Welcome to Mike Orenduff

December 4, 2011

Mystery We Write Blog Tour

Mike, thank you for visiting my blog today and sharing your thoughtful comments on Reader Wishes

Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico. He came by his love of pueblo pottery during weekends, buying small pots from the pueblos his family visited and – in one case – acquiring one when his sister traded chocolate chip cookies for it.     His love of pottery expanded to a general interest in archaeology which he studied as an undergraduate.

Author Mike Orenduff

While in graduate school at the University of New Mexico, Mike worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. He went on to serve as President of New Mexico State University and as a visiting faculty member at West Point and President of Bermuda College. After retiring from higher education, he rekindled his love of the Southwest by writing his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery.  Among his many awards are the New Mexico Book of the Year, the “Lefty” national award for best humorous mystery and two “Eppies” for the best eBook mysteries.

His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, was described by The Baltimore Sun as, “funny at a very high intellectual level and deliciously delightful,” and his latest, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier, was called “the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas” by The El Paso Times.

On Reader wishesI hope I leave ‘em laughing. I hope their initial reaction is that they enjoyed the book and look forward to reading another one in the series.

But in their later reflective moments, I hope they think about the central underlying philosophical tenet; namely, that culture and ethnicity are not connected. My wife, who Madeline Gornell knows, is of Chinese ancestry.  When people learn she is an art historian, they almost invariably ask, “Is your specialty Asian Art?” In fact, her specialty is modern art. She recently published a book called The Transformation of French Catholic Religious Art in the Twentieth Century. She is not French and she is not Catholic. She is who she is, and her interests were chosen by her, not forced upon her by genetics.

Here’s a second example. The new book by Scott Simon called Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, tells the story of Simon and his wife adopting two infant girls from China . In an interview, one caller asked him if he felt guilty taking the girls away from their culture.  He gave his answer in an affable tone. He said, “They were orphans.”

But there is a better answer he could have given. And that is, he didn’t take them away from their culture because the girls had no culture. Infants don’t have a culture. They have to learn it, and any infant can learn any culture.

I loved Scott Simon’s book, in part because — like his daughters — I began life in an orphanage. If I had been adopted by a Chinese couple and taken to Beijing, I would have grown up as Chinese, spoken their language, and adopted all the trappings of their culture. I would have looked weird in comparison to the other kids, but my culture would have been totally Chinese.

I didn’t have a culture as an infant in an orphanage. Neither did Scott Simon’s daughters. We are not born with a culture. We learn it from those we grow up around. Everything about me other than my physical make-up comes from the couple who adopted me. My beliefs, attitudes, likes, dislikes, accent  — in short, everything about my personality and psyche — was molded by the way they raised me, by where they raised me, and the experiences being their son exposed me to.

People sometimes ask me if I don’t want to find out about my parents. I say what’s to find out? I spent the first eighteen years of my like living with them.

“No,” they say, “your real parents.”

To which I reply, “Those are my real parents.”

“Your biological parents,” they clarify.

I have in common with my biological parents the same thing I have in common with all of mankind — the human genome. Everything else about me comes from the wonderful couple who raised me. This is the most fundamental truth about humans — we are all brothers and sisters and our ethnicity should be no more a factor in our lives than whether our belly button sticks out or in.

And yet people fight and die every day because of ethnic clashes. Will we ever learn?

Mike’s website is at: http://www.orenduff.org/ — and his Blog is at http://thief.blogspot.com/


The Pot Thief Who Studied PythagorasThe Pot Thief Who Studied PtolemyThe Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier are published by Oak Tress Press and are available as paperbacks in many Barnes & Nobles, Hastings, and Independent bookstores and as ebooks on Kindle and Nook readers.

“Hubert Shuze, pot thief extraordinaire, operates an ancient pottery resale shop, not entirely legally, in the middle of Albuquerque’s town square. His activities, both in the selling and creating of ancient pots and their knock-offs, tend to get him mixed up in an assortment of marginally ethical activities, murder generally being the most profound. Shuze operates by a complex set of ethics that allows him to sell questionably legal pots, burglarize, and launder money — but never to lie, cheat or steal. Along the way, Shuze, a perpetual student of life, educates us on his philosopher du jour. His previous novels featured the philosophies of Pythagoras, Ptolemy and Einstein.

  “The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier” is a quirky repast of piñon-infused chimeneas, New Mexican sunsets, and a delightful band of foodie misfits.  It is best enjoyed in the fading glow of a Southwestern sunset, a fire crackling beside you, a faithful dog at your feet.” The El Paso Times

To Purchase, click on Book Cover

The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier

Thank you, Mike!

If you leave a comment, your name will go into the drawing for a free copy of Reticence of Ravens (three copies in total, randomly selected by Buster!)


17 Responses to “Welcome to Mike Orenduff”

  1. Kitty Kladstrup said

    Hello Mike–one of your Pot Thief books was a gift to me and so I had the pleasure of reading it before I knew anything about you. I really enjoyed the read!!–and am looking forward to the next one, but I must say running into you here has been good. Your thought provoking comments regarding culture and ethnicity were appreciated and added perspective to an important topic. Enjoyed every word

  2. Wow, Mike, this blog really hit home. My husband and I adopted our children, who are Mexican. We are a mixed family, so it is pretty obvious they’re adopted. I have to say that when someone refers to their “real” parents it bothers me. We are their “real” parents. We are raising them, wiping their tears, and cheering them on. Of course, I am always polite. I just say, “Oh, you mean their birth parents.”

  3. Very interesting post, Mike. I love learning about everybody’s backgrounds on this tour.

  4. W.S. Gager said

    Your last line says it all. Why does it have to be a fight?
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  5. Thanks, John. Your granddaughters add to the ongoing story. I think people with adoptees in the family realize how much more strongly strongly nurture plays into personality than does nature.

  6. Thanks, Jackie. The hat is to prevent the flash from reflecting off my bald head.

  7. Marilyn,

    The example of your niece is perfect. Not only is it hard for you to remember she’s adopted, I’ll wager she forgets it, too. I know I did. People would say, “You look like your father,” and I’d say thanks, then remember only later that if I did, it was coincidence.

  8. Rusty,

    Your friend who adopted two Mexican children who could not figure out how to eat a taco without spilling all the contents made me wish I had made that up for one of my books. Loved it.

  9. Jean,

    Adopting a child infant who is legally blind and has learning disabilities will no doubt put another star in your crown, especially because of the happy ending.

  10. Mike, I’d never thought of ethnicity and culture as you presented it here, but I will from now on. Thanks for that.

  11. A very thought-provoking post, Mike. My husband and I adopted a four-day old infant who is legally blind and has leraning disibilities because his biological mother was addicted to drugs. His growing up years were difficult but he’s now married, and he’s shown no signs of drug or alcohol addiction. We’e very proud of the man he’s become.

  12. Mike’s choice of subjects to write about sets my mind tingling with anticipation. And I do enjoy his comebacks to ethnicity and culture. My friend adopted two Mexican children who could not figure out how to eat a taco without spilling all the contents…too funny.

    I think I see a new book under my Christmas tree.

  13. As always, Mike, an excellent, thought-provoking post. It meant a great deal to me because I have three American granddaughters who were born in China. They have as much in common with their U.S. born siblings as they do with each other.

  14. Excellent post, Mike. And BTW, that’s a very cool hat you’re wearing in your pic.

  15. What a thoughtful post, Mike. My sis adopted a baby girl who is now an adult with a teen son and nearly teen daughter. She is the greatest niece I could ever ask for. She did want to locate her birth mom and did with my sis’s help and it made her even more grateful that she was adopted. She has so many of our family traits it’s hard to remember she’s adopted.

  16. mmgornell said

    Good morning, Mike, and welcome to my part of the Mojave this morning. It’s a pleasure having you, and I’m sure tour visitors are going to enjoy your insightful (as always!) comments.

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