Recently published and forthcoming books by New Mexico authors make for an eclectic reading list, with topics ranging from a nonfiction account of the first Navajo nursing school to a mind-bending children’s adventure tale. Pasatiempo rounded up some of the latest offerings here.
GRACE IN THE WINGS by Kari Bovée, Bosque Publishing, 328 pages, $14.99 (expected release Sept. 19)
Grace Michelle is a young fashion designer in 1920, living by the grace of Florenz Ziegfeld, the famous showman. Ziegfeld rescued the orphaned Grace, and her older sister, Sophia, from the streets of New York and trained them for show business. When the novel opens, Sophia has just wed Mary Pickford’s brother, Jack — a match that no one in Sophia’s life approves of. When she launches into an inappropriate toast at her own wedding reception, she reveals a secret about her relationship with her revered father figure who also happens to be a known philanderer. Ziegfeld is one of many real-life figures in Corrales resident Kari Bovée’s historical mystery novel, Grace in the Wings, which also includes characterizations of comedian Fanny Brice and showgirl Lillian Lorraine, among others.
MEDICINE WOMEN: THE STORY OF THE FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN NURSING SCHOOL by Jim Kristofic, University of New Mexico Press, 416 pages, $34.95
In 1868, when the Navajo people returned to their land after being decimated by the U.S. Army, forced on The Long Walk, and exiled for four years at Bosque Redondo, in New Mexico, they are understandably wary of the white missionaries who attempt to convert them to Christianity and the doctors who want to treat them for illness. But suspicion gives way to acceptance when, at the turn of the 20th century, Presbyterian missionaries build the Ganado Mission. The site eventually included a school, hospital, and a nursing school. In Medicine Women: The Story of the First Native American Nursing School, Taos resident Jim Kristofic traces the history of the Ganado Mission on the Navajo Nation using storytelling and archival research. Among the figures in the book is Charlotte Adele Slivers, a Navajo woman who became a surgical nurse under the tutelage of the school’s founder, Dr. Clarence Salsbury.
ECOS NEOMEXICANOS: POESÍA DE LA TIERRA DEL ENCANTO by Nicolás Cabrera, Judith Literary Press, no page numbers, $10
Albuquerque resident Nicolás Cabrera’s bilingual collection of poems, Ecos Neomexicanos: Poesía de la Tierra del Ecanto, pays homage to his mother, his father, and his childhood in New Mexico. The poems address food, home, love, and spirituality in plain language. Sometimes Cabrera writes in persona, as in “Alcalá,” a poem told from his grandmother’s point of view. She speaks about life in her father’s home, and then her husband’s; she describes her love for her children, whom she followed from Mexico to the United States. He writes at length about New Mexico Christmas traditions, including the symbolic lights of luminarias and farolitos, which guide the way for wanderers on Dec. 24.
BEATRICE ON HER OWN by Rosemary Zibart, illustrated by Odessa Sawyer, Artemesia Publishing,198 pages, $14.95, (expected release Sept. 16)
At just 13 years old, Beatrice has been uprooted from her home in London and sent to New Mexico to escape the bombings that are destroying her home city during World War II. She has been living with Clem, a nurse at the Santa Fe Indian Hospital, but after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, Clem is sent to Washington to assist with the war effort. Beatrice moves in with her friend Arabella’s family, a chaotic environment of sibling squabbles and motherly anger. Meanwhile, a Japanese internment camp is erected on the outskirts of town and Beatrice finds herself befriending a boy who lives there and documenting his imprisonment, as well as confronting the prejudices held against Japanese people by some of the local residents. In Beatrice on Her Own, Santa Fe author Rosemary Zibart includes many historical details about the town, including a visit to Indian art collector and dog lover Amelia Elizabeth White’s estate, El Delirio, the site of today’s School for Advanced Research.
KIKA AND SNIFF: ADVENTURE IN THE BELOWLANDS by Kat Sawyer, illustrated by Brandon McKinney, independently published, 186 pages, $15
Kika is a sarcastic 11-year-old who is prone to anxiety. Sniff is her dog, a stray she found stuck in a gopher hole. When the two of them accidentally fall into a below-ground world of talking animals who rap and dig Bob Dylan, reality is turned upside down for the characters, as well as for readers. Santa Fe resident Kat Sawyer’s Kika and Sniff: Adventure in the Belowlands is a trippy, humorous, off-kilter voyage of self-discovery for a heroine who must learn to be brave — and learn to call Sniff by his preferred name, which turns out to be Alan.