I read a book this week about a girl moving to Texas from New York, but it was utterly forgettable, so I’m going to introduce you to the New Yorker- transplants-to-Texas book that remains the gold standard. I think I read Never Love a Cowboy in middle school, but I buy every copy I come across in used book stores and pass them out to friends. The author went on to write two more Sweet Dreams books, but then apparently went out of the book writing business. I like to think it’s because she finally visited Texas and died of shame.
Bear in mind that this book is set in Austin. In the 1980’s. Austin has always been a different part of Texas, less Western stereotypical than any other city, but our author likes to imagine a slightly different Austin. Bitsy moves from New York (really Brooklyn, but I’m thinking Ms. DuKore perhaps has never visited there, either, since she seems to imply that it’s downtown Manhattan) to Austin, Texas. She’s walking to school on her first day, down the street that leads directly to the University of Texas campus, and she hears a boy on a horse behind her on the street. A boy on a horse in the middle of the street near the U.T. campus, now. His name is Billy Joe Bridges (of course it is) and he’s dating teen queen Betty Lou Bender (of course he is). He knows that Bitsy is from New York and transferring to their school, as does everyone else at the high school. The hundreds of students are all waiting impatiently to catch a glimpse of the girl from the city.
They get their chance to see her up close and personal during lunch where they serve grits and black-eyed peas and collard greens, leading to the immortal line “Bitsy munched on a collard green and pondered her next move.” Yes, and then after school they ride the horse to the nearby drive-thru where they eat chiliburgers and tacoburgers. I’m going to just stop italicizing for emphasis, because it would be a stream of italics from here to the local tacoburger stand. There’s a rodeo, and all the music available is country-western, and Bitsy (who sang with a “punk-rock” band in New York, adding to the concepts our author has only heard about third-hand), sings a song, leading the bar owner (a Mr. Gonzales, so it’s totally not racist) to worry that the other patrons would riot at the idea of a cute girl “like Bitsy singing about her Latino boyfriend.” The song was called (wait for it), “Where’s My Tex-Mex Sweetheart?”
This may be the best book ever written about Texas. My dad collects Texana, and I’ve tried to get him to add it to his collection several times, but he just doesn’t recognize genius. I always wanted to invite the author to Austin when I lived there, meet her at the airport with a horse and watch her try and cross I 35 in search of a drive-thru grits stand. I’m down to one copy, but keep your eyes peeled for this one in the used book stores – it’s worth every penny.