SAN MARCOS, TX— Folklorist J. Frank Dobie wrote, “Great literature transcends its native land but none that I know of ignores its soil.” Global Odyssey: From Texas to the World and Back draws from the rich archival material at Texas State’s Wittliff Collections to examine how generations of Texas writers have journeyed across the world, encountering a variety of experiences that have inspired their creativity while at the same time underscoring their distinctive heritage as native Texans.
Set against a backdrop of beautifully illustrated maps, this Wittliff exhibition presents photographs, manuscripts, personal journals, artifacts, and other items from Texas authors, among them: J. Frank Dobie, whose experiences at Cambridge during World War II helped guide him away from Texas provincialism and towards a broader understanding of humanity; Katherine Anne Porter, who found literary inspiration by living and working in Mexico; Sarah Bird, whose childhood in Japan helped inform her acclaimed novel, The Yokota Officers Club; William Broyles, Jr., who was among the very first veterans to return to Viet Nam as he wrote his celebrated memoir, Brothers in Arms: A Journey from War to Peace; and John Graves, who became an expatriate writer in Europe and Mexico after World War II.
There are also materials from Stephanie Elizondo Griest, who observed the dissolution of communism in Russia and China from a uniquely Chicana perspective; Cormac McCarthy, Sam Shepard, Joe Lansdale, and Carmen Tafolla, who have reached audiences worldwide with their writings set in Texas; Angela Shelf Medearis, who adapted West African folktales into her children’s books; and Stephen Harrigan, whose search for his grandmother’s distinctive kolache recipe eventually led to a reunion with long-lost relatives in the Czech Republic.
Curated by Steve Davis with assistance from other Wittliff staff, the Global Odyssey exhibition runs through May 10, 2013. Admission is free.
STEPHANIE ELIZONDO GRIEST’s global adventures inspired her award-winning memoirs Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana (2004) and Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines (2008), as well as the guidebook 100 Places Every Woman Should Go (2007). She also edited the 2010 volume of the Best Women’s Travel Writing. Among her many honors is the 2007 Richard J. Margolis Award for Social Justice Reporting. Born in Corpus Christi, Griest has visited 40 countries and traveled to 49 of the United States. From August 2006 to August 2009, she lived nomadically, with three-quarters of her belongings in storage and the rest stuffed in her backpack(s). Griest has taught at more than a dozen writer’s conferences, as well as for literary organizations and at several universities. Currently the Viebranz Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at St. Lawrence University, this fall she will become Assistant Professor of Creative Nonfiction at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
MANUEL LUIS MARTINEZ is a literary critic, award-winning novelist, and a 2011 recipient of the Dobie-Paisano fellowship, which allowed him to live and write at J. Frank Dobie’s former ranch outside of Austin. Born and raised in San Antonio, Martinez’s fiction brings forth the voices of the rarely-heard, as his stories come from his experiences growing up in the West Side barrio of his youth. He explores the themes of migration, contemporary urban life, and the experience of dislocation. His novel Crossing was selected as one of the ten best books by a writer of color by PEN American Center, and his novel Drift was chosen as one of the top 100 books by the American Library Association in 2004. His latest novel is Day of the Dead. He is also the author of Countering the Counterculture: Rereading Postwar American Dissent from Jack Kerouac to Tomás Rivera. Currently professor of American and Chicano literature at Ohio State University, Martinez earned his doctorate at Stanford University.
JOHN PHILLIP SANTOS, born and raised in San Antonio, is the first Mexican American Rhodes Scholar. His acclaimed books examine notions of Latino history and identity through his own family’s story. Santos worked in New York for several years as an Emmy-nominated television documentary producer before returning to San Antonio and writing a family memoir, Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Santos is also the author of Songs Older Than Any Known Singer and The Farthest Home is an Empire of Fire. He has received the Academy of American Poets Prize at Notre Dame and the Oxford Prize for fiction. His articles on Latino art, culture, and politics have appeared in the San Antonio Express-News, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and Texas Monthly. In 2010, he was appointed to the University of Texas at San Antonio Honors College as a University Distinguished Scholar in Mestizo Cultural Studies.
CARMEN TAFOLLA is a poet, speaker, performer, educational consultant, the internationally renowned author of more than 20 books, and one of the most highly anthologized of Latina writers. Named by Mayor Julian Castro as the first Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio, her hometown, Tafolla has been called a “world-class writer” by Roots author Alex Haley, and she has long been considered one of the madrinas of Chicana Literature. She earned her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin and has published an impressive array of works for both children and adults. Tafolla is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Americas Award, presented to her at the Library of Congress in 2010, two Tomás Rivera Book Awards, two ALA Notable Books, a Charlotte Zolotow, the Art of Peace Award, Top Ten Books for Babies, and recognition by the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies for work which “gives voice to the peoples and cultures of this land.”