The UTSA professor’s book sheds light on Texas’ diverse communities

Garza, who was born in Galveston and grew up in Uvalde, said her family was lucky there was minimal damage to their homes. But she remembered looking at the live oak trees around the island and thinking they looked strong, only to realize the leaves had all died and the trees had drowned in the storm.

It was an image she couldn’t get out of her head.

“I start more with place as a writer,” Garza said. “I’ll just sit in a room and get absorbed in what we’re going to write, and as soon as I walk into the room I can think of characters and then situations and conflicts and it all flows out of that. And I had Galveston on my mind, so it just flowed out.”

What began as a short story — the title chapter of a planned collection — grew during Garza’s time in grad school. Even as time passed, she still had Galveston on her mind and the project grew The Last Karankawasher debut novel, published last August.

Kimberly Garza's short story grew into The Last Karankawas, her debut novel, which was published last August.

Kimberly Garza’s short story grew into The Last Karankawas, her debut novel, which was published last August.

Courtesy of Kimberly Garza

The story follows Carly Castillo, a native of Galveston whose grandmother claims her family descended from the Karankawas, an indigenous people of Texas. The family has no proof of this connection other than the stories they share, but Carly envisions a life off the island “not defined by her family history.”

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