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Phoebe Fox, Austin from the Air, Santiago Tafolla

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

MEDIA: We knew that Austinite Tiffany Yates Martin was an expert editor of fiction. We suspected she wrote under the pen name “Phoebe Fox” with the same amusing acuity that she displays in daily conversation. We didn’t know, however, that Martin is a marketing maven and party planner. All this became evident when she launched Fox’s “The Breakup Doctor” at Langford Market in the Second Street District with superb snacks, quickie makeovers and a fashion show. Martin applies the term “chick lit” to this tale about a matchmaker-in-reverse. The crowd at Langford looked about right for that market. (I tell you, Martin knows her stuff.) Martin/Fox told me “Doctor” was the first in a three-book deal. Read it now. I smell a TV or movie deal.

HISTORY: Reading 1930s Austin from the air. From my story in the Statesman: “Crowdsourcing is a splendid thing. Combined with rigorous archival research and traditional interviews, the practice of soliciting ideas from a large group of people can produce crucial historical perspectives. Consider this: An aerial photograph of Austin from the 1930s was posted on social media two weeks ago. It was shared scores of times, and hundreds of readers responded to the query: “What things do you immediately notice?”The black-and-white image shows a compact city laid out on a basic grid. We are looking north. To the left is Shoal Creek, to the right a sliver of East Austin. The uppermost part of the frame shows an expanse of prairie farmland, the lower portion reveals the ragged southern bank of the Colorado River, pocked with quarries, lagoons and backwaters. The very first response, from John McElhenney, proved among the most salient: “Smaller.”” http://shar.es/P8Lzb

HISTORY 2: Tejano Santiago Tafolla chronicled racism in Confederate Army.From Julie Chang’s story in the Statesman: “Santiago Tafolla wrangled camels and horses like a cowboy. He prevented bloodshed between Hispanic and white Confederates in the Civil War. He was elected a justice of the peace, but quickly resigned after being wracked with guilt about his vices and became a circuit-riding minister instead. His memoir reads like an adventure novel, 120 handwritten pages that meticulously documents 19th century life from the Tejano perspective. Considered to be the only memoir by a Mexican-American foot soldier in the Civil War, it provides a rare look at racism in the ranks and other daily struggles.The original 1908 manuscript, written in pencil in Spanish, is now a part of Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections. “Even Santiago writing in 1908 felt that that we were being left out of history because the extent to which he includes details … names, it’s almost as if he knows history would question the authenticity of his account,” said his great-granddaughter Carmen Tafolla of San Antonio. “He wants to make sure that there was someone there to justify it.” http://shar.es/PDnsE