If you’re thinking of giving gifts, consider a book. It can be a gift that keeps on giving. You can always revisit its contents or share it.
Here’s a short list of books that one way or another are linked to New Mexico.
“The Atomic Weight of Love” by Elizabeth J. Church (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). This is a painfully tender story told through the eyes of Meridian, a young woman who sacrifices her career to be a wife. Her husband is a physics professor who ends up joining the Manhattan Project. It’s an unhappy marriage. Meridian realizes how much she’s given up in her life.
Love becomes restorative for her. The author is a former lawyer who lives in Los Alamos, where she was born. Like Meridian, Church returned to pursue an early interest; in Church’s case, writing.
“The Pueblo Food Experience Cookbook: Whole Food of Our Ancestors” edited by Roxanne Swentzell and Patricia M. Perea (Museum of New Mexico Press.) This cookbook is aimed at indigenous tribes in general and pueblo peoples in particular. No reason non-Indians can’t find recipes that will work for them. Behind the book is the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, which Swentzell and Santa Clara Pueblo started to promote healing and balance by returning to diets before contact with Europeans.
“The Apache Wars —— The Hunt for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History” by Paul Andrew Hutton (Crown). In this must-read history, you’ll learn that this captive boy was Mickey Free, a fearless mixed-blood warrior. He played a decisive role in the extenuated fight for control of the desert Southwest in the second half of the 19th century. The cast of characters includes Geronimo, Cochise, Kit Carson and numerous other soldiers, scouts and frontiersmen. And a female Apache warrior named Lozen. Hutton is a Distinguished Professor of History at UNM.
“Grandpa Lolo’s Matanza: A New Mexico Tradition” by Nasario García (Rio Grande Books). This charming illustrated bilingual (English/Spanish) book for all ages tells how one family prepares the matanza – the roasting of a pig – that will feed an extended family all winter. The author, a Santa Fe resident, grew up with this tradition in a Rio Puerco village.
“Heroes Without Glory, Some Good Men of the Old West” by Jack Schaefer (UNM Press). Good men have stories to tell, too. This essay collection profiles 12 of them of the West. Among them are New Mexico lawman Elfego Baca, anthropologist Adolphe Bandelier, who did pioneering studies of the pueblo peoples, and Texas-New Mexico cattle king John Chisum. UNM Press just reprinted this volume originally published in 1965. The author lived in Santa Fe. Schaefer is best-known for “Shane” and “Monte Walsh,” novels made into films.
“Forty-Seventh Star, New Mexico’s Struggle for Statehood” by David V. Holtby (University of Oklahoma Press). This history book covers the period from 1848, the year New Mexico came under U.S. control, to 1912, the year of New Mexico statehood. Holtby does the job with a clear, incisive explanation of the tumult of political, social and economic issues and events involved in the struggle. The book came out in paperback this year after its initial publication in cloth in 2012.