Texas Institute Of Letters Diversifies Beyond Books With New Inductees

For the first time, musicians and filmmakers have been invited to become members.

By Joy DiazMay 1, 2018 12:01 pm,

A number of Texas authors received a lot of national attention this year, and so did books about Texas. That’s what the Texas Institute of Letters, or TIL, celebrates each year.

Clay Smith, editor-in-chief at Austin-based Kirkus Reviews, says the TIL has become a more diverse organization in recent years.

“In the past we might have thought of the TIL [as] sort of the ‘deep state’ of literary Texas,” Smith says. “Now they have really made some efforts to diversify.”

This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Sandra Cisneros, is best-known for notorious novels such as “The House on Mango Street”, “Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories”ß and “Caramelo”.

The award for Fiction went to “Sins of the Younger Sons”, by Jan Reid, while the award for Nonfiction went to “Texas Blood”, by Roger D. Hodge.

This is the first year the TIL has invited a musician and filmmakers to become members: Willie Nelson and Richard Linklater, respectively. Other new members include El Paso’s Daniel Chacón, Eagle Pass’ Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Mary Beth Rogers from Dallas.

Other non-literary inductees are filmmaker Severo Perez and Dallas Morning News journalist Alfredo Corchado.

Smith shared some of the books and authors that he believes the TIL may contemplate honoring next year.

“For fiction, I would bet that it might be ‘The Which Way Tree’, by Elizabeth Crook, which is a novel that just came out a few months ago set in the Civil War Hill Country, really great narrative there,” Smith says. “And for nonfiction, I would actually say Lawrence Wright’s book ‘God Save Texas [A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State]’.”

According to Smith, having an organization like TIL recognizing outstanding Texas writers and books about Texas is something relevant.

“TIL exists to sort of promote the idea that Texas is a unique place and that the literature about it is a unique literature too,” he says. “Most states don’t have something like TIL that recognize state literature.”

Written by César Edmundo López-Linares.