James D. Houston honored as Laxalt Distinguished Writer

10/9/2008 - By: Zanny Marsh

The Reynolds School of Journalism will recognize author James D. Houston as the 2009 Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer. Houston will talk about his craft at the Joe Crowley Student Union, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

"It is uncommon for authors to be equally comfortable writing both fiction and nonfiction," said Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Reynolds School. "The selection of Mr. Houston as the Laxalt honoree is a fitting tribute. Both men followed a similar path in their distinguished careers."

As did Robert Laxalt, Houston has published works of fiction and nonfiction including eight novels. 

Houston, an acclaimed Western author, arguably is best known for his classic, "Farewell to Manzanar," now in its 67th printing. Few titles in publishing have enjoyed such success. 

In the book, Houston and wife and co-author, Jeanne Watasuki Houston, describe the true story her family's experience at an American internment camp during World War II. 

Houston's most recent book, "Bird of Another Heaven," was published in 2007. He also wrote, "Snow Mountain Passage," a compelling story of the Donner Party saga as told fictionally by leader James Frazier Reed and Reed's daughter Patty. In the story, Patty - now 80-years-old - recalls the tragedy she lived through as a child. 

In a strange but true twist of life imitating art, Houston lives in the Santa Cruz Victorian home in which Donner survivor Patty Reed spent the final years of her life. 

Houston's works of western literature include "Continental Drift," which launched the University of California's Fiction Series, and "Native Son of the Golden West" and "In the Ring of Fire: a Pacific Basin Journey."

"The Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer program was established following the 2001 death of Laxalt to encourage new generations of writers," said Warren Lerude, a long-time friend of Laxalt and journalism professor. 

Laxalt, considered by many to be Nevada's finest writer, founded the University of Nevada Press; wrote l7 books, two of which were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Laxalt wrote under contract for National Geographic Magazine; and, for l8 years, was a professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

"James D. Houston is an extraordinary writer whose talent is matched only by his deeply generous spirit in sharing his craft with others," said Christopher Coake, assistant professor of English. 

Coake was named one of the top 21 "Best of Young American Novelists" by the British magazine of new writing, Granta. The honor came only months after Lire, a French literary magazine, proclaimed Coake's book, "We're in Trouble," one of the top 20 best books of 2006. 

The Reynolds School of Journalism is Nevada's only accredited journalism school.


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