What to hear, read, and watch this month to achieve maximum Texas cultural literacy.
Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle (PBS, April 29)
The Mexican-born, El Paso–raised Salazar made an extraordinary journey from humble beginnings to a coveted foreign correspondent gig at the Los Angeles Times. This hour-long documentary tells the story of his early years and his work in Vietnam and Mexico City but focuses on his second-act awakening as a Chicano activist and his death, at the age of 42, at the hands of the police.
America’s Fiscal Constitution, Bill White (Public Affairs, April 1)
The former Houston mayor, a “fiscally conservative politician with progressive principles,” makes the case that the tenets he followed in his city—balancing public obligations and tax revenues—would work for the nation as a whole. And he’s not shy about pointing a finger at a certain Texas governor–turned–president who chose a different path.
Ruby, Cynthia Bond (Hogarth/Random House, April 29)
Bond left her native East Texas long ago (she lives in Los Angeles today, after stops in Illinois and New York), but her lyrical first novel—about Ruby, a black woman who, like the author herself, leaves home for the big city and, in Ruby’s case, returns years later to grapple with her violent childhood—is steeped in the folkways of the communities in which Bond was raised.
Joe (Worldview Entertainment, April 11)
Last year’s comedy-drama Prince Avalanche marked a striking return to writer-director David Gordon Green’s indie roots. His latest, a Texas-shot and -set thriller, carries on in the same small-scale vein but ramps up the star wattage with Nicolas Cage as an ex-con who ends up an unlikely father figure. Green cast a number of roles with nonprofessionals whom he discovered on the streets of Austin.
Tarpaper Sky, Rodney Crowell (New West, April 15)
The Houston-born country artist’s late-career resurgence—including an acclaimed memoir and collaborations with Mary Karr and Emmylou Harris—continues with his latest album, recorded with the core of the same band that backed him on his 1988 breakthrough, Diamonds & Dirt, and marked by a distinct autumnal tone, signaled by titles like “The Long Journey Home.”
Most Messed Up, Old 97’s (ATO, April 29)
Twenty years after their debut, Rhett Miller and company are officially feeling the “old” part of their name, recording a song titled “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” and looking back at years of good and bad decisions—including a prodigious intake of, as one song puts it, “oceans and oceans” of alcohol, not to mention jumping “off of risers I should not have climbed.”