a kitten she found stuffed in the library’s returned book slot. For 19 years, the library was Dewey’s home. He died in 2008. The book is a story about a cat that became the symbol of a proud, resilient farm community and an inspiration for millions of readers. There’s also a related picture book, “Dewey’s Christmas at the Library.” (Every library needs a cat.)

• “When the Men Were Gone: A Novel” by Marjorie Herrera Lewis (William Morrow).

On the home front during World War II the iconic Rosie the Riveter declared “We Can Do It!” telling women they could handle jobs men left vacant to join the armed forces. A recent book tells a World War II tale based on the true story of Tylene Wilson. When the head football coach enlisted, his replacement took over, and then he also joined. Tylene persuaded the high school in Brownwood, Texas, to let her coach football. She said there weren’t any men around who knew the game like she did. Despite the hardened opposition, Tylene gave the town a football season to remember. While writing the manuscript, Lewis, the author, a veteran journalist, landed a job as an assistant defensive backs coach at Texas Wesleyan University. Talk about female empowerment.

• “Broadway to Main Street: How Show Tunes Enchanted America” by Laurence Maslon (Oxford University Press).

Broadway show tunes have become so popular that many have risen to become pop hits. From 1949 to 1969, 15 original Broadway cast albums went to No. 1 on pop music charts. Maslon’s book explains the phenomenon of how show tunes have endured as an integral part of our popular culture. He also addresses the influence of the range of media on show music’s popularity – from sheet music, radio and 78-rpm recordings to television, CDs, the Internet and streaming.

• “Kiss Me at Christmas” by Valerie Bowman (St. Martin’s Paperbacks).

Lady Regina is dead-set against marriage, though she is intent on finding a gentleman who can be a romantic distraction during the holidays. But the lady may be in danger. Daffin Oakleaf to the rescue. Set in Regency England, this historical romance novel is in Bowman’s popular Playful Brides series.

Home » Entertainment » Arts » Powerful reads: Book of the week reviews

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

Film to document 100 years of Zozobra in 2024
In two years, the 100th anniversary ... In two years, the 100th anniversary of Zozobra will take place. On Monday, Hutton Broadcasting announced its collaboration with the Kiwanis Club of Santa ...
Miss O'Keeffe's home sweet home
Beautiful Chama River Valley drew artist ... Beautiful Chama River Valley drew artist to Abiquiú
UNM represented at Italian art exhibition
It's a first for the University ... It's a first for the University of New Mexico. An artist group created the project 'a Library, a Classroom, and the World,' which is ...
Georgia on their mind
O’Keeffe Museum celebrating 25 years of ... O’Keeffe Museum celebrating 25 years of showcasing the renowned artist
Now is the time to repot those houseplants
Bluegrass care is different than caring ... Bluegrass care is different than caring for a Bermuda lawn.
'The Mexican Chile Pepper Cookbook' offers recipes featuring this ...
Learn about the 64 varieties of ... Learn about the 64 varieties of chiles from around Mexico.
'The Lies I Tell' is a hard-to-put-down thriller
For the reader, the book's revelations ... For the reader, the book's revelations lead to questions about the possible gray area of doing what's 'wrong' in order to make things right.
Three NM campsites named 'Best Places to Camp' by ...
Sierra Vista, a dispersed camping site ... Sierra Vista, a dispersed camping site near Las Cruces within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument; the currently closed Rio Chama Campground near the ...
New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum unveils new ...
The Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, ... The Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, located at 4100 Dripping Springs Road in Las Cruces, has a collection around 400 pieces which continues to ...