Reading Our State: Dallas

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—written by TBF intern Emily Vernon

The next stop on our literary tour of Texas is Dallas. If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know we’ve chronicled the literary scenes of Austin and Houston already this summer, and if you’re from Texas, you know each of these cities is quite different from the other. And while we’ll excuse ourselves from the debate over each’s superiority, what we will say is that when it comes to literary communities, there’s not a fair metric that can be used to compare; the Lone Star State’s cities are all bookish in their own way. Niche literary enclaves are scattered throughout all, no matter what your interests are.


Walking through downtown Dallas, it’s easy to feel the antiquity of the city, the history looming in the air. Whatever it is, it has proven effective inspiration for writers in the most populous metroplex in the state. Nestled between the old midwestern-type buildings are publishing houses, literary PR agencies, independent bookstores, and of course, writers. It’s a further testament to the idea that literature transcends boundaries, and even the most unsuspecting of cities are home to literary lovers.


One of the great things about the city of Half Price books is that many of the authors hailing from it create pieces that also take place in it. So unlike in the previous posts where we’ve laid out five books written by authors from whatever respective city and five that take place in said city, we’re just bringing you one mixed list of literary greatness. There’s obviously something special about Dallas that inspires so many plots; let’s dig into it.

Love me Back by Merritt Tierce: Love me Back chronicles the life of a 20-something single, recently divorced mother who is navigating young adulthood in search for a sense of self while also caring for a child. Marie is a trainwreck, and her job as a waitress at one of Dallas’ most upscale steakhouses isn’t exactly a catalyst for redemption. But in this story, Tierce lays out the social scene of Dallas, the corruption of big money, the racism, the sexism, and the unfortunate circumstances that sometimes lead to a life astray. Tierce lives in Denton.


Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain: After video footage the Army’s Bravo squad’s triumphant win over a group of insurgents is aired on fox news, the men of Bravo suddenly find themselves thrust into the American media spotlight and consequently, into the minds of the  American people. Following their return, they embark on a media tour across the US and eventually find themselves at Cowboy stadium, where 19-year-old Billy begins to understand just how self-serving public support for the troops can be. The Bravo are used as a political prop to increase American morale during a controversial war by President Bush, and their plight is soon to be made a movie — all the while Bravo is set to be quickly deployed once again, simply allowed to come home and complete a PR trip. Fountain lives in Dallas.


Eleven Hours by Paullina Simons: Didi Wood, a Dallas resident and soon-to-be-mom, takes a midday excursion to her local shopping mall. She’s expecting to meet her husband for lunch in an hour, expecting to give birth in a month, but isn’t expecting to be kidnapped almost instantly upon arriving. True to the title, the story takes place over an eleven hour time period in which Didi, her husband, and the FBI are all trying to figure out how to get the expecting mother home and out of harm’s way. The suspenseful novel chronicles Didi’s fight for normalcy and test of faith while prompting readers to deliberate various philosophical points concerning human nature and psychological  strength.  


The Dime by Kathleen Kent: A Brooklyn expat in her early 30s moves to Dallas and joins the city’s police department, assuming she’s more than cut out for what is to come. Hailing from a line of tough big-city dwellers, Betty walks with grit and talks with the knowledge of someone who comes from a long line of law enforcement officials. Her newest endeavor, while exciting, isn’t something she expects to be irregularly troubling — that is, until she’s assigned to the narcotics unit and is left to deal with Texas’  dangerous cartels and high-profile criminals. She soon realizes that her life in Brooklyn didn’t necessarily prepare her for what’s waiting in North Texas, but is determined to redeem herself in the eyes of her colleagues. Kent lives in Dallas.


A Little Boy From Nowhere, Texas by Stephen Daingerfield Dunn: Dunn writes a poetic rendition of his experience growing up as a gay man in a little Texas town. Although the prose channels many difficulties Dunn faced, readers enjoy a happy—even comforting— ending. He currently lives in Dallas.


The Loom by Shella Gillus: Set just before the Civil War, Gillus’ work of  historical fiction follows a slave through a painstaking dilemma: Lydia’s skin is light enough that she can find freedom if she wishes, but that would mean leaving the life she knows, the people she treasures, and the man she loves. She’s ultimately left to decide whether to chase the unknown or stay with the familiar reality and people she adores, a decision Lydia struggles to grapple with because of its unsuspecting nuances and the power of love. Gillus lives in Dallas.


Revenge of the Star Survivors by Michael Merschel: Despite being written at a middle grade level, Revenge of the Star Survivors resonates with children and adults alike. At one point everyone’s experienced the feeling of being an outsider, of being the newest addition to an otherwise solidly defined group. Clark Sherman is the new kid and school, and feels just this; that is, until he meets a group of people who he fosters great connections with—until he finds his people. The reader is an observer of Clark’s life and all his efforts to right the wrongs of the world. Merschel is the Life and Arts editor of the Dallas Morning News, and currently lives in Dallas.


Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris: The second novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series is sure to excite True Blood fans. Sookie’s back and this time has formed an alliance with the Dallas vampires on one condition: they must refrain from harming humans. Harris tells the tale of an unlikely relationship between the humans and vampires of Dallas with the utmost imagination and creativity, detailing the mysteries that unite them and the trials that burden them. She is a resident of Dallas.


Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Susan Clark, Nikki Singleton, and James Disco: This trio of authors tells the tale of four young Sundanese boys displaced by war in Sudan and their plight to safety in Dallas. Echoes of the Lost Boys of Sudan is a historical graphic novel that looks at the consequences of war and many refugees’ fight for life and some semblance of normalcy. James Disco and Susan Clark are Dallasites.


Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith: In the 1890s, a wealthy Chicago businessman follows the trend of the times and sends a mission of men to collect Melanesian artifacts from the Pacific––including humans that he wishes to bring back and put on display. Highlighting the cultural perceptions of what is barbaric and what is civilized, Smith’s cultural commentary was named one of the best books in 2011 by Kirkus and has since received great praise from readers.