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Ronald finds meaning as a ‘Reader of the Purple Sage’

By John Trent

When she began her doctoral dissertation in 1969, Ann Ronald failed to find a single source that tackled the sense of place in fiction writing.

For the nearly 35 years since then, Ronald, a Nevada English professor, has found a distinctive and distinguished career in writing about the West. She is credited by many in fortifying the place of a new literary genre — environmental writing and ecocriticism — on college campuses throughout the country.

Since arriving at the university more than 30 years ago, Ronald has undertaken the study of the literature and landscape of the West. A passionate hiker, wilderness advocate, creative writer and literary critic, she has discovered that the region's vast open spaces hold subtle truth and beauty — and the content for a number of notable books, including Earthtones: A Nevada Album; The New West of Edward Abbey; and GhostWest: Reflections Past and Present.

In her latest work, Reader of the Purple Sage (University of Nevada Press, 2003), Ronald writes of her own literary journey: "My literary imagination follows a Truckee River kind of route — beginning in the mountains, meandering down canyon, pausing in the city, culminating in the Nevada desert. There's been some rough water along the way, some evaporation, but also some deep pools for fishing and some very fruitful diversions."

Reader of the Purple Sage is a treasure trove of insight into the West. Her critical essays cover a diverse set of writers, from Zane Gray to Edward Abbey to Wallace Stegner to Terry Tempest Williams. What makes Ronald's writing so special, though, is her ability to literally walk in the footsteps of these literary giants. Her own travels through the backcountry of the West provide much of the background for the essays, bringing a strong-limbed vitality and veracity to her work.

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Daugherty and Cockerill lay down the law

By John Trent

Navigating federal and state law governing the state's K-12 system can be a daunting process for Nevada educators. Richard Daugherty, associate professor of educational leadership in the College of Education, has the answers for K-12 educators in his book, Nevada Education Law. Co-authored with Charles P. Cockerill, a Carson City attorney, and now in its second edition, Nevada Education Law provides answers to the questions most frequently asked by those involved in Nevada education.

The book includes source citations to facilitate further research. Lengthier explanations are provided when introducing complex topics, particularly those that are misunderstood and have a history of litigation against school districts and their employees.

Daugherty, who has authored or co-authored the state's licensure examinations in school law and constitution, looks upon his book as a helpful tool.

"What we originally set out to do was to produce a book that was written in conversational language that would help demystify much of the law surrounding K-12 education in the state," he says. "Now that we're into the second edition, it's pretty obvious we've found our audience."

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Books in brief

Alice Running, Orvis School of Nursing associate professor, has a new book for health care professionals, Management Guidelines for Nurse Practitioners Working in Family Practice (F.A. Davis Company, 2003). Running collaborated with former Orvis assistant professor Amy Berndt-Booth, who is working for Reno Heart Physicians in Carson City. Thirteen contributing authors prepared chapters for the book.

Gary Hausladen, professor of geography, points out in his new anthology, Western Places, American Myths: How We Think About the West (University of Nevada Press, 2003) that popular perceptions of the West endure. Hausladen has collected 12 essays from leading scholars on topics that include ranching, gambling, cinema, the National Park System, and the roles of minorities in Western expansion.

• History professor Dick Davies' new book, A Place Called Home: Writings on the Midwestern Small Town (University of Nevada Press, 2003) contains the writings of more than 30 authors, telling the story of the rise of the Midwestern small town and its current state of inexorable atrophy.

— Pat McDonnell and John Wheeler

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