Books

Bruce Dinges' Picks

19th Wife, The
In this engrossing novel, Ebershoff interweaves the fictionalized autobiography of Eliza Ann Young, the real-life apostate nineteenth wife of Mormon prophet Brigham Young, and a modern-day murder mystery involving a polygamous sect in southern Utah. Ebershoff is an accomplished storyteller who has done his research and who has thought long and hard about the Mormon experience and the effects of plural marriage on husbands, wives, and children. Ultimately, he explores a question that lays at the heart of all religious experience - how and why do people cling to faith even when their religion has failed them. This is both an entertaining read and a sensitive, deeply nuanced portrait of Mormonism's evolution and the legacy of its most controversial doctrine.
Arab/American: Landscape, Culture, and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts
In nine elegantly rendered essays, Nabhan ruminates on the ties - historical, personal, cultural, and environmental - that extend from his ancestral homeland in the Middle East to his adoptive home in the Sonoran Desert. And these connections are more concrete and meaningful than you might imagine. In a time of bitter conflict between the Arab and Western worlds, Nabhan makes a convincing argument for peace and environmental sanity based on shared kinship and landscape.
Beautiful Children
In this auspicious debut novel, Bock paints a vivid and harrowing portrait of life in the shadows of the Las Vegas Strip. A missing teenager opens the door to an underground world in which the lines between victims and prey blur as a cast of runaways, hustlers, and desperate survivors intersect in often suprising, but always revealing, ways. Bock's ear for street dialogue is spot-on, while his insightful rendering of life in the modern West offers cause for both hope and despair.
Bruce Aiken's Grand Canyon: An Intimate Affair
This sumptuous coffee-table book provides stunning visual testimony to Aiken's artistic talent that finds expression in bold landscape portraits reflecting the artist's emotional attachment to his subject matter and his sensitivity to light, shadow, and detail. Just as Thomas Moran's epic canvases captured the Grand Canyon's breathtaking vistas for 20th-century viewers, Aiken's intimate paintings brilliantly convey 21st-century sensibilities. This irresistable volume belongs in the library of every Grand Canyon devotee and southwestern art lover.
God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre
Several years ago, journalist Richard Grant had one of those truly insane ideas that seem to periodically afflict the British - against all rational warnings to the contrary, he set out alone to travel the entire 900-mile length of the Sierra Madre from just south of the U.S.-Mexico border to the Durango coast. Amazingly, he survived to write this harrowing, and utterly spellbinding, account of his adventures and near-death experiences with bandits, drug traffickers, corrupt cops, bootleggers, Mormons, peasant farmers, Tarahumara Indians, and virtually every variety of misfit and social outcast known to God and man. Grant's indelible portrait of the rugged and lawless Mexican backcountry occupies a singular place in the pantheon of great modern-day travel writing.
If I Die in Juarez
The unsolved murders and mutilations of young women in Juarez, Mexico, form the backdrop for Duarte's novel of three teenage girls who stake their lives and hopes on work in the streets and maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexico boundary. Even as the plot veers into melodrama, Duarte writes with passionate authority about the culture of machismo and the economic desperation that foster horrendous violence against women, and the political climate on both sides of the border that allows it to continue.
Legacies of Camelot: Stewart and Lee Udall, American Culture, and the Arts
Finch, an aide to Interior Secretary Stewart Udall during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, has written an elegant insider's portrait of a small-town Arizona couple and their transformative impact on art and culture in national life. Drawing on exhaustive research in the Udall papers at the University of Arizona and his own vivid recollections, Finch paints memorable portraits of John and Jackie Kennedy, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and other figures drawn into the Udalls' intimate Washington circle. He also traces the trajectory of Stewart Udall's evolving views on history and on the environment, and highlights Lee Udall's underappreciated role in preserving and promoting Native American folk art. This important and compulsively readable book explains how the Udalls drew on their southwestern backgrounds to shape the core of what we now nostalgically refer to as "Camelot." Scholars and general audiences alike will find it a pleasurable and rewarding read.
Wings in the Desert: a Folk Ornithology of the Northern Pimans
"Piman imagination seems to have soared on the wings of birds, more so than with any other group of living things," ornithologist and ethnobiologist Rea writes in this fascinating book. For the past four decades, Rea has been a patient observer and keen listener, absorbing and assimilating what his Pima acquaintances have told him about the role of birds in their lives and culture. The result is a bird book like no other, describing species through Piman eyes while also explaining birds' place in the Piman world view and their various uses in ceremonial, religious, and everyday life. Because Rea allows his consultants to speak for themselves, this encyclopedic volume, intellectually rigorous and beautifully illustrated with line drawings, possesses an engaging informality that magically draws readers into the O'odham world. It is a gold mine of information for scholars and a joy for lay readers.

About Bruce Dinges

Bruce Dinges is director of publications for the Arizona Historical Society.

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