Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review: Author Donna Ingham's Tales from Texas

Donna Ingham is a woman of many hats. A retired college professor, Ingham has a Ph.D. in English, a few “Biggest Liar” awards and is a professional storyteller, folklorist and author. Her fascination with the stories and lore of Texas led her to researching and publishing collections of her stories in two titles, Tales with a Texas Twist: Original Stories and Enduring Folklore from the Lone Star State in 2005 and Mysteries and Legends of Texas: True Stories of the Unsolved and Unexplained in 2010. Ingham’s storytelling background provides a strong voice for the telling of these tales, and her informal conversational style is just right for the retelling of legends and tales; after all most of these stories started out as oral tradition, and Ingham honors that history with a master storyteller’s imagery and language.

You don’t need to be from Texas to be pulled into these stories. In Tales with a Texas Twist, Ingham includes some Greek myths that many high school and college students are familiar with and have probably struggled with. In Ingham’s versions, however, these god-filled myths come down-home. Cupid, for example, becomes a Mama’s boy, and Persephone is actually Cora Persephone, which is what her mama calls her when the girl is needed pronto. Using imagery and language that is right-now and understandable to today’s generation, Ingham brings life and immediacy to the old myths. Twist includes the familiar legend of the Texas Bluebonnet, Br’er Rabbit tales and an original telling of the haunting Mr. Fox, along with some eerie ghost tales and comic tall tales, and introduces a few heroes and heroines native to Texas but probably unknown to those from outside of the state. Civil War tales and even a story about a survivor of the deadly Battle of the Alamo provide a satisfying variety, all told in Ingham’s lively storytelling voice.

Mysteries and Legends digs deeper into Texas’ unique and fascinating history. Ingham made a conscious effort to include all areas of this big state. From the panhandle to the Rio Grande and all points east, west and central. Lost mines and lost pirate treasure, legendary animals and inexplicable creatures, ghosts, strange lights, and more fill the pages, along with a few illustrations. While some of the stories in Twist were known to me at least in some way, those in Mysteries and Legends were unfamiliar and completely riveting. Ingham’s depth of research is apparent in the extensive bibliography, and an index provides quick reference to names, places and events in the tales.

Regional collections often hold interest only for those native to or with an interest in the region, but Twist and Mysteries and Legends provide entertaining and educational reading for all audiences. Sometimes haunting or hilarious, at other times touching or suspenseful, both books provide a satisfying, engaging reading experience.

Ingham has published two other books about Texas, You Know You're in Texas When... and 1001 Greatest Things Ever Said About Texas.She is currently at work on a CD that will include some of the tales in Twist, and an upcoming book. 

A CD entitled Texas Family Album is available on her website. All of her publications are available on her website at  and at

 (Donna frequently appears at storytelling festivals and other events both in Texas and in other states. I've had the pleasure of hearing her telling some of her tall tales and guarantee that if you ever have the opportunity to hear her, it will be an experience you will remember. She's one good teller, and that is no lie. Look for her at such events as the Tejas Storytelling Festival and the GeorgeWest StoryFest, among others.) 


Mama-Bug said...

Sounds like some interesting reading Granny Sue. I'll have to check Donna's books out on Amazon after Christmas. Hubby always sticks a little mad money in my christmas stocking and spending it on a new book or two sounds like a plan!

Granny Sue said...

I like that--mad money in your stocking. I'm going to drop that bug in my hubby's ear :)

I think you'd enjoy these, Mama-bug. They're a fun read.

TheresaandJay said...

Sue, why do I feel like I have heard of her before? I think I will look into getting these. It would be fun to share the "facts' with the grandkids in TX. :)

Granny Sue said...

I think your Texas kids--all of them--will like these books, Theresa. Christopher will especially like the legends and Susan will be able to supply the native's knowledge to Donna's words.

I think her name might be familiar to you from Facebook? She comments sometimes on my posts. I've known Donna for a good while, ever since I started telling stories, really. Unfortunately, I only get to see her occasionally, at storytelling conferences and such.

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