Monday, October 29, 2012

Day of the Dead

As October winds down to its final days, I see several people around Fort Worth decorate pumpkins, witches, and bats in preparation for Halloween. I see children walk into costume shops, excitedly contemplating what terrifying ghoul, daring super hero, or elegant princess they want to dress up as for an evening of trick-or-treating. In all the excitement of candy and horror movies, many of us forget about a day this month that is full of rich history and culture not too far from our own.

Día de los Muertos is the Latin American holiday translated as the "Day of the Dead." There are several similar elements to the modern celebration of Halloween—skeletons, sugar, gatherings—but it is altogether different. The holiday has origins in Native American spirituality and the Catholic holiday of All Souls Day. “It is primarily a special time for families to come together to honor their antepasados, the family members who have died and whose spirits return to visit during these magical days” (Defibaugh). 

In his book, Denis Defibaugh travels to Oaxaca—a region of Mexico still full of over a dozen native languages and cultures—to photograph the people there as they celebrate Día de los Muertos in the streets and in their homes and in the cemetery. The story Defibaugh tells with his photos is a bittersweet one that balances the loss of beloved family members with the vivacious celebration of life. There are the extravagant, if not sometimes grotesque, costumes that give a taste of both individuality and culture of the adults and children who wear them.  There are the altars inside the homes that are decorated with flowers, statues, food, and all manners of different ofrenda (offerings) to honor relatives. 

This is why I love working for TCU Press: the books. The Day of the Dead and Defibaugh’s photos taught me some of the nuances of this Mexican holiday that I didn’t know before. Growing up in Texas this culture is very near and dear to me and I’m glad for the opportunity to learn more about it. It’s almost Halloween, which means it’s almost Día de los Muertos. On that day, when I’m dissecting the candy left over from trick-or-treaters, maybe I’ll think of some of the people I have lost. It’s a nice concept for remembrance to turn something ghoulish and morbid into a celebration of those we love. 

--Megan Doyle

Click here to find out more about Denis Defibaugh's book Day of the Dead: Día de los Muertos, available from TCU Press.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fair Park Deco by Jim Parsons and David Bush

I came in to the Press today and was greeted by this beautiful surprise! Fair Park Deco, finally in print! There’s nothing like seeing the final product of your labor, experiencing that moment of pride and the rush of excitement you feel, coupled with a sense of completion and relief. 

 If there’s one thing I’ve learned at TCU Press (and I’ve learned many things!), it’s that every project has its own set of issues. Fair Park Deco was the first full-color picture book I’d worked on – and let me tell you, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’d never worked on images, knew nothing about high resolution, pixilation, photo call-outs, photo credits, sources, or captions. I truly only felt competent in copyediting the text. Thankfully, Jim Parsons and David Bush had a great handle on all of these things. I was so lucky to work with authors that could teach and guide me along the editorial and production process. 

Tejas Warrior
Now here’s the worst confession of all. Though I was born and raised in Fort Worth, attended TCU, and have lived here all my life, I’ve never been to the State Fair. I’ve only seen Fair Park from I-30 as I drove through Dallas on my way to somewhere else. I felt like the worst Texan of all time as I worked on this manuscript. However, without ever seeing the “Texas Woofus” or any of the Art Deco art and architecture, I can say that this book and the authors’ passion for Texas history and preservation gave me a great respect and understanding for what Fair Park was in 1936 and what it is today: “the embodiment of Texan swagger…a testament to the Texanic task of creating a dazzling spectacle in the darkest days of the Depression.” My absolute favorite sculpture is Tejas Warrior by Allie V. Tennant, located in the Niche of Heroes at the Hall of State. I can’t wait to visit it in person!

This book includes 300 full-color photos taken by the authors as well as historical images. It is organized as a walking tour of the fairgrounds would be, beginning at the entrance and exploring the buildings and artwork. A map of the fairgrounds from 1936 is printed on the end sheets, and provides a sense of setting and relationship of the buildings for those, like me, who have never been there. The authors explain how Dallas became home to the Centennial Exposition, the purposes and designs of every structure, and the overall effect that the Exposition had on Americans, especially Texans, in the midst of the Great Depression. 

Fair Park Deco will be officially launched on November 8, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. at the Hall of State, Fair Park. Many reviews have already been written on this extraordinary book, and links to all of them can be found on TCU Press’s Facebook page. Check out the book trailer below, and click here to order your own copy!
 --Rileigh Sanders

Fair Park Deco Book Trailer

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To Hell or the Pecos, a novel by Patrick Dearen

There is something unique about a good Western novel. The empty plains, cowboys riding horseback, six shooting, and the old west are images that someone who grows up in the south has instilled in them from birth. The rugged living of the old frontier has been lost in our society filled with cell phones and smart cars. Picking up Patrick Dearen’s latest novel To Hell or the Pecos has made the images of the American frontier vivid, and transported me into a different era.

The story follows a group of ranch hands on a quest to save the daughter of their slain boss, murdered by a gang of Mexican thieves. The ruffians want to take her back to Mexico in hopes that the wealthy aristocrats will pay top dollar for a virgin gringo wife. As the story progresses we follow the troubadours on their hunt down the trail of the Pecos, and see them faced with the most extreme trials of life. The battle appears to be lost several times, but Dearen paints a portrait of what happens to the human soul when desperation is all that is left.

The novel, while staying true to the art of the old western, also poses greater questions of life, and how the pangs of love control the individual. As the trail gets drier, the sun gets hotter, and the men get more and more desperate, the calls of love from beyond the grave grow louder. We see them confronted with past actions that can only be brought to life by the deadness of the desert. As each of them nears death, the true importance of their life becomes more distinct.

Dearen began writing the novel while taking his daily hikes, in an attempt to honor the life of the great western writer Elmer Kelton. After attending the funeral in 2009, he set out walking with a pen and paper, and began to craft what became To Hell or the Pecos. The story originates from real western tales of robbery and murder in the South of Texas in the late 1800s. The origin of the tale is seen throughout Dearen’s writing, and allows the novel to encapsulate the true rugged nature of the old south throughout.
Elmer Kelton and Patrick Dearen

Working on this novel has been extremely enjoyable because it has allowed me to come into contact with a book that is genuine to my setting and adopt a new perspective on the elements in which I live. Dearen has expressed a true perspective of the old west, and allowed the landscape of his home state to tell a tale of life and love. The novel grabbed me from the beginning, transported me to the drought-ridden trails of southern Texas, and transformed me through the hunt for justice and true love. 

--Trip Starkey

To find out more about Patrick Dearen, his books, and upcoming events, please visit, and click here to order.
Dearen's original manuscript, written on his daily hikes

To Hell or the Pecos Book Trailer