An Unperson in Texas: Michael Lind on How He and His Books Were Banned from Laura Bush's Book Festival in His Home State
Lind, Michael, New Statesman (1996)
I am about as Texan as anybody could be. A fifth-generation native of Austin, the state capital, I lived there for my first 21 years. I return frequently, own a small ranch about an hour west of town, and will inherit part of another one. Larry "J R" Hagman, star of the 1980s TV soap opera Dallas, is a relative of mine.
Moreover, my book Made in Texas: George W Bush and the Southern takeover of American politics (Basic Books) was a bestseller in the US and has been translated into several foreign languages. I have written for the New Statesman and Prospect and hundreds of people paid "cash money" (as we say in Texas) to hear me discuss it at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival last summer.
So you would have thought I was a natural this year for the annual Texas Book Festival--particularly since the organisers sought me out when I published a narrative poem about the Texas revolution, The Alamo (1997), and a book in which I defended the goals (though not the methods) of America's tragic effort in Indo-China, Vietnam (1999). But no. Made in Texas has been excluded from the Texas Book Festival. I won't be present with the other authors at the ceremonies in Austin next month.
Why? Perhaps it's a clue that the Lone Star State's major literary festival was founded by Laura Bush in the 1990s, when her husband was governor of Texas. Laura's mother-in-law, the mother of the incumbent president, is featured at her book festival, while I, the author of the critique of George W Bush that has gained the most attention worldwide, have not been invited. Is there a pattern here?
I've asked the organisers of the festival to explain. They have refused to respond. They have also excluded my other 2003 publication, Bluebonnet Girl, a children's book in verse about a Texas Indian legend, illustrated by the renowned children's artist Kate Kiesler.
Last year, even though I had published no book, the organisers overcame my initial resistance and persuaded me to take part in two panels discussing the subjects of my earlier works. Laura Bush herself came to listen to me read from The Alamo in 1997. Yet now that I have published a book about how the pathologies of Texan conservatism have shaped the Bush presidency, they seem to have lost my number.
Instead, those who attend the festival, from Texas and around the world, will be treated to such literary powerhouses as the former first lady Barbara Bush, Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, author of Cowboy Princess: life with my parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and Terry Conlan, author of Fresh: healthy cooking and living from Lake Austin Spa Resort.
True, the liberal columnists Molly Ivins and Lou DuBose, who have published several witty and well-informed anti-Bush polemics, have been included. …