Where I’m Of

That’s right, I’m not from Texas. But I want Texas to want me anyway.

DURING THE LAST WEEK OF JUNE IN 2000, sometime between the announcement that I would take over as the editor of Texas Monthly and the day I actually stepped into the job, I received a “Yankee, Go Home” letter from Dick J. Reavis. Dick, some of you will recall, has been a longtime contributor to our pages—at various points a feature writer, a columnist, and a contributing editor—but since leaving the staff in 1989, he had been serving, self-appointed, as our purity tester. No one wears his Texanness on his sleeve as aggressively as Dick, who was raised in various small towns, including Waxahachie and Coleman, and subscribes to the theory that there are two kinds of people in the world: Texans (worthy of working for Texas Monthly) and everyone else (not). He makes no bones about his distrust of outsiders, and he distrusts no one more than New Yorkers, who, to his mind, are as unworthy as they come. When we hired one of our star writers, Pamela Colloff, in the mid-nineties, Dick complained loudly that she was from New York and insisted we fire her and hire a Texan; never mind that she had lived and worked in Texas for several years before coming aboard. I’m a native New Yorker too, so it was no surprise that the news of my being named editor was an affront to Dick, who immediately wrote to say that if I really cared about the magazine, I would pack my bags, board the first available train, and move back to Gomorrah.

I thought about Dick’s letter as we put together this month’s special “Where I’m From” issue, because it raises, for me and numerous other carpetbaggers from both coasts, modern-world kinds of questions: Can you call yourself a Texan if you weren’t born here? What if you’ve lived here for ten, twenty, thirty years? At

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