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Where the West Begins: Debating Texas Identity

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By Glen Sample Ely
Foreword by Alwyn Barr

Texas Tech University Press
Plains Histories Series

224 pages, 7 b/w photos, 11 maps, 6 X 9 cloth hardcover book
Author-signed copies: $34.95

Some historians insist that Texas, with its heritage of slavery, segregation, and historic dependence upon cotton, is southern. Another group argues that Texas is western, as evidenced by its cowboys, cattle drives, mountains, and desert. Still others brand it unique, having won its independence from Mexico during the Texas Revolution and existing as an independent republic for ten years prior to joining the Union. With its immense land area, diverse environment, cultures, colorful history, and larger-than-life legends, Texas does indeed seem “like a whole other country.” Throughout its existence, the Lone Star State has juggled a complicated assortment of identities. Its multiple characteristics often confuse observers and scholars—to the point that some ignore it altogether. Award-winning historian Glen Sample Ely seeks to set the record straight. Taking a fresh look at what exactly Texas is and what it is not, his groundbreaking work tackles these thorny questions by examining the tangled and fascinating strands that make up the DNA of Texas’s identity.

“Wide-ranging and sparkling with keen insight, Glen Ely’sWhere the West Begins should instantly take its place on the short list of indispensible works on Texan identity.” —Gregg Cantrell, co-editor of Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas

“With this book, Glen Ely establishes himself as ranking among the very best of a new generation of Texas historians.” —Robert Wooster, author of Frontier Crossroads: Fort Davis and the West

“One of the most original, clearly expressed, and compelling analyses of the differences between East Texas and Western Texas to appear in decades. His fresh account is backed by extensive research. A truly notable addition to the Plains Histories Series.” —Howard R. Lamar, author of The Far Southwest, 1846-1912: A Territorial History

 

Rupert N. Richardson Best Book Award, West Texas Historical Association

Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association

Finalist, Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Ely’s meticulously sourced book is a persuasive meditation on the importance of the term “West” both as a geographical boundary and cultural badge…This slender, potent book is easy to recommend. By defining West Texas so thoroughly and precisely, Ely has shown us features that are lost when the state is treated as unified environment and culture…His book should be read alongside Gregg Cantrell and Elizabeth Hayes Turner’s collection, Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History, which explored the shaping of public narratives associated with Texas…If you want to think more deeply about what Texas was, is now, and is likely to become, this is a book for you. The Journal of American Culture, Vol. 35., No. 4, December 2012

Impressive… “Where the West Begins” is an important book, one that is imminently capable of providing the spark that cultivates some meaningful and long-overdue dialogue [about Texas]. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Texas State Historical Association

Glen Sample Ely examines these questions [about Texas], skillfully navigating time periods and mythology, adding needed nuance to previous interpretations… He convincingly argues that West Texas has always been different from East Texas in terms of the environmental challenges found and the identities developed there… Ely’s work expertly illustrates the [Lone Star State’s] checkered and shifting cultural landscape. Western Historical Quarterly, Western History Association

Ely is a tenacious and tireless worker who leaves no historical stone unturned in his research. If anyone else doubts that, all they have to do is read his just-published first book, “Where the West Begins: Debating Texas Identity,”… a well-written and well-researched work, a book that a new generation of Texans should study as attentively as a previous generation hung on the words of historian Walter Prescott Webb’s seminal work, “The Great Plains.” Austin American-Statesman

Where the West Begins “has a number of strengths. First, the endnotes and bibliography are just as informative as the text. This reviewer highly suggests that readers also study the notes as a separate collection of engaging facts. Ely’s primary research is a good guide to meticulous and creative methods for local history students… Finally, some wonderful anecdotes throughout the text await anyone who likes a good story.” The Journal of Southern History, Southern Historical Association

Well argued, often thought provoking, fully documented. Journal of the West

“Where the West Begins” is at once a feat of original research and a thorough engagement with historical memory (public, popular, and academic). Fort Worth Weekly

With this book, Glen Ely establishes himself as ranking among the very best of a new generation of Texas historians. —Robert Wooster, author of The American Military Frontiers: The United States Army in the West, 1783-1900, and The Military and United States Indian Policy, 1865-1903

Wide-ranging and sparkling with keen insight, Glen Ely’s Where the West Begins should instantly take its place on the short list of indispensable works on Texan identity. —Gregg Cantrell, author of Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas, and co-editor of Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas

In the seemingly endless arguments about just where and what the American West is and has been, West Texas has too often been ignored. But no longer. Drawing on the land itself, on its snarled relations with the American South and with its deep Hispanic past, and on the experiences of its many peoples struggling to persist amid daunting challenges, Glen Sample Ely places this elusive country firmly in the West yet affirms it as an utterly distinctive part of its state and nation. —Elliott West, author of The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, and The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado

One of the most original, clearly expressed, and compelling analyses of the differences between East Texas and Western Texas to appear in decades. His fresh account is backed by extensive research. A truly notable addition to the Plains Histories Series. —Howard R. Lamar, Yale University Sterling Professor of History Emeritus

Listen to Jennifer Stayton’s interview with Glen Sample Ely about “Where the West Begins” on KUT-Austin NPR Morning Edition.Click here to listen.

Listen to Krys Boyd’s interview with Glen Sample Ely about “Where the West Begins” on her KERA-Dallas NPR book show Think.Click here to listen.

Listen to Texas Public Radio’s segment on “Where the West Begins” from their Texas Matters news program. Click here to listen.

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Weight 1.19 lbs

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