The Last Karankawas: A Novel (Paperback)
August 2022 Indie Next List
“Galveston shimmers under the gifted writing of Kimberly Garza. Highly recommended for the richness of her characters — their community, hopes, dreams, and longings. I enjoyed the many voices necessary to create the book’s tapestry.”
— Nancy Scheemaker, Northshire Saratoga, Saratoga Springs, NY
"Vivid . . . Garza's accomplished debut enriches the public imagination of this corner of America, and the communities within." —Melissa Chadburn, The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
A blazing and kaleidoscopic debut about a tight-knit community of Mexican and Filipino American families on the Texas coast from a voice you won't soon forget.
Welcome to Galveston, Texas. Population 50,241.
A popular tourist destination and major shipping port, Galveston attracts millions of visitors each year. Yet of those who come to drink by the beach, few stray from the boulevards to Fish Village, the neighborhood home to individuals who for generations have powered the island.
Carly Castillo has only ever known Fish Village. Her grandmother claims that they descend from the Karankawas, an indigenous Texas people once believed to be extinct, thereby tethering them to Galveston. But as Carly ages, she begins to imagine a life elsewhere, undefined by her family’s history. Meanwhile, her boyfriend and all-star shortstop turned seaman, Jess, treasures the salty, familiar air. He’s gotten chances to leave Galveston for bigger cities with more possibilities. But he didn’t take them then, and he sure as hell won’t now. When word spreads of a storm gathering strength offshore, building into Hurricane Ike, each Galveston resident must make a difficult decision: board up the windows and hunker down or flee inland and abandon their hard-won homes.
Moving through these characters’ lives and those of the extraordinary individuals who circle them, Kimberly Garza's The Last Karankawas weaves together a multitude of voices to present a lyrical, emotionally charged portrait of everyday survival. The result is an unforgettable exploration of familial inheritance, human resilience, and the histories we assign to ourselves, reminding us that the deepest bonds are forged not by blood, but by fire.
About the Author
Kimberly Garza is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas, where she earned a PhD in 2019. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, Creative Nonfiction, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. A native Texan—born in Galveston, raised in Uvalde—she is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The Last Karankawas is her first novel.
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
An Indie Next Pick
Named a Most Anticipated and Must-Read Book by BuzzFeed, Book Riot, and Ms. Magazine
One of Washington Independent Review of Books' Favorite Books of 2022
“A vivid account of Fish Village . . . The novel skillfully weaves together multiple points of view . . . pulling us into this time and place with a rich description of its particulars . . . Garza’s accomplished debut enriches the public imagination of this corner of America, and the communities within.”
—Melissa Chadburn, The New York Times Book Review
"Garza manages to expertly capture a range of voices in this stunning and elegiac polyphonic novel . . . Expect great things from this debut writer."
—The Los Angeles Times
“An ode to Galveston, Texas and especially its enmeshed Latino and Filipino communities . . . Heartfelt . . . Every city would be lucky for such a tribute.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“A beautifully written, emotionally compelling debut novel . . . This exquisite book marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a long and prodigious writing career by the extraordinary Kimberly Garza.”
—Brad Thor, TODAY
"Written in lyrical, nearly hypnotic prose that makes the reader feel the Texan humidity, this is a brilliantly plotted, startling, and richly rewarding exploration of the myths that bind people together, generational traumas, and the remarkable adaptability of humans."
"Stunning . . . Garza gracefully moves through the lives of various characters as they contend with family history and the meaning of home."
“Garza highlights the diverse origins and worldview behind the brown faces of Texas’s south coast . . . Evocative, sometimes heartbreaking, and full of rich descriptions, The Last Karankawas is a love letter to the Galveston most tourists never see and a tribute to the people who sustain, and are sustained by, their adopted homeland.”
"Garza debuts with an accomplished account of the ties between members of a Filipino and Mexican community . . . This is a worthy love letter to Galveston.”
"An immersive experience of a particularly complex community which is both beautiful and dangerous . . . The Last Karankawas reflects and speaks to our present destabilized moment with storm-level intensity."
—The Washington Independent Review of Books
"The Last Karankawas is exactly the kind of book I’ve spent my life searching for as a Chicana of mixed and Filipino heritage. Kimberly Garza’s eloquent and deeply observant debut expands our understanding of South Texas and vibrantly honors the remarkable people who live there. This is a writer to watch."
—Kali Fajardo-Anstine, author of Woman of Light and Sabrina & Corina
"Beautiful, complex, and subversive, The Last Karankawas is an important book about Texas from a powerful new voice in American fiction. I loved it. These characters and their stories will stay with me."
—Elizabeth Wetmore, New York Times bestselling author of Valentine
“Devastating in its own clarity and nuance. The Last Karankawas has the power to change the way we see where we’ve been and what we may have left behind. A stunning debut from a talented writer.”
—Oscar Cásares, author of Where We Come From
“The Last Karankawas is a deft and moving portrait of ordinary lives lived in an extraordinary place. Kimberly Garza’s writing is warm, beautifully observed, and filled with human drama. Like all really good fiction, it opens our eyes to new experiences and shows us things we don’t already know.”
—Ian McGuire, bestselling author of The North Water
“With prose that is elegant and measured, sonorous and at times painfully beautiful, Kimberly Garza lays bare a Southern Texas that has somehow remained unsung until now. The Last Karankawas is not merely a book. . . It is a collection of incantations—secret and sacred, meant to be shared in a hush.”
—Miroslav Penkov, author of East of the West and Stork Mountain