Next week, HarperCollins is releasing State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey. Fifty writers tackling our 50 states: The inspirations for this collection were the legendary WPA American Guides of the ’30s and ’40s. (The WPA Dallas Guide and History is still in print; the 1949 WPA Texas Guide was reprinted in 1986 in paperback with a new introduction by Don Graham.)
Some of the author-state match-ups sound inspired: William T. Vollmann on California, the humorist John Hodgman on Massachusetts, Mississippi by Barry Hanna, Jhumpa Lahiri on Rhode Island, Edward P. Jones on Washington, D.C., S. E. Hinton (Tulsa-based author of The Outsiders) on Oklahoma. Some of them, on the other hand, are either very intriguing or perplexing: Ha Jin on Georgia, for instance.
So who’s writing about Texas, you ask?
Cristina Henriquez, the talented short-story author of Come Together, Fall Apart. Daughter of Panamanian parents, she studied at Northwestern University and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, lived in Dallas for a few years — but now lives in Chicago.
The book description states that these essays are not just “memoirs.” They include original journalism. So Henriquez can certainly report on Texas. She did live here for a while, and there’s certainly something to be said for a fresh eye. But it does make you marvel when you see that Austin author Dagoberto Gilb is writing about — Iowa.