Synopses & Reviews
A brilliantly illuminating portrait of the twenty-first-century West—a book as vast, diverse, and unexpected as the land and the people, from one of our foremost chroniclers of migration
The economic boom—and the devastation left in its wake—has been writ nowhere as large as on the West, the most iconic of American landscapes. Over the last decade the West has undergone a political and demographic upheaval comparable only to the opening of the frontier. Now, in Desert America, a work of powerful reportage and memoir, Rubén Martínez, acclaimed author of Crossing Over, evokes a new world of extremes: outrageous wealth and devastating poverty, sublime beauty and ecological ruin.
In northern New Mexico, an epidemic of drug addiction flourishes in the shadow of some of the country's richest zip codes; in Joshua Tree, California, gentrification displaces people and history. In Marfa, Texas, an exclusive enclave triggers a race war near the banks of the Rio Grande. And on the Tohono O'odham reservation, Native Americans hunt down Mexican migrants crossing the most desolate stretch of the border.
With each desert story, Martínez explores his own encounter with the West and his love for this most contested region. In the process, he reveals that the great frontier is now a harbinger of the vast disparities that are redefining the very idea of America.
"In this first-person report, Emmy-winning Mexican-American poet and journalist MartÃnez (Crossing Over) sojourns in the more remote regions of the Southwest, beyond the advertisements and zip codes of booming New Mexico, and finds the front line of a battle over the American past and future. From a base north of Albuquerque along the Rio Grande, in a house he rents in Velarde with his wife, Angela (a scholar studying heroin addiction in this heavily drug-addicted place), MartÃnez does his best to immerse himself in a largely Latino community that is extremely aware of outsiders, weighing the stark realities of his neighbors' lives while musing on disparities and dislocations reaching back hundreds of years. Attentive to an ongoing history usurpation as well as an entrenched poverty that remains 'largely invisible, lost in the immensity of both the land and the western mind that imagines it' this thoughtful and well-written account intimately explores the convolutions of racism and class conflict that have come to define a divided America. The peripatetic narrative can feel digressive at times, but MartÃnez offers reportage beyond the simple binaries of the immigration issue or the drug war. He delivers a lively, compassionate intervention into our collective conception of the Southwest, if only by eloquently writing the names and lives he finds there back into the landscape. Agent: Susan Bergholz, Susan Bergholz Literary Services" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Desert America is an uninsulated wire running through the hard-bitten, right-now, rough-edged Southwest, a land still being born. Go ahead and grab hold: first comes shock—maybe of recognition, maybe alarm—then you keep buzzing for page after electric page. You cant let go.”—William deBuys, author of A Great Aridness and River of Traps
The economic boom—and the devastation left in its wake—was writ nowhere as large as on the American West. Over the past decade, the most iconic of American landscapes has undergone a political and demographic upheaval comparable only to the opening of the frontier. In Desert America, a work of powerful reportage and memoir, acclaimed author Rubén Martínez explores a world of extremes: drug addiction flourishing in the shadow of some of America's richest zip codes, an exclusive Texas enclave that coexists with bloodshed on the banks of the Rio Grande, and Native Americans hunting down Mexican migrants crossing the most desolate stretch of the border.
Desert America details Martinez's own love for this most contested region and reveals that the great frontier is now in the forefront of the vast disparities that are redefining the very idea of America.
About the Author
Rubén Martínez, an Emmy-winning journalist and poet, is the author of Crossing Over and The New Americans. He lives in Los Angeles, where he holds the Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing at Loyola Marymount University.