Belief connects the events in a life
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.