Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New “New West”

Rubén Martínez. Metropolitan, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7977-7
In this first-person report, Emmy-winning Mexican-American poet and journalist Martínez (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), Martínez 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 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, if only by eloquently writing the names and lives he finds there back into the landscape. Agent: Susan Bergholz, Susan Bergholz Literary Services (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 08/07/2012
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