Books

Bill Broyles' Picks

At the Border of Empires: The Tohono O'odham, Gender, and Assimilation, 1880-1934
This in-depth study of feuding missionaries and conniving Indian agents trying to educate and “civilize” Native Americans provides a gripping tale of paternalism, racism, and exploitation. That the peaceful Tohono O’odham survived and flourished is a tribute to them and their cultural strength. What sounds like dry reading actually provides a treat of insight, heroes, and enduring lessons of family, religion, culture, and politics. The authors share enough personal cases to breathe life into concepts like assimilation, rights, and gender discrimination, but they don’t overlook the ironies and difficulties imposed upon good people. Probably like the O’odham themselves did, we have to shake our heads at misguided bureau programs such as employing unmarried matrons to teach the virtue of marriage to mothers and fathers already married under tribal custom and raising healthy children.
At the Border of Empires: The Tohono O'odham, Gender, and Assimilation, 1880-1934
This in-depth study of feuding missionaries and conniving Indian agents trying to educate and “civilize” Native Americans provides a gripping tale of paternalism, racism, and exploitation. That the peaceful Tohono O’odham survived and flourished is a tribute to them and their cultural strength. What sounds like dry reading actually provides a treat of insight, heroes, and enduring lessons of family, religion, culture, and politics. The authors share enough personal cases to breathe life into concepts like assimilation, rights, and gender discrimination, but they don’t overlook the ironies and difficulties imposed upon good people. Probably like the O’odham themselves did, we have to shake our heads at misguided bureau programs such as employing unmarried matrons to teach the virtue of marriage to mothers and fathers already married under tribal custom and raising healthy children.
Citizens Warehouse: With Select Works from the Artists
Any day goes better with art. In Citizens Warehouse, named for the once-abandoned building in Tucson where they now have studios, we have a couple dozen accomplished artists adding zest to our day. Nick Georgiou shows us his fascinating newsprint sculptures, Hannah Nance Partlow displays her resolute posters and installations, Dirk Arnold adds authentic architectural miniatures, Troy Neiman presents his found-metal sculptures and ceramics, and Christina Cárdenas wakes us up with Latina-themed gouache on wood. This delightful sampler reminds us that original studio-made art belongs in our homes, businesses, and public spaces. Every page grabs our attention. A limited edition signed by all the artists is available.
Emerald Mile, The: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Though the Heart of the Grand Canyon
Take a raging river in full flood, a crumbling dam, three scofflaw river runners trying to set a speed record through the Grand Canyon, and you have the makings of one of the best Colorado River books ever. This spellbinding true story leaps from the inner workings of Glen Canyon Dam and the psyches of river guides to boat-eating whirlpools and a wooden river dory named The Emerald Mile. Kevin Fedarko’s prodigious research and breathtaking narrative transcend the Southwest. It’s a roaring adventure with wave after wave of spills and thrills. Let’s hope Fedarko owns the movie rights.
Informal and Underground Economy of the South Texas Border, The
If you have even a casual acquaintance with the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, you’ve seen the sidewalk vendors, the backyard mechanic shops, the maids and nannies at the bus stop, and the shady character who sports gold jewelry but has no apparent job. They are part of a surprisingly robust but largely unseen economy that bends or ignores laws on both sides of the line. In an exceptionally lucid and informative book, Chad Richardson and Michael Pisani put faces and numbers on this multi-billion-dollar informal and underground labor force. Although Richardson and Pisani focus on South Texas, you’ll see your own border communities in a whole new light. The undocumented maids and janitors working in the U.S. average $4.92 an hour and field workers and ranch hands $3.85, while the hourly average for persons working in underground, largely criminal activities on one side of the line is $74.41 but for those willing to cross the line the average is $121.70 per hour. The authors of this splendid study give us a clear-eyed economic and sociological look at how poor people survive, how complex regulations are navigated by street savvy workers, and how this hidden economy actually buoys the region and complements the visible workforce. There are surprises at every turn. A book as fascinating as it is timely!
Miera y Pacheco: A Renaissance Spaniard in Eighteenth-Century New Mexico
Venerable Southwest scholar John Kessell brings to life one of New Mexico’s first map makers, Bernardo Miera y Pacheco, who lived in El Paso and then Santa Fe until his death in 1785. Miera was a farmer and businessman who eventually became a local official and advisor to the governor. He is best remembered for drawing state maps as early as 1749 and later accompanying and mapping the 1776 Dominguez-Escalante Expedition and Anza’s campaign in 1779. He traveled widely among the Native American nations within and bordering New Mexico. He also made religious artwork, and his family life reveals much about the lifestyles and politics of early Santa Fe and El Paso. Kessell brings him to life, and shares illustrations of Miera’s fascinating maps and art.
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 2nd Edition: Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life and Landscape
Brad Lancaster’s enthusiasm for harvesting rainwater to use around your home is contagious. This greatly revised edition -- over 100 pages of new information, 120 new illustrations, updated case studies, new features like a harvest calendar and new charts -- will replace your dog-eared copy of its predecessor, and will expand your vision for new and better ways to make your home or business more habitable while using less precious tap water. This is a do-it-yourself book on catching and storing rooftop, household, and curbside runoff to grow shade trees and gardens. Lancaster’s message has already inspired many to join the spirited conservation of water in the arid Southwest. The book is now available in Spanish and Arabic.
Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art
If for one moment you have been intrigued by the lizards and snakes of our Southwest, then you’ll be fascinated by Harry Greene’s book on the joys of being a field biologist. With affable humor and abiding curiosity, he takes us on collecting trips, wisely explains the latest theories, and asks how we can not only co-exist with wild animals but appreciate them as neighbors. Part memoir, part classroom, part adventure, Tracks and Shadows takes us from detailed looks at the habits of reptiles to enticing discussions of predator and prey, nature and loss, science and discovery. Billed as an “eccentric meditation on natural history,” this is a rousing and satisfying tribute to wild things.
Utah's Canyon Country Place Names (2 vols)
From Abajo Mountains to Zion and Zwahlen Wash, follow Steve Allen through 4,000 place names of Utah’s canyon country, including Zion, Bryce, Arches, Glen Canyon, Escalante, Canyonlands, and some in Arizona. He has explored many of these places on foot or by car. This beautiful 2-volume set is an armchair explorer’s delight and fascinating invitation to find those secret places named by Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, cowboys, and prospectors. It isn’t much of a plot but it is a whale of a read. Pick a page, any page, and enjoy the fruit of Allen’s 40-year labor. You’ll find new reasons to visit – and love – canyon country.

About Bill Broyles

Broyles is a research associate at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, and he is already looking forward to next year’s crop of books!

Pima County Website