January 31, 2018

New Mexico

As I finished The Alaskan Laundry (well, actually, as I started it), we dipped into a “cold” spell here in Los Angeles. I grew up in upstate New York and walked a mile to my local high school every day, even on days when the wind chill was negative 40 degrees, so I am fully aware that a cold spell in Los Angeles is a balmy day in the colder climes of the United States. However, when your year-round temperature averages 70 degrees, a dip to 45 is… a bit of a shock to the system.

Anyway, as I shivered (and thanked all the major deities that I no longer live someplace with a negative 40 wind chill), I decided that when I finished Alaska, I would turn my literary attention to a warmer state. I first thought of Arizona–home of the Grand Canyon and Sedona, a neighbor to California–but the Other Blogger, who is going alphabetically, had done Arizona after her trip through Alaska, and I wanted to follow a different path. But I still wanted desert, so I’ve decided to go to New Mexico next.

I haven’t made my final choices yet, but I will update the page once I have.

Church_AtomicWeight_HC_FINAL_PRNT.indd

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church (2016) – an ornithologist who puts her studies on hold to come to Los Alamos with her husband (also a scientist) who is involved in some sort of secret project to help win the Second World War. Birds, science, world-changing events in the high desert of New Mexico–I’m pretty excited about this one!

The Green Glass Sea

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages (2006) – based on a similar premise of the secrecy surrounding Los Alamos during World War II, but told through a child’s eyes. I’m very much tempted to read both, despite the similarities, but I’ll start with the bird one and decide later. UPDATE – I did read this one and enjoyed it; it has a sequel which I will probably read as well: White Sands, Red Menace.

Actually, I’ve discovered several more with a similar premise as well, like The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit (2016), and I’m sure there was another, but I can’t find it right now… In any case, I won’t be adding The Wives, but it’s interesting to note.

Then, of course, there are several classics of New Mexico literature, and, again, I’m not sure which to pick, although these are different enough that I really may read both.

The Milagro Beanfield WarThe Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols (1974) – the first of the author’s New Mexico trilogy. A classic tale of the underdog taking on the giants–of farming, politics, water rights, land rights. Takes place in the fictional town of Milagro, north of Santa Fe.

 

Bless Me UltimaBless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (1972) – a magical blend of New Mexico, a coming-of-age story mixed with that of a curandera, mystical healer. A classic of Chicano literature. Takes place in Guadalupe, which the author has said is a fictional name for his hometown of Santa Rosa. UPDATE: At the moment, I’m feeling as though So Far From God hit this niche for me. Because it’s considered such a classic I will probably go back and read it at some point, but for now I’m going to give it a miss.

 

Two more set during World War II and mostly in the Pacific theater, but also pre-war in New Mexico. UPDATE: I’ve read the Bruchac book, and have decided to listen to the Nez book on Audible in order to hear the Navajo language.

Code Talker memoirCode Talker: The First & Only Memoir by One of the Original Navaho Code Talkers of WWII by Chester Nez (2011) – As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a history buff, so I’m interested in the story of the Navaho Code Talkers–another piece of World War II history that is new to me. Again, there are several to choose from, and I haven’t decided.

Code TalkersCode Talker: A Novel About the Navaho Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac (2005) – This is the other book about the Code Talkers I’m looking at. This one is a young adult book. Both the Code Talkers books cover growing up on or near the Navaho Nation – the Big Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico.

And last, but not least:

So Far From GodSo Far From God by Ana Castillo (1993) – takes place in a small farming community in mid-south New Mexico, where a mother raises her daughters on her own after their father leaves. The girls are all very different, both in their personalities and their choices, and the book is full of magical realism and Spanish phrases. Looking forward to this one as well.

New Mexico Book Map

Looking at the map, I want to do a little research and see if I can find something set in Roswell–a quirky sci-fi novel, or perhaps a historical one set in Carlsbad. Let me know in the comments if you know of something that might fit!

ADDENDUM:

Spider Womans DaughterSpider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman (2013). As I read the Code Talker books, I realized I wanted more about the Navajo and other Native American peoples, and I remembered reading Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee books with my dad when I was in high school. These mystery books always included a lot of great cultural information about the Navajo and other tribes in the Southwest, and are set on the Navajo Nation–the main characters are members of the Navajo Police force. I’ve been trying not to re-read books for this challenge, but I also remembered hearing that Hillerman’s daughter Anne had taken over the series after his death. So I’m adding this one, the first of her contributions to the series. (Incidentally, she has her fourth installation in the series coming out in April 2018, which includes Navajo lore and legends about the Malpais, near the Trinity site, which we read about in The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church!)

(And I’m still looking for that quirky sci-fi Roswell book! If you know one, please leave a comment!)

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  1. […] of my recent reads for New Mexico are set (at least part of the time) on the Navajo Nation of the Southwestern United […]

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