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.
In DESERT AMERICA: Boom and Bust in the New Old West (Metropolitan Books; on sale August 7, 2012), Rubén Martínez – Emmy-winning journalist, Lannan Foundation fellowship recipient, author of the famed Crossing Over and un gran amigode LatinoLA.com – evokes a new world of extremes: outrageous wealth and devastating poverty, sublime beauty and ecological ruin. Martínez shows how the new West will drive America's future, both demographically and economically.
Far different from our romantic illusions of John Wayne, cacti and cowboys, DESERT AMERICA is a deeply personal tour of the drug addiction, race wars, and front lines of illegal immigration in the West. Martínez re-creates an enthralling panorama of characters, settings, and stories that explore the unique cultural intersections between native and new inhabitants of the area.
In northern New Mexico, an epidemic of chronic drug use 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 Mexican and El Salvadorian heritage as well as his love for this most contested region.
"A savage journey into terror, cacti, drugs, desperation and all-around anomie in the superheated atmosphere of the desert Southwest.… A necessary chronicle of a weird corner of America." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Martínez 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… This thoughtful and well-written account intimately explores the convolutions of racism and class conflict that have come to define a divided America." --Publishers Weekly
"Martínez's journalistic background shines as he weaves together stories about the people and the landscape of the American Southwest." --Library Journal
"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 can't let go."
--William deBuys, author of A Great Aridness
"Rubén Martínez comes at his topics through side doors. He surprises. The result here is a disturbing and moving book. Searing, erudite, evocative, gritty, and funny are not adjectives I often apply to a single book, but there are few writers as singular as Martínez."
--Richard White, author of Railroaded