Texas Is 'Big, Hot, Cheap and Right'

Erica Grieder's ode to the Lone Star State

Texas Is 'Big, Hot, Cheap and Right'

"One of the fundamental truths about Texas is that, although the state is genuinely sui generis, and self-consciously different from the other states, it is, in many ways, the most American of all." – Erica Grieder, Big, Hot, Cheap and Right

Sure, our prisons are full, our schools are mocked, and what small parts of the population that aren't tragically below national standards are filthy with wealth earned in the oil and gas industry that has irreparably damaged some of our cities and much of our water … but we're Texas, goddamnit.

And, visceral state pride aside, our population is booming, our job market is flush, and incomes are rising, so we must actually be doing something right.

So goes the argument in the introduction to Erica Grieder's Big, Hot, Cheap and Right, which hit shelves last week. Indeed, the Texas Monthly editor continues, there's much the rest of our fair nation could learn by paying some attention to Texas' example, no matter how peculiar that may sound.

What follows that preface is not a straightforward bullet list or a how-to guide to becoming a functional state, but rather a sprawling investigation of Texas history, statistics and economics, and (because we're in the South, after all) anecdotes, all interlaced to make Grieder's case that Texas may well prove to be a leading light in coming years. It's an easy and accessible read – the author even pokes fun at her own potential weakness as a "product of Texas public schools" – if a bit meandering. But (as anyone who's traversed the state knows well) it's a lot of ground to cover: the Alamo to Chicken Ranch; Sam Houston and LBJ to JFK, Ann Richards, and Michael Corcoran; gay marriage and the ultrasound-before-abortion law to population density, death row, and the State Board of Education.

Indeed, Grieder takes on so much in this book that maybe its subtitle – "What America Can Learn From the Strange Genius of Texas" – should be expanded to include Texans as well. There's something for everyone, and we're sure you haven't heard it all … especially if you were also educated in Texas public schools.

Or, better yet, hear it from the author herself: Erica Grieder reads and signs at BookPeople tomorrow, Thursday, May 2, 7pm. Visit the BookPeople website for complete event details.

For an interview with Grieder, see The New York Times.

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BookPeople, Erica Grieder, Big, Hot, Cheap and Right, Texas, Texas history, Sam Houston, Michael Corcoran, Ann Richards, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, poverty, economy, religion, gay marriage, ultrasound bill, politics, Texas Book Festival 2013

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