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Passionate Nation

Texas has become the most American of all the states. Texas's politics has taken over in Washington, and Texas's passionate sense of itself as a nation is echoed by the fervent patriotism of tens of millions of Americans. Texas is also our most outsized hodgepodge -- of Latino, black, white, Asian; of characters who transcend any category. In so many ways, America today is Texas writ large. In Passionate Nation James L. Haley offers a comprehensive and definitive history of this singular and singularly American state, a history that explains how Texas became Texas, even before it became such a central national symbol for America. Haley peers through the lens of the extraordinary "ordinary" men and women who have streamed to Texas from its beginnings, and created it in their own contradictory, uncontrollable image. He recovers elements bowdlerized by previous and more prudish generations, such as the discovery, by sixteenth-century explorer Cabeza de Vaca, of Indian warriors living in conjugal relationships with male eunuchs. He presents documents never before published, such as a rare appeal for aid from the town of Gonzales on the eve of the Texas Revolution. He restores to the history important figures who have been allowed to drop from the usual recitation, such as Benjamin Lundy, who almost single-handedly prevented the Texas Republic from being annexed to the United States for nearly a decade. He corrects the record at every turn, starting with the fact that Jane Lundy was not the "mother of Texas." Throughout, he uses great stories to present the passion of people who lived and worried and suffered and laughed. The first Indians settled in Texas in about 10,000 B.C.; the first Europeans arrived in the early sixteenth century. Since then, the land that is now Texas has belonged to six powers at eight different times: Spain (1519-1685), France (to 1690), Spain again (to 1821), Mexico (to 1836), the Republic of Texas (to 1845), the U.S.A. (to 1861), the Confederacy (to 1865), and the U.S.A. to stay. From Jim Bowie's and Davy Crockett's myth-enshrouded stand at the Alamo to the Mexican-American War to Sam Houston's heroic failed effort to keep Texas in the Union during the Civil War, the transitions in Texas history have often been as painful and tense as the "normal" periods in between. Here, in all of its epic grandeur, is the story of Texas as its own passionate nation, a history that shows that circumstances can radically change, yet culture and character can last for centuries.
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Texas native Haley (Sam Houston: A Life) does an outstanding job of narrating the outsized and dramatic history of the Lone Star State. John Steinbeck observed, "Like most passionate nations, Texas has its own private history based on, but not limited by, facts." Cognizant of this, Haley takes pains to separate folklore from fact. He's a good storyteller, but then it's hard to go wrong with the colorful characters he has to work with: pioneer nationalists Sam Houston and Davy Crockett, Quaker abolitionist Benjamin Lundy, a wagonload of liquored-up turn-of-the-century oilmen and such latter-day heroes as Lyndon Johnson, John Connally and Janis Joplin. Importantly, Haley goes beyond the basic themes in Texas history-politics, finance, civil rights and natural disasters-to study the dusty byroads of Texas culture. A particularly engaging chapter documents one of the all-time great trios of American regional literature-J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb and Roy Bedichek-while also appraising such Texas-born literary icons as Katherine Anne Porter, Horton Foote and Fred Gipson (Old Yeller). With this rich and entertaining history, Haley adds his name, indelibly, to this list of native writers his state should be rightfully proud of. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps, not seen by PW. (Apr. 17) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"A breezy read, shot through with Haley's live-wire personality. And, let's just say, it's not your father's Texas history." -- San Antonio Express-News "Intellectually rewarding and highly entertaining...well informed, erudite, and astonishingly comprehensive." -- Houston Chronicle "Highly readable." -- Kirkus Reviews "Highly readable." -- Kirkus Reviews "Highly readable." -- "Kirkus Reviews" "Highly readable." -- "Kirkus Reviews" "Highly readable." -- "Kirkus Reviews" "Highly readable." -- "Kirkus Reviews"

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