Every year some titles stand out. Here are a selection of 10 that appeared in the column during 2014.
“The Cass Street Kid…A Journey Remembered”
By Hughlett L. Morris (Wheatmark, $13.95)
Morris is a retired speech pathology professor. This autobiography project, he writes in a prologue, has been hampered by the fact that now, “I have no one left to validate it.” But he remembers well and his successful life is a tribute to his enterprise and determination. He started out a fatherless kid in rural Tennessee and wound up on the faculty at the University of Iowa.
By Kay Weede (Self-published, $12.95)
In 1856, the Quaker Coffin family moved from their home in Indiana to farmland in Iowa. They traveled by wagon with their nine children, all their worldly goods and all their livestock. At one point, they were joined by a fugitive slave who was on her way to connect with the Underground Railroad in Illinois. Based on diary notes kept by Rachel Coffin, Weede presents a fascinating account of migration in pre-Civil War America.
“Bringing Out the Untold Life: Recollections of Mildred Reid Grant Gray”
By Mildred Reid Grant Gray related to Claire E. Scheuren (Zeitgeist West Publishing, $25)
From 1946 through 1976, Gray was the telegraph operator in the small Nova Scotian village of Garbarus. As the introduction states, this meant that she was “the 911, information and referral service, spiritual advisor and companion to people giving birth and people dying.” Her remarkable memory also includes details of her own family and of village life in Nova Scotia.
“The Horse Lover”
By H. Alan Day (University of Nebraska Press, $24.95)
In the late 1980s, Arizona cattle rancher Day — whose family includes his sisters, Ann Day, former Arizona State Legislator and member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and Sandra Day O’Connor, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice — bought a 35,000-acre ranch in South Dakota. He established a wild horse sanctuary on the South Dakota property. At Mustang Meadows, the first federally financed horse sanctuary in the country, Day provided a home to 1,500 wild horses for about half the cost the BLM was paying at the time to “warehouse,” them. Day recounts, in his well-written memoir (with Lynn Wiese Sneyd) that it was a bumpy but rewarding ride. When he had to resubmit his bid after five years he lost to a low bidder in Oklahoma, but the value of the concept was proven. This book has been selected by Southwest Books of the Year as one of its “10 best.”
“Talking to Strangers: The Struggle to Rebuild Iraq’s Foreign Ministry”
By Ghassan Muhsin Hussein and David Dunford (Southwestern College Academic Press, $18.95)
Dunford is a former member of the U.S. Foreign Service, now retired in Tucson, and Hussein is an Iraqi, now living in exile in Bahrain. They worked together in Iraq in 2003, just after that country’s fall to international forces led by the United States. In the book’s preface, they write, “The three month period from mid-March to June, 2003, the primary focus of this book, will be remembered as a tipping point … the decisions made during that period resulted in perhaps the biggest foreign policy debacle in U.S. history.” The books deserves to be read by everyone interested in U.S. Mid-eastern affairs — current and past. Unfortunately, it lacks an index to make it truly useful to future researchers.
“Wounded Tiger: A Non-fiction Novel”
By T. Martin Bennett (Onstar Press, $28.50)
Mitsuo Fuchida is the Japanese airman who flew the lead plane in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. This is his story along with that of Jake DeShazer who was a bombardier on the Doolittle Mission to bomb Japan. They both began to reassess their roles in these historic World War II events, as they became active Christians. Their turn to religion made them realize the futility of operating for revenge. Setting an example is the daughter of an American missionary killed by Japanese invading the Philippines who worked as a volunteer in Japanese internment camps.
“A Slow Trot Home”
By Lisa G. Sharp (Wheatmark, $17.95)
A gracefully written account of the author’s life on the San Rafael Ranch, a landmark in Southern Arizona. In 1958, Sharp’s mother, Florence Greene Sharp, as the result of a divorce settlement, became the owner of the San Rafael. The working cattle ranch had been acquired by her father, the copper and land tycoon, William C. Greene, in 1903. Despite the fact that she was 52 and had several serious health problems, Florence Sharp moved her four children, including Lisa, the youngest at 8, from Southern California to the ranch and managed it until her death in 1995. In this nonlinear memoir, Lisa Sharp drifts back and forth through the decades, remembering family and cultural history, anecdotes and ranch life. In 1998, the property was sold to The Nature Conservancy, which later sold a portion of it to the Arizona State Parks Department. Once again, this is another book in which an index would be helpful.
“Riding Behind the Padre: Horseback Views From Both Sides of the Border”
By Richard Collins (Wheatmark, $15; Kindle $7.99)
Collins grew up on a ranch in Phoenix, attended both the University of Arizona and Arizona State, worked 20 years for the Centers for Disease Control in Central America and Mexico and is now a Southern Arizona rancher. Between 2008 and 2012, Collins joined a group made up of members from both sides of the border that, on horseback, retraced the steps of Eusebio Kino. Eusebio Kino was a Jesuit missionary who traveled in what is today Sonora and Arizona in the 17th and 18th centuries, converting the native peoples and building mission communities. Collins lays out his opinions, ideas and experiences in clean, solid prose. He doesn’t claim to have solutions to our ongoing immigration conflicts but his thoughts are worth any border dweller’s time and attention.
“A Land of Hard Edges”
By Peg Bowden (Peer Publishing, $14.95)
There is no doubt where Bowden’s sympathies lie. This retired public health nurse volunteers as a member of the Green Valley-based Samaritans, at a soup kitchen in Nogales, Sonora run by the Jesuits and the Sisters of the Eucharist. She describes a lively haven where hundreds of deported migrants — frightened, despondent, tired and broke — find food, clothing, solace and occasionally a bit of bus trip money. Bowden provides snapshots — up close and personal — of the real people who make up our immigration population.
“Letter From Tucson, 1925-1927”
By Ethel Stiffler edited by her son, Roger Carpenter (the revised and edited second edition, self-published, $24.95)
In 1927, Ethel Stiffler, a Goucher College graduate, joined the faculty of the University of Arizona biology department. In her frequent letters home to her mother and sister, still living in the small Maryland town near the Pennsylvania border where she was born and raised, she describes a goodly selection of things going on around her — an on the spot social historian. She includes faculty activities at the young school (Stiffler and the UA were close to the same age: Stiffler was born in 1899; the UA opened its doors in 1891). And life in Tucson. She was a dedicated photographer and records her adventures in the desert as well as pictures of university events. She was bright, friendly, curious, open and observant. Her letters are cheerful, chatty and informative — a wonderful picture of Tucson and the UA.
Her second book of letters, “Letters From Tucson 1933-1942,” by Ethel Stiffler Carpenter, equally as good, is also available. Mrs. Carpenter died in Tucson in 1995.