Southwest Books of the Year
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Clicking on a book cover will search for the book in the catalog. If it is not part of our collection, you may request it by clicking on the Can't Find It link. An icon indicates if the book is chosen by a panelist as one of the year's best.
- Bargaining for Eden: the Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America
- By Stephen Trimble. University of California Press. 319 pp. Index. $29.95.
- Award-winning author and photographer Stephen Trimble addresses the paradox of how development in the West is gradually destroying the very things that brought people to those locales in the first place.
- Ben F. Williams Jr.'s More Tales of my Southwest
- By Ben F. Williams, Jr. Smokin Z Press. 230 pp. $20.00.
- Ben avers that these tales, mostly vignettes rather than beginning-to-ending stories, are all true–to the best of his recollection. Be that as it may, they are interesting little bits of personal life in the Southwest. From watching a horse die from eating too many mesquite beans to having a conversation with a bob cat (U of A fans stand up and shout Wildcat) enjoying its breakfast in the backyard of his Tucson foothills home, Williams has a good eye for the telling event. Easy reading for a cool spot in the summer heat, or a warm spot in the winter cool.
- Big River, Rio Grande
- By David Baxter, Laurence Parent. University of Texas Press. 111 pp. $39.95.
- Master photographer Laurence Parent portrays the full length of the Rio Grande with its many moods and glorious scenery from Colorado to the gulf.
- Big Sycamore Stands Alone: The Western Apaches, Aravaipa, and the Struggle for Place
- By Ian W. Record. University of Oklahoma Press. 383 pp. $31.96.
- In this provocative study, Record uses the 1871 massacre of peaceful Western Apaches on Aravaipa Creek by Anglo, Hispanic, and Tohono O'odham vigilantes as a lens through which to view Apache culture and lifeways and as a way of unraveling the complex political, social, and economic threads that erupted in frontier violence. Exhaustively researched in manuscript sources and Apache oral tradition, Record's richly textured examination of history and memory offers a compelling argument for the importance of place in defining how a people see themeselves and provides an overdue forum for native voices. [ ]
- The past few years have seen the publishing of exceptional works by historians revisiting the Camp Grant massacre, in which a large group of vigilantes from Tucson attacked a peaceful village of Indians while they slept and killed 144, almost all of them women and children. This is a story of the dark side of how the West was won. In this case, the winners turned out to be some of Tucson’s most prominent people, people whose names appear today on streets, schools, neighborhoods and geographic features. This book, extensively researched in cooperation with descendants of the dead, looks at the importance of place to a people and the profound effects of displacement. Readers who would like to explore this subject further might also find these books interesting:
* Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History, by Karl Jacoby;
* War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War, by Brian DeLay [ ]
- Blockading the Border and Human Rights : the El Paso Operation that Remade Immigration Enforcement
- By Timothy J. Dunn. University of Texas Press. 297 pp. Index. $50.00.
- This thorough academic study provides in-depth analysis of the ways, and the reasons, U.S.-Mexico border policy has changed over the past decade-and-a-half. As Dunn sees it, decisions made by the El Paso sector Border Patrol were pivotal in a change from “apprehension and return” to deterrence. Initially very successful this change in approach presaged a dramatic swing in BP policy. He notes, however, that subsequent events have shown the difficulties in such an approach. He concludes with recommendations that, while certainly more humane, probably stand little chance of widespread adoption.
- Blue Tattoo, The: The Life of Olive Oatman
- By Margot Mifflin. University of Nebraska Press. 280 pp. Index. $24.95.
- The 1851 Oatman tragedy continues to fascinate. Close on the heels of Brian McKinty's superb "The Oatman Massacre" (a 2005 SWBOY pick), Mifflin writes a haunting tale of captivity and a life lived in two worlds, as she painstaking separates fact from fiction in the sad story of Olive Oatman, the teenage girl held captive and returned to white society, where she became the reluctant central figure in an ongoing morality play projecting the lurid fears of Victorian America. Solid research in manuscript and ethnographic sources, coupled with a graceful writing style and a firm grasp of Olive Oatman's world(s), makes this a compelling and worthwhile read. [ ]
- No doubt about it, Olive Oatman's story is a good read. Here is Indian captivity, murder and adventure, Indians and the army, a long lost brother and sister reunited, a splinter sect of Mormon converts, the Methodists, an array of interesting cultures and innocent children. Hundreds of ;publications over time have distorted and magnified the story for its prurient interest. Mifflin gets it all in but lessens the drama by putting Olive's story in a cultural and historical perspective. The reader is left to reflect about Olive's complete acceptance of Mohave society since she expected never to return to her while world. Yet she did, and we become sympathetic to her situation and imagine the dilemma she faces in transition. [ ]
- Border Ambush
- By Melody Groves. La Frontera Publishing. 256 pp. $19.95.
- In this western novel, set in 1860 southern New Mexico, a stagecoach guard goes after the brutal bandits that held up his stage.
- Border Bandits: Hollywood on the Southern Frontier
- By Camilla Fojas. University of Texas Press. 235 pp. Index. $55.00.
- Anyone with a serious interest in Westerns [the movies, that is] will enjoy Fojas evaluation of the genre. Although it is “academic” in presentation (i.e., footnotes, bibliography, etc.) it is readable and candid in style. Fojas has plenty of opinions, and she shares them freely! The title and subtitle can both be faulted as misleading; the geographical coverage here is broader than the border and as much if not more the southwestern frontier rather than just the southern frontier, the latter being generally restricted to Texas/Mexico. [ ]
- This thorough and provocative social commentary about Hollywood movies depicting the Southwest borderlands presents an alternative view as seen from Mexico and Hispanics. Fojas focuses on the Alamo, frontier, border crossers, drug wars, split cities, and myths by using a number of familiar films such as El Norte, Star Maps, Bread and Roses, Extreme Prejudice, Traffic, Vera Cruz, Borderline, and The Wild Bunch, among others. As with any film interpretation you may agree or disagree, but you’d better bring your A-game if you intend to debate Fojas. [ ]
- Border Crossing
- By Jessica Lee Anderson. Milkweed Editions. 174 pp. $8.00.
- Growing up in a small Texas town, teenager Isaiah "Manz" Martinez's struggle to cope with an alcoholic mother, an abused friend, and little opportunity for change is further complicated by his own descent into paranoid schizophrenia.
- Border Renaissance: The Texas Centennial and the Emergence of Mexican American Literature
- By John Moran Gonzalez. University of Texas Press. 259 pp. Index. $50.00.
- The Texas Centennial of 1936 marked a turning point when Mexican Americans began to reclaim their rightful role in Texas history and identity in Texas culture.
- By Nevada Barr. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 399 pp. $25.95.
- During a rafting trip through Big Bend National Park, off-duty ranger Anna Pigeon encounters a near-lifeless pregnant woman floating in the Rio Grande. An emergency caesarian and a hail of gunfire set in motion the plot involving a mayor with her eyes on the governorship, the mayor's philandering husband, a world-weary body guard, and an iconoclastic park ranger. Veteran Barr delivers another page-turner in this popular series set in our national parks. [ ]
- Nevada Barr returns to her literary roots in west Texas for a high adrenalin thriller in Big Bend National Park, one of the Southwest’s largest and most remote national parks. This time, her park ranger protagonist, Anna Pigeon, is on R&R, recovering from a deadly encounter in her last assignment. Looking forward to sun and fun on a river rafting trip through the canyon of the Rio Grande River, Anna and her companions encounter both rising flood waters and a deadly predator that quickly change everyone’s priority to survival. As ever, Barr makes good use of the opportunity to give her readers some striking glimpses of nature in the wild and the best and worst of human nature. This is Nevada Barr in top form with a very engaging page-turner. She knows the Southwest well and her depictions of national parks here are better in many ways than tour guides. In fact, we have enjoyed reading her novels most in connection with visiting the national parks of her stories.
Readers who enjoy Nevada Barr might also like to try Susan Cummins Miller, Jon Talton and David Sundstrand, three other recent Southwest Books of the Year award winners. [ ]
- Borderline Americans
- By Katherine Benton-Cohen. Harvard University Press. 384 pp. Index. $29.95.
- In this thoughtful and thought-provoking study, Benton-Cohen examines Cochise County history through the prism of shifting definitions of race and nationality. Viewed in this light, longstanding conflicts between town and country, agriculture and mining acquire deeper shades of meaning as prologue and aftermath of the county’s defining event—the 1917 Bisbee Deportation. Scholars will applaud Benton-Cohen’s thorough research and challenging analysis, while general readers will welcome her graceful prose and her eye for compelling characters and stories. [ ]
- Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
- By Christopher McDougall. Knopf. 304 pp. $24.95.
- A journalist and former war correspondent, Christopher McDougall seeks out the greatest runners and running events in the world, as well as top trainers, doctors and physical therapists, to get answers to two simple questions: how is it that some people are able to run so well - and why can’t I?. His search draws him to extreme competitions from the depths of Death Valley in midsummer to the lofty peaks of Leadville, Colorado, and culminates in the wilds of northern Mexico’s Sierra Madre among the Tarahumara. This fast-paced adventure story reads like a mystery novel, but delivers remarkable insights from the frontiers of sports and science. As with all good literature, however, it is really about people, passions and life. What emerges is a surprisingly heartwarming and joyous look at the nature of humanity and what wonders we share.
- Building to Endure: Design Lessons of Arid Lands
- By Paul Lusk, Alf Simon. University of New Mexico Press. 296 pp. Index. $45.00.
- Whether they are named Tucson, Albuquerque, Brisbane, Shibam, or Chaco, desert cities have much in common: shortages of water for drinking and farming, intense heat, limited local resources, and a surplus of people wishing to live there. In twelve chapters the subjects range from what makes -- or should make -- a viable desert city, to distributing water, to comfortable dwellings that use less utilities, and the experience of one designed desert community, Civano at Tucson. One of the best chapters is Kim Sorvig’s practical suggestions for creating low-water landscapes. Lest we think this book is solely a scholarly exercise, the first chapter, by David Stuart, reminds us that the Southwest’s mighty and apparently invincible Great House civilizations of a thousand years ago rose grandly, and then toppled face-first into their own dust. This book delivers much to think about. Are we building to endure? [ ]
- Two experts examine the history of human habitation in the Southwest and propose strategies to create more sustainable communities.
- Bury Me Deep
- By Megan Abbott. Simon & Schuster. 240 pp. $15.00.
- A re-conceptualizing of the Winnie Ruth Judd case; different names, similar yet dramatically changed scenario. You remember Judd from Phoenix journalist Jana Bommersbach’s The Trunk Murderess. In an afterword the author admits her fascination with Judd’s case over the years, and here creates an alternative but very realistic world. One in which both the characters and the Roaring Twenties come to life. [ ]