Growing up in Connecticut didn’t stop me from imagining Texas just over the next hill. “Daddy, is that Texas?” I frequently asked my father on our Sunday rides to Blackie’s for hot dogs and chocolate milk.
I don’t recall wanting to be a cowgirl. Maybe Texas intrigued me because it was so darn big.
I’ve never lived in Texas, and I wasn’t too happy about Ethan going to grad school there. Much of the state’s population is so conservative, so gun-oriented (uh, how is that different from Arizona?).
In June I went to Austin, which is undoubtedly one of the hippest cities anywhere.
Steph, my fabulous future daughter-in-law, is the literary director of the Texas Book Festival, so I’ll be returning to Austin in two weeks. I’m thrilled that Steph asked me to moderate/interview Naomi Shihab Nye, one of my favorite poets and a remarkable human being.
I met Naomi in 1996 when she came to my bookstore in Southwest Harbor, Maine. She was visiting Ashley Bryan, a mutual friend and another remarkable human being.
Naomi and I had a lot in common. I introduced her to Greg Brown’s gravelly blues/folk music. I traveled to San Antonio to see her. She introduced me to a man whom she thought I’d like (that didn’t work out but no matter).
Way more important is knowing Naomi, her books of poetry — “Words Under the Words,” “Red Suitcase,” children’s books like “The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Painting from the Middle East” and her latest middle-grade chapter book, “The Turtle of Oman.”
Naomi is a Palestinian-American. She’s a Texan who was born in Ferguson, Missouri (check out her recent NPR piece about Ferguson and Gaza). She’s a teacher and a believer in peace. She’s compassionate and joyful, straightforward and insightful. It’s been years since I’ve seen her, and I’m excited about talking books in Texas.
When it comes to promoting a love of books — this former bookseller is going to Texas — but I’m not riding off into the sunset yet.