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Baylor Alumni

Sweetheart Deal

A growing-up tale that’s also for grown-ups

The Sweetheart of Prosper County
By Jill S. Alexander
Feiwel and Friends
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-312-54856-8
212 pages, $16.99
feiwelandfriends.com

Austin Gray has an epiphany in a highly unlikely place—the middle of her town’s Christmas parade. “I was nobody’s sweetheart, and I didn’t have a signature wave,” she thinks. “I just stood on the curb with a greasy popcorn sack and a red face as the parade rolled by.”

So begins the story of a fifteen-year-old girl’s quest to ride on the hood of a shiny pickup in the next parade. “No matter what I have to do,” Austin tells her best friend, “I’m going to be a hood ornament in the Non-Jesus Christmas Parade.” 

A young-adult novel, The Sweetheart of Prosper County follows in the footsteps of well-loved stories like Fried Green Tomatoes and The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood in its humorous and touching depiction of small-town southern life. Author Jill Shurbet Alexander ’92 grew up in the small East Texas town of Winfield, where she encountered a wealth of characters while busing tables at the local truck stop. “I met colorful folks from all walks of life traveling to places I had only read about in encyclopedias,” she has said.

Perhaps that is why Alexander’s fictional characters seem like people you’ve always known. From FFA sweetheart Sundi Knutt to town bully Dean Ottmer, the characters that populate the fictional town of Big Wells are both larger than life and realistic. 

The book’s anchors are Austin and her mother, Jeannie, whose husband was killed when his car skidded off a bridge and into a lake. Even though it’s been six years since his death, Jeannie can’t seem to move on—and she can’t seem to let Austin grow up.

Sweetheart has been nominated for the American Library Association’s 2010 Best Books for Young Adults. And while it’s true that teenage girls will identify with Austin and her struggles to find out who she really is, people of all ages will enjoy tales of the smarmy mayor’s bid for re-election, Jeannie’s infatuation with Matthew McConaughey, and Austin’s prize rooster, named Charles Dickens.

“You should never be afraid to aspire to be like someone else,” Jeannie tells her daughter. “But you’ve got to be yourself first. Be your own icon.”

So does Austin make it into the Christmas parade? You’ll have to read for yourself!

*****

Prove Me Right
Zona Jones
Rocky Comfort Records
Nashville, Tennessee
rockycomfortrecords.com
   
When you’re named for a rodeo, your career path seems obvious from the beginning. Actually, Zona Jones was named for the Arizona rodeo that his father, a rodeo cowboy, skipped so he could be there for the birth of his son. The elder Jones surely forgave his son long ago, especially considering the success Zona enjoys in country music.

Jones’s music career almost didn’t happen—after graduating from Baylor in 1985, he went to law school, eventually moving back to his hometown of Beaumont to join a prestigious law firm.

The town close to Houston has a history of producing country music stars, including George Jones. Once he was back where his early music sensibilities were formed, Zona decided to give up law and pursue his childhood dream of a country music career.    

Jones quickly gained regional popularity by singing  on the Texas club and dance hall circuit. Through hard work—plus help from friends like Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Byrd—Jones drew the attention of country star Tracy Lawrence, who signed Jones to his label.  

Jones’s musical style can best be summed up in the title song on the CD: “I believe in leather saddles/Old Camaros and picking your battles . . . A little kid’s smile and worn out denim/The way Waylon used to tear up a country song.”

But while Jones certainly pays homage to Waylon Jennings, George Jones, and other greats, his style is also contemporary and is sure to find a place on today’s country radio stations.

*****

The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Harry Potter
By John Killinger
Mercer University Press
Macon, Georgia
mupress.org

John Killinger is certainly not the only person to remark upon the Christ imagery in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series—but he might have been the first. After the publication of the fourth novel in the seven-book series, Killinger ’53 wrote an exploration of the books’ Christian symbols. 

“I did hold my breath as I turned the pages of the final volume in Rowling’s series,” Killinger admits. “Few had joined me as part of a chorus proclaiming Harry’s similarity to Jesus. Maybe I was wrong and would have to slink away and say nothing.”

Killinger says he breathed a sigh of relief to find his theories confirmed in the last pages of the last book. In The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Harry Potter, he shows how Harry and his friends are like Jesus and his disciples, and he explores how both Jesus and Harry were called from birth “to engage in a fateful battle with evil and overcome it.”

Mostly, Killinger adds, he wanted to outline the way Rowling filled all seven books with clues about Harry’s Christ-like attributes so that readers could “have a fuller understanding of the sheer artistry of the woman who may well be the greatest storyteller of all time.”

*****

The Peasant Kings
By David W. Dellinger
Spoonbill Publishing
Elfers, Florida

David Dellinger didn’t need to look very far to find an interesting story to tell—his ancestors provided him with plenty of fodder for this novel. Subtitled “A Dellinger Legacy in the Carolina Wilderness,” it chronicles the true story of three brothers who travel from Germany to America in search of a better life.

A 1960 Baylor graduate, Dellinger retired after a twenty-two-year career with the CIA. He then spent three years in Germany, where he visited the village of Oberacker, his ancestral home.

Through seven years of research, Dellinger followed his family across the Atlantic, into Virginia, and down to the Carolinas. It’s a universal story, he writes, about the millions of people who fought for a better existence in the New World.
 
Also of Note

Joe T. Poe ’49, MA ’51, PhD ’75, has written Life at 80 as I Have Lived It, published by Editorial Mundo Hispano.

Pelican Publishing Co. has released Tejanos in the 1835 Texas Revolution, written by Lloyd MacDonald ’52, LLB ’57.

Martha Whiteman Rogers ’57 has written Becoming Lucy, the first book in a series, Winds Across the Prairie, published by Strang Communications.

The Baptist Spanish Publishing House has released Apocalipsis: Jesus, El Rey de Reyes, written by Preston Taylor, att. ’57-58.

Golden Keyes Parsons ’63 has written her second novel, A Prisoner of Versailles, published by Thomas Nelson Press.

The fourth edition of A Practical Guide to Texas Evidence: Objections, Responses, Rules and Practice Commentary, written by Ed Kinkeade, BA/JD ’74, and Gerald R. Powell ’74, JD ’77, has been published by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

Pat Smith ’75 has written two books under the pseudonym Bull Marquette: a novel, The Fifth Plane, and a collection of short stories, Got 8, If You Want ’Em, published by Brave New Genre, Inc.

Stephanie Dean ’05 has written Fit to Serve, which has been published by Hannibal Books.

If you’ve recently had a book published, a CD released, or a video produced, send a copy for consideration c/o “Under Review,” Baylor Line, One Bear Place #97116, Waco, TX 76798-7116.


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