Not one, but two authors, will share readings from their books this Friday at Back of Beyond Books.
Erica Olsen is the author of “Recapture and Other Stories”. Jana Richman is the author of “The Ordinary Truth”.
Olsen’s short story collection explores the canyons, gulches and colorful landscapes of the West. In the stories from “Recapture”, a curator preserves silences in glass jars, a woman works in a larger-than-life-size replica of the Grand Canyon and a bookmobile trundles through the deserts of Southeastern Utah.
“Recapture” in the story title is a place name in San Juan County, south of Moab. According to the “WPA Guide to Utah”, Recapture Canyon was named by Peter Shirts, a hermit who settled in San Juan County in 1877. Shirts believed that Montezuma escaped form his Spanish captors and was recaptured in this canyon.
“So it is a place that is historically inaccurate,” Olsen said. “That’s perfect for the story, which builds on the premise that an Ancestral Puebloan ruin was moved from Recapture Canyon to Southern California around 1900.”
Olsen said the word “recapture” evokes major themes of the collection: memory and our relationship to the past.
“There’s something impossible and yearning in the sound of the word, as well as a kind of covetousness and desire,” Olsen said. “It captures the themes of the collection in a single word. If it didn’t exist as a place name, I would’ve had to invent it.”
Olsen lives in the Four Corners area, where she does archives and curation work for archeology museums.
Her interest in archeological preservation began while hiking in Southeastern Utah, and recognizing the desire for discovery yet the need for preservation.
“This is the same dilemma that archivists and museum curators face: how to balance the need for both preservation and the access to fragile, unique items,” she said.
She spent time at Edge of the Cedars museum in Blanding.
“I lived in a little trailer across the street from the museum, and I had the best view in town – west toward the Bears Ears, incredible sunsets, the Abajos to the north,” she said.
Richman is a sixth generation Utahn, and was raised in Utah’s west desert.
Her book, “The Ordinary Truth”, reflects on water issues found in the intermountain west. The story explores the problems associated with a proposed pipeline that would pump water form the desert valleys of Eastern Nevada and Western Utah to Las Vegas. The plan would devastate the community lifestyle of ranching.
Richman said she is drawn to the darker, everyday stories of life that people don’t often talk about.
“We all hear about the joys of motherhood, but we never hear from those mothers who never embrace the role even after the child is born,” Richman said. “Yet those mothers are out there, often struggling and often pretending to love motherhood.”
An event form her mother’s life found its way into the book.
“She lost her father to an accident when she was thirteen, and I believe that single event changed the trajectory of her life in a drastic way and contributed to a pervasive state of sadness that she carried her entire life,” Richman said.