Texas Blood: Seven Generations Among the Outlaws, Ranchers, Indians, Missionaries, Soldiers, and Smugglers of the Borderlands

If many urban easterners perceive Texas as "a terrifying land of racism and violence and retrograde politics," native Roger Hodge seeks to put them straight in his meandering history and family genealogy, Texas Blood. Former editor of Harper's and the Oxford American, Hodge (The Mendacity of Hope) grew up in the small border town of Del Rio in the 1980s, shearing sheep, shooting guns and drinking with everyone else. But as a fifth-generation Texan, he wanted to understand better how his family migrated to the harsh paisajes of "rolling hills, steep draws, damp drainages, and narrow defiles." 

Setting off into the vastly diverse Texas landscape, Hodge hooks up with distant cousins, ranchers, Border Patrol agents and Mexican immigrants to get a feet-on-the-ground feel for his family history and birth state. Along the way he recounts front-porch anecdotal whoppers and heavily researched library side-trips into the works of early explorers like Cabeza de Vaca and James "Don Santiago" Kirker, and especially into the fiction of Cormac McCarthy. He traverses the many Texas "countries": hill, river, ranch and oil, as well as Comanche country. With a local guide, he digs into the mythology of peyote, polytheism and pictographs. At some length Hodge also investigates the current gigantic border security apparatus. Combining photos, maps and solid journalism with personal drama, Texas Blood has it all. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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