By Hannah White
I grew up spending summers in the Piney Woods of deep East Texas with my late father’s family. Texas was his home before he moved up north and started a family of his own. My sister and I spent hot days jumping over creeks and looking for little green lizards in the backyard of my father’s childhood home while cicadas sang around us, and at night my grandmother would read us stories.
I’ve always loved books, and I’ve always loved Texas–my second home–but it wasn’t until graduate school that I became interested in the literary history of the south. Georgia gave us Flannery O’Connor. Mississippi, William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. And Texas has produced some of the greatest literary giants in American history. From Cormac Mcarthy to Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Texas continues to be central to the lives and works of many contemporary authors. For those interested in visiting Texas, the following is a list of 5 Texas destinations for the literary traveler.
O. Henry Museum
The O. Henry Museum is the former Texas residence of famous short story writer William Sydney Porter, author of many classics including “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Last Leaf”. Porter wrote his earliest stories while living in Austin, and this museum is dedicated to preserving and interpreting artifacts related to Porter to educate the public and for literary and historical purposes.
Though the museum is temporarily closed for renovations at the moment, their facebook page is dedicated to providing the public with updates and is full of educational videos and other materials for those interested in learning more about the Texas years of Porter’s life.
McAllen Public Library
The McAllen Public Library was renovated out of a vacant Walmart store, and is now perhaps the largest single floor public library in the nation. This library is home to many literary events including the South Texas Book Festival, and the space itself includes a cafe, book store, playground, educational walking trails, and plenty of comfortable areas and rooms to sit and read or study.
Texas Book Festival
The Texas Book Festival, an annual gathering of literary events that features 300 authors of the year’s best books and draws over 50,000 book lovers to Austin each year, is a celebration of literature, ideas, and imagination. The Texas Book Festival showcases the works of Texas authors, but has grown into one of the most prestigious book festivals in the country and hosts authors from around the world.
The festival has hosted many notable authors, including one of my favorites–Margaret Atwood, and takes place each fall. The COVID19 situation is currently being monitored, but according to their updates, the festival will go on this fall in a hybrid format, with authors appearing both virtually and in-person.
National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas holds collaborations with award-winning children’s book illustrators and creates exhibitions of their work to promote literacy and encourage children to read and be creative.
Exhibitions appeal to viewers of all ages, and the museum is currently open for in-person tours Tuesday through Saturday, but they also offer virtual tours.
Midland Centennial Library
Last on this list of 5 Texas destinations for the literary traveler is Midland Centennial Library. The library hosts educational exhibits throughout the year, and this year, from October 2nd to December 30th, the traveling exhibit, Making Scents will be on loan to the library for visitors to enjoy:
“Discover the plants and flowers behind some of the world’s most iconic perfumes, follow your nose around the globe to uncover the people (and plants) behind the industry’s most notable scents and fragrances, learn about fragrances and create your very own scent!”
The library also holds a variety of seasonal events, including a Fall festival and a holiday open house.