Four books for holiday gift giving - Albuquerque Journal

Four books for holiday gift giving

BOOKS OF THE WEEK

Holiday books come in different subjects and sizes. Some are unrelated to a holiday, but they make great gifts, or they’re so stunning to look at you want to share your excitement.

In that last category of “visually stunning” is “Virgil Ortiz: reVOlution” by Charles S. King (Museum of New Mexico Press). The book is a mid-career retrospective that considers Ortiz’s transformative pottery and art. His broad artistic vision merges apocalyptic themes, science fiction, storytelling and more. As King writes in the preface, “Virgil is artist, provocateur, activist, creative dynamo, futurist, historian and cultural preservationist.” The Cochiti Pueblo artist is considered one of the most innovative artists at work anywhere today.

This book features more than 200 works that Ortiz selected. In addition, this coffee table-sized book represents a unique collaboration between book designer and artist. Ortiz and Letitia Chambers will discuss their books at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Collected Works Bookstore, 202 Galisteo St., Santa Fe. Chambers is the author of “Clearly Indigenous: Native Visions Reimagined in Glass.” Their discussion is an in-store event. It is also being live-streamed on Zoom.

• • •

The children’s book “Meet the Latkes” by Alan Silberberg (Viking) tells the story of Hanukkah by poking good-natured fun at the Jewish holiday.

In many Jewish families, latkes are a traditional Hanukkah dish of fried potato pancakes often served with sides of apple sauce and sour cream.

In this book, Latke is the last name of a family. “They’re just like you and me, except they’re potato pancakes,” the story opens. There’s daughter Lucy and her dog Applesauce, her older, teen-age brother Lex, who prefers to stay in his room reading comic books. “He doesn’t care about anything,” readers are told. There’s Mama and Papa Latke. They’re in the kitchen making sufganiyot, jelly-filled donuts, a Hanukkah dessert first popularized in Israel. Oh, don’t forget noisy, grumpy Grandpa Latke. Grandpa disputes the soft-H pronunciation of the holiday’s name. He insists it’s Chanukkah with a hard “ch” sound. Applesauce, the dog, steps in and says both are correct.

The story is set on the first night of Hanukkah. (This year it falls on the evening of Nov. 28. Tonight!) The family, minus Lex, sing a song about the dreidel, a spinning top in a Hanukkah kids’ game. Then they light the candles on the menorah. One candle is lit the first night and a lit candle is added for each of the holiday’s remaining seven nights.

Then there’s the miracle of Hanukkah. Legend has it that there was only enough oil in the ancient Jewish temple’s eternal flame to last one day.

Yet the oil burned for eight days.

The most hilarious element of the book is when Grandpa declares the miracle was really about honey, not oil. He says out-sized Mega-Bees defeated alien potatoes from planet CHHHHH. Sure, Gramps. Mega-Bees is Grandpa’s mispronunciation of the holiday’s legendary heroes, the Maccabees. The book is aimed at ages 3-5, but people of all ages, and all faiths, can laugh and learn.

• • •

Here’s a book that gives you many reading choices within its covers – “The Best American Short Stories 2021” edited by Jesmyn Ward (Mariner Books). Of the 20 stories in this year’s volume, some are by such familiar seasoned writers as Nicole Krauss, George Saunders and Yxta Maya Murray. Another award-winning novelist in the collection grabbed my attention. He is Brandon Hobson, who wrote the intriguing story “Escape from the Dysphesiac People.” The story is about the forcible removal of a Native American youth from his aunt’s home to a boys’ ranch by punitive Anglos, who suffer from dysphasia, a medical condition related to difficulty in forming coherent sentences.

They unsuccessfully try to change the youth’s identity. Hobson, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, says the youth reminded him of the real-life Natives who were taken from their homes and placed in government boarding schools.

Hobson teaches creative writing at New Mexico State University and at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

• • •

“Skiing in New Mexico” by Daniel Gibson and Jay Blackwood (Arcadia Publishing). This is a fascinating history of skiing in the Land of Enchantment. It takes the reader to the late 1800s and early 1900s when prospectors tried out “long boards” on powdery snow.

The authors said they couldn’t find any images of miners on skis but they did locate a photograph of a Native American with skis on – a man from Taos Pueblo – taken about 1900. The photo caption says the man is thought to have been a mail carrier, delivering letters to the mining community of Twining. He is seen standing on his skis and holding a long pole used to control speed and turning.

The 1930s saw the development of New Mexico’s first ski areas in the Sandia Mountains; at Hyde Park (today’s Hyde Memorial State Park) above Santa Fe; and in the Jemez Mountains where students at Los Alamos Ranch School skied and hiked. The 1950s and ’60s saw the opening of Taos Ski Valley, Sipapu, Sierra Blanca, Santa Fe Ski Basin and Red River, the book states.

You would be right to scratch your head about the photo on the front cover. Three women, two in shorts, are with skis on a sand dune. The book explains: The women are trying out the other ski medium, the rare gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument in the 1950s. “Truth be told,” the book notes, “skiing on sand is difficult, and now that White Sands is a national park, skiing is no longer allowed there. But snow discs are OK .”

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