James D. Houston


Snow Mountain Passage
Bird of Another Heaven


James D. Houston was the author of seven novels, including Continental Drift, Love Life, The Last Paradise—honored with a 1999 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation—Snow Mountain Passage, and A Bird of Another Heaven. His nonfiction works include Californians and Farewell to Manzanar, which he coauthored with his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, he received the Humanities Prize, an NEA writing grant, and a Rockefeller Foundation residency.

Praise for Snow Mountain Passage

Haunting and immediate, Houston’s novel reveals its protagonists in all their vulnerability and moral ambiguity.
— Publishers Weekly
A remarkably successful re-creation of the Donner Party’s ordeal.... A moving, persuasive, imaginative account.
— Los Angeles Times
In a class by itself. The novel takes one of the most ghoulish, garish parts of our national myth and transforms it into a dignified, powerful narrative of our shared American destiny.
— The Washington Post
Powerful.... The novel’s clear and beautiful prose brings the realities of the journey alive.
— The Denver Post
Houston evokes a keen and majestic sense of the land and conveys an insightful portrait of selected members of the Donner Party as he recounts their ill-fated journey from Springfield, IL, to California during the winter of 1846-1847.... This well-told and riveting historical novel is based upon a heavily documented episode in American history that has generated considerable conjecture and analysis and is rich in material for student discussion.
— School Library Journal
Houston doesn’t try to cram us with history; he opens doors to it and invites us in. The result is an eloquent tribute to human endurance.
— San Jose Mercury News
A clear-eyed view of humanity’s heart of darkness.
— The Atlantic Monthly
This is one of the essential stories of the American westward movement, and seldom has it been told with such exemplary passion and pathos. Houston has made another significant contribution to the genre’s revival.
— Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
Houston’s lush descriptions and careful re-creation of the early West make this novel a moving testament to the strength and tragic flaws of Jim Reed, and, in turn, the American character.
— Booklist
[Houston] is able to take on the territory of legend and make it his own.
— San Francisco Chronicle

Praise for Bird from Another Heaven

[Houston’s] historical detail is mesmerizing.
— Publishers Weekly
This carefully developed novel, which pulls readers inexorably into its rich recesses, rests on a theme not uncommon in contemporary fiction: the rather primal urge to know our personal heritage, to understand our forebears as individuals.... [Houston] uses a technique currently popular in historical fiction: alternating his narrative between a past and present period of time, which serves a twofold purpose—not only ushering readers into a vivid visitation to the past but also drawing meaningful parallels between historical and present-day events, to gain for his readers an appreciation of the past’s influence on choices individuals make these days.
— Booklist (Starred Review)
Fascinating.... Houston has given us the story of a lifetime.
— The Washington Post
Poignant.... [Houston’s subjects] have never been written about with more insight.
— The Oregonian
[Bird of Another Heaven], filled with real historical figures, richly reconceives the demise of the Hawaiian monarchy.
— Entertainment Weekly
Sweeping…. a panoramic saga that spans two centuries.
— Sacramento Bee