March Reads at A Traveler's Library

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Apr 12, 2010 / 0 comments

NOTE from Wandering Educators - this is the ONE year anniversary of Vera's Editorship on Wandering Educators! We thank her so very much for sharing so many excellent travel books with our readers.




Well, wandering educators, where are you wandering? Over at A Traveler’s Library we wandered in the month of March to some pretty exotic places — Sri Lanka, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and Iran. We also visited a part of Provence not always visited by tourists to France, and saw the seamier side of the Arizona border with Mexico. Among new books we scanned, a picture book of historic travel in the United States drew enormous interest.


The authors of three of those books appeared on panels at the Tucson Festival of Books in early in March.  I am so proud of my home town.  Last year saw the birth of the Festival, and it immediately earned a place in the top ten book festivals in the United States, in terms of # of authors, # of events, and # of visitors.  This year was even bigger and better.  March is a beautiful month to visit Tucson, so I urge you to consider the Tucson Festival of Books as part of your travel schedule next year.


I was fortunate to be able to moderate the panel with Adele Barker, author of Not Quite Paradise (2010) and Margaret Randall, photographer and poet of Their Backs to the Sea (2009).


Vera Badertscher, Adele Barker, and Margaret Randall

(From left to right, Margaret Randall, Me, Adele Barker)


Adele Barker, a professor of Russian and women’s literature at the University of Arizona, won an advanced Fulbright to go to Sri Lanka for a year. There she taught literature and studied the culture, with the view of writing a book.  When she returned home, and while working on the book, the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Sri Lanka, and she felt compelled to return and circle the island nation seeking to understand the reaction to the tsunami, a word with no equivalent in their language, and no conceptual understanding by the people who were devastated by its results. She also renewed her inquiry into the decades-long civil war, now that she could travel to the far north of the island, previously held by the Tamil Tigers.  The resulting book, Not Quite Paradise is well researched, but also poetic and personal.


Margaret Randall has traveled and lived in many forbidden lands. By contrast to her years in Cuba during the early days of the Revolution and Nicaragua during the Sandinista’s government, her trip to Easter Island in Their Backs to the Sea (2009) might seem rather banal.  But her writing and evocative photos are anything but banal. I was mesmerized by the way that she integrated factual material into her poetry, and segued from considerations of an ancient people to problems of today.  Besides personal memoirs and non-fiction works on women’s rights in various countries, Randall writes poetry.  After losing her citizenship because of her sympathy to causes at odds with the United States official policy, a long fight won back the full rights of a citizen and she now lives in Albuquerque where she grew up.  I have read an advance copy of a new book and look forward to writing about her book of poetry and essays about Albuquerque when it is published this fall.


I missed the presentation of my friend Margaret Regan at the Tucson Book Festival, but was able to see the whole thing because CNN filmed it.   She has reported on the Southwest Borderlands for over a decade in a local newspaper, and it is a delight to see her intelligent writing reach a wider audience with her book,  The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands (2010)   The death of illegal immigrants on the Arizona side of the border continues to be a difficult issue.  I interviewed Margaret about her newly released book, and many readers appreciated hearing from her.


Another new book, Inge Morath: Iran, presents the late photographer Inge Morath’s black and white images of Iran in the 1950’s. The very large book is crammed with lyrical photographs that present a world that in some ways has not changed and in other ways would seem foreign even to today’s Iranians, let alone to casual travelers to that country. Accompanying text by Monika Faber sheds light on the photographer’s technique and the assignments that led to these particular choices. An interview with author Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran) compares the Iran in these pictures with Nafisi’s memories of her childhood in the country.


The community of readers who engage in conversation at A Traveler’s Library bring me many new ideas. Among the recommendations that I have followed up, was the movie The Grocer’s Son, a trip to rural Provence in France. There I found an off-the-beaten-path countryside of great beauty, and I am so glad that I made the trip.  Other gems come my way when publishers send brand new books to be reviewed. That was the case with Inge Morath: Iran and also with Coast to Coast: Vintage Travel in North America, Publisher the Vendome Press (2008), originally published in French by Editions du Chéne (2008).  This book of historic road trips travels across the United States, region by region, and through Canada as well, with period photographs, graphics and advertising to illustrate the explosion of road trips in a continent bent on following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark. One of my favorite things about this book was finding little treats like miniature menus and reproductions of period postcards tipped in between pages.


The Grocer's Son

The Grocer's Son



So that covers the most popular posts at A Traveler’s Library in March. Have you found something to add to your own travel library? I hope you will visit and see the other places we went and books we read and movies we saw.  See you next month when we look back at April and prepare for a Great Big Travel Literature Giveaway to take place in May.

Vera Marie Badertscher, the Traveler's Library editor at Wandering Educators, is a freelance writer ( and blogs about books and movies that influence and inform travel at A Traveler's Library.