Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, Vol. IX – #bookreview



Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, Volume IX

Edited by Donna M. Kabalen de Bichara and Blanca López de Mariscal

Arte Público Press – hardback


Four topics are considered key within the works of Hispanic writers in the United States: memory, testimony, femininity, and identity.

This important book from Arte Público Press pulls together a dozen essays exploring those topics, written by literary scholars in the United States and abroad. Some are offered in English, and some are in Spanish.

These works originally were presented at the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project’s biennial conferences in 2010 and 2012. The conferences were sponsored by the University of Houston, Rice University, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Consulate of Mexico, Bank of America, the Houston Endowment, the Institute of Hispanic Culture of Houston, and the City of Houston’s Houston Arts Alliance.

The more descriptive titles for the book’s four sections are:

  • Recovering Memory
  • Culture and Ideology
  • Autobiography, Testimony and Resistance Writings
  • Femininity and Identity

The book, the editors say, is intended to be “an important tool for scholars of literature written in Spanish within the United States, particularly in terms of its contribution to studies about themes related to the Mexican Revolution, as well as the Hispanic voice, national identity, and culture.”

Many relevant issues are explored within the book’s four main sections. Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, Vol. IX and its 12 contributors offer significant insights into the contributions of Latino writers within the United States, in time periods ranging from the Spanish Colonial era to the 21st century.

Si Dunn



It’s All in the Genes! Really? – A view from the turbulent interfaces of science, religion, creation, evolution, faith and reason – #bookreview

It’s All in the Genes! Really?

Dr. Gerard M. Verschuuren

(CreateSpace paperback, Kindle)


Dr. Gerard M. Verschuuren is a human geneticist who also holds a doctorate in the philosophy of science. Now semi-retired, he focuses on speaking and writing and has gained a following for his thoughtful views and opinions regarding “the interface of science and religion, creation and evolution, faith and reason.”

In his latest book, Dr. Verschuuren passionately argues that “DNA is not all there is” to human life. “If  human beings were really nothing more than DNA,” he writes, “then it must have been the DNA of two scientists–the ones who discovered DNA, Watson and Crick–that discovered DNA. Think about that statement for a moment–DNA being discovered by DNA. If Watson and Crick were really nothing but DNA, then Watson’s and Crick’s DNA must have discovered itself. That would be real magic. That would be like the magic of a projector projecting itself or a copy machine copying itself.”

On that latter point, perhaps we are not all that far now from 3D printers being able to print copies of themselves. Nonetheless, Dr. Verschuuren makes some excellent arguments on behalf of numerous questions that we humans have pondered and debated for perhaps most of the existence of our species. For example, where does morality come from? Where do religion and rationality come from? And what are the roots and limits of human “free will”?

This well-written book provides an overview of recent genetic research and why there is a certain amount of truth to “It’s all in the genes.” Dr. Verschuuren, however, also makes compelling cases, on several fronts, for why he now believes “there is more than genes in life.”

Si Dunn

(Note: One quick improvement could be made to this book. The rear cover text in the review copy I received has several unneeded hyphenations that should be fixed at the CreateSpace publishing site. People do judge books by their cover, including the rear cover text.) 


Heist and High – A true tale of prescription drug addiction, crime, prison, and a second chance at life – #bookreview

Heist and High

Anthony Curcio and Dane Batty

(Nish Publishing – paperback, Kindle)

This is both an engrossing true story and an important cautionary tale about what can happen when someone becomes addicted to prescription painkillers.

Anthony Curcio was an outstanding high-school athlete and promising college football player who quickly became addicted to Vicodin after suffering a relatively minor sports injury.

Heist and High clearly and graphically recounts his painful descent, starting with lying about his need for refills and then stealing prescription painkiller medications from family and friends. Soon, he was both working and stealing to support a $15,000-a-month drug habit. But even that wasn’t enough. He meticulously planned and then carried out the robbery of  a Brink’s armored car, taking about $400,000 in a heist that made national headlines.

The well-written book also explores how Curcio almost completely destroyed his family while he abused other drugs as well as painkillers and then ended up in federal prison, enduring hell-on-earth confinements for five years. Finally, it shows how Curcio began to turn his life around and strive to reconnect with the people on the outside who still loved him despite his crimes.

Published near the time of his release in 2013, Heist and High ends up as a story of hope, but one that no doubt also will be tested, likely for many years to come, by Curcio’s actions and his continued commitments to family, friends and others around him.

“My addiction was so ruthless,” he writes. “It robbed me of all my morals, all my integrity and really everything that made me human. It nearly robbed me of my entire life.”

Si Dunn




Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field – How two physicists literally changed the world – #bookreview


Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field

How Two Men Revolutionized Physics

Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon

(Prometheus Books – Kindle, Hardcover)


Almost everything we value and use in our modern lives can be linked to the discovery of the electromagnetic field. Electricity, the Internet, television, radio, cable, wi-fi, cellphones, computers–all of these and much, much more have evolved from the collaborative discoveries of two 19th-century British scientists, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell.

“Faraday and Maxwell’s field was intangible and space was not just an empty geometrical container for bodies with mass, but a coherent interconnected system bearing the energy of motion,” the authors, veteran science writers Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon, point out. “It was the seat of action, rather than just an empty backdrop for Newton’s point particles being propelled by straight-line forces. These were ultraradical concepts for nineteenth-century minds trained to think only of things that could be touched and measured.”

In this well-written and nicely researched narrative, Forbes and Mahon skillfully and clearly interweave biographical details and each man’s scientific achievements, while also detailing how they worked together. The authors likewise highlight some key contributions of others who drew from, and helped advance, the discoveries of Faraday and Maxwell,  including Heinrich Hertz, Oliver Heaviside, Nikola Tesla, Oliver Lodge, and Guglielmo Marconi.

Faraday and Maxwell changed the world by using only simple tools and the combined power of  imagination, reasoning, and mathematics. For any reader who cares about modern scientific research and hopes to engage in, or support, discovery, this book can be both a revelation and an important inspiration.

Si Dunn


Get the book here: Kindle, Hardcover



The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos de huerto – An inspiring, bilingual children’s book about togetherness & gardening – #bookreview

Patchwork Garden


* * * * *

The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos de huerto

Diane de Anda

Oksana Kemarskaya (illustrations)

(Piñata Books, hardcover)


The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos de huerto is a warm, inspiring tale of family and neighborhood togetherness and how a simple idea can grow and spread, starting with a grandmother’s fond memories and a young child’s energetic wish.

Nicely illustrated with gouache paintings by Canadian artist Oksana Kemarskaya, The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos de huerto is printed in English and Spanish. While the corresponding paragraphs are displayed on the same page, they are kept separate by small graphics that make it easier to read the book straight through in one language. At the same time, readers of Spanish who are learning English and English readers who are learning Spanish can easily compare how something is stated in both languages.

Published in 2013, The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos de huerto recently has received a Skipping Stone Honor Award from Skipping Stones: An International Multicultural Magazine, one of only 22 books named to receive the award. The book also was one of ten titles named an Honor Book in the 2014 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People competition.

Piñata Books is an imprint of Arte Público Press, which is based at the University of Houston and describes itself as “the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors.”

The author of  The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos de huerto, Diane de Anda, is a UCLA professor and author of several bilingual books for children, as well as other works. Her book’s Spanish translations are by Gabriela Baeza Ventura.

Ukraine-native Oksana Kemarskaya has illustrated numerous books for children, including Planet Earth Projects and the Secret Lives of Plants.

Si Dunn






Pale Blue Light – Civil War fiction, with espionage and plenty of action – #bookreview


Pale Blue Light

Skip Tucker

(NewSouth Books – paperback, Kindle)


Alabama novelist Skip Tucker has taken a still-lively Civil War controversy and expanded it into an imaginative tale that blends historical fiction with murder mystery, spy vs. spy, and plenty of action.

Tucker’s protagonist, Rabe Canon, is a general in the Confederacy’s Black Horse Cavalry. He also is a man unafraid to engage in dangerous missions and individual heroics, especially when he is astride, or close by, his big, well-trained horse, Hammer.

When Canon is sent on a special mission that could possibly help save the South from defeat, the story flows from the Civil War’s eastern battlefields to gold-rich San Francisco and back again, and Canon gets into fights for his life at almost every stop.

This lively, entertaining novel unfolds like a movie. Indeed, Pale Blue Light could make an excellent movie worthy of a John Wayne-style, action-hero star, if anyone in Hollywood is paying attention.

Si Dunn


Hadacol Days: A Southern Boyhood – A fine look at what it was like to grow up in the ’40s & ’50s – #memoir #bookreview


Hadacol Days: A Southern Boyhood

Clyde Bolton

(NewSouth Books, hardcover, Kindle)


There is much to like in this enjoyable book, especially if you, your parents or your grandparents grew up somewhere in the American South in the 1940s, 1950s, or even the early 1960s.

The “Hadacol” of the book’s title was a patent medicine marketed by a Louisiana politician as a vitamin-rich health tonic in the Forties and Fifties. It contained 12% alcohol as a “preservative” and soon became coveted, particularly in dry counties in the rural South, as a way to get around legal and moral bans on consuming alcoholic drinks.

The author of “Hadacol Days,” now a well-known retired sports journalist, grew up the son of a railroad employee who moved his family frequently all over the Southeastern U.S.

Clyde Bolton’s childhood memories are tinged with having to change towns, schools and friends with distressing frequency. He writes: “I grew up in Williamston, Greenville, Edgemoor, Chester, Greenwood, and Clinton in South Carolina, Lawrenceville, Atlanta, Tucker, Statham, and Winder in Georgia, and Gadsden, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Trussville in Alabama.” But many of his best childhood memories happened in Statham, Georgia, “a place that holds my heart in a snare as tender and secure today as it was when it caught me in 1948.”

Many of the activities and coming-of-age events Bolton wonderfully recalls will be recognized by almost anyone who grew up mid-20th-century America. It was a time when the world seemed much safer and children were afforded more freedom to roam about, day or night, and have growing-up adventures in their neighborhoods, downtowns and nearby woodlands.

As I read Bolton’s book, many of my own childhood memories came back and meshed easily with his descriptions of being an inept Scout, building model airplanes, playing baseball and other sports, getting teeth accidentally knocked out, doing stupid stunts on bicycles, listening to radio dramas, and hearing relatives describe  how tough their lives had been in the Great Depression.

Hadacol Days is nostalgic entertainment at some of its very best.

Si Dunn


Click here to get Hadacol Days: hardcover edition, Kindle edition