Be­lief con­nects the events in a life


Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - Con­tin­ued from E HU­MAN­I­TIES TEXAS AN­NUAL BOOK FAIR When: Who: Where: De­tails:

Th­ese, she said, make up as much of her life as the events that took place in real time.

“I’ve thought a lot about what mem­oir is and what it’s not, “said Cortez, who’ll be in Austin Satur­day for the Hu­manties Texas An­nual Hol­i­day Book Fair. “I thought about this for years, and the more I thought about mem­oir and hu­man na­ture, I see that all of us are the prod­uct of what we do and what we do not do. What hap­pened and what did not hap­pen.”

So, she does some­thing she deems rev­o­lu­tion­ary in her mem­oir. First, she re­counts her and her par­ents’ lives through the lens of their Catholi­cism.

The book’s cover — a stained-glass im­age of the Vir­gin hold­ing the Christ child — serves as the prism through which much of the nar­ra­tive un­folds.

She tells of the faith of her grand­mother and mother, their de­vo­tion to the Vir­gin, the mir­a­cles of heal­ing and help they ex­pe­ri­enced and the way th­ese sto­ries were passed down to Cortez and oth­ers over decades.

Her par­ents’ faith is wo­ven into their com­mit­ment to pub­lic ser­vice, some­thing Cortez says mo­ti­vated much of her work as a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Sec­ond, Cortez tells of her and her fam­ily’s con­scious as well as un­con­scious lives, the lat­ter made up mostly of un­lived dreams.

Chil­dren, lovers, hus­bands, homes, ad­ven­tures — some real, some dreamed, some ac­tu­al­ized, most not — en­liven the vi­gnettes that make up the book’s first half. Af­ter a few chap­ters, you won’t care if the sto­ries were re­al­ized or un­re­al­ized dreams; they mat­ter.

Cortez’s book, how­ever, serves not only as a mem­oir of faith and fam­ily, but as a love let­ter to the city of Hous­ton.

The sec­ond half is com­posed of po­ems with sub­jects re­lated to Her­mann Park, the Donut Hole, South Main, Bay­cliff, Har­mony Wed­ding Chapel, Bill Wil­liams’ Fried Chicken, and other rec­og­niz­able haunts for long­time Hous­to­ni­ans. “I Walking Home: Grow­ing Up His­panic in Hous­ton Sarah Cortez Texas Re­view Press, $10.95

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Satur­day

Var­i­ous au­thors, in­clud­ing Sarah Cortez, H. W. Brands, Paul Woodruff, Jan Reid,John Spong, Diana Un­ter­meyer, Ge­orge Bris­tol, Jac­que­line Kelly, Gil­bert Gar­cia, Peter LaSalle, Martha Bran­iff, John Kerr, Jenna McEach­ern and Ar­turo Madrid.

Byrne-Reed House, 1410 Rio Grande

Open to the pub­lic. Hu­man­i­ties Texas will of­fer the au­thors’ books for pur­chase at a dis­counted price. Pro­ceeds ben­e­fit Texas li­braries. Free park­ing at St. Martin’s Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church, north­west cor­ner of 15th and Rio Grande streets. love Hous­ton, “she says. “I wouldn’t live any other place in the world.”

De­spite its stained­glass theme, Cortez says, peo­ple of all faiths (and of no faith) ap­pre­ci­ate her work. Jews, ag­nos­tics, yoga prac­ti­tion­ers and more have emailed her with pos­i­tive feed­back.

“They all love the book. I think what they con­nect with is the book isn’t try­ing to preach — it’s sim­ply try­ing to sup­ply a nar­ra­tive and to com­mu­ni­cate the mean­ing of the nar­ra­tive from the writer’s point of view. This hap­pened, and this is what it meant to me. Lots of peo­ple con­nect to the joy and the beauty of be­lief.”

In “Walking Home,” Cortez of­fers a highly read­able ex­plo­ration of post-war Amer­ica as lived by a de­voutly Catholic His­panic fam­ily. In the process, she pro­vides a glimpse of some­thing more broadly hu­man: the at­tempt to live a mean­ing­ful life, or to make mean­ing from the life lived, in­clud­ing the parts not ac­tu­al­ized in the ways we might have hoped.

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