UT Press series to cover Texas history, culture

Leslie Zhang

UT faculty will author 16 books comprehensively covering Texas history, culture, politics and more as part of a project called the Texas Bookshelf, recently announced by UT Press.

No other publisher has tried to tackle a project of such scope centered around Texas, UT Press director Dave Hamrick said. Hamrick, who proposed the project, said his goal is to capture a portrait of Texas and the U.S. in the 21st century.

“We’ve asked writers to look outwards, to look at Texas in a national and international context,” Hamrick said.

To kick off the Texas Bookshelf project, Stephen Harrigan, an adjunct professor in the Michener Center for Writers, will publish a comprehensive book of Texas history that will be published in 2017.

Harrigan said he hopes to bring an element of his essay writing background at Texas Monthly to his book.

“I’m hoping it won’t read like a textbook,” Harrigan said. “I want to tell the story of Texas as a vast, unfolding narrative.”

Born in Oklahoma, Harrigan moved to Texas when he was 5 years old and has lived in Texas for 60 years. His interest in Texas can be attributed to Texas’ engaging history, Harrigan said.

“I think it’s possible to grow up in a place and not be curious about it,” Harrigan said. “[But] when you grow up in Texas, which has been the staging ground for important shifts, it’s impossible not to be entranced by it.”

Harrigan said Texas has a rich involvement in national history, from training astronauts for the first missions to the moon in Houston to the John F. Kennedy assassination in Dallas, and  it still influences national politics as evidenced by the recent prominence of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

“The history of Texas is more extravagant than the history of some other states,” Harrigan said. “It was a flash point in European colonization, a place fought over for hundreds of years and continues to define national identity and drives national discussion.”

Harrigan anticipates the book to be about 600 to 700 pages long, a length he said is meant to be accessible to the general public. He said he is currently in the research mode of the writing process, which began about half a year ago when Hamrick contacted Harrigan asking to participate in the project.

“I was very interested in taking it on, but [Hamrick] was envisioning something bigger: a collection of books covering almost every aspect of Texas history, politics and cultural makeup,” Harrigan said.

Robert Devens, assistant editor-in-chief of UT Press, said the books are meant for scholars and the general public alike.

“The idea was to produce a meaningful collaboration between the press and the University’s top scholars to produce books for academics and general readers,”
Devens said.