Start: 7:30 pm
Hector Tobar on Desert America in the Los Angeles Times A brilliantly illuminating portrait of the twenty-first-century West -- 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. In DESERT AMERICA, Emmy-winning journalist, Lannan Foundation fellowship recipient, and author of the famed Crossing Over, Rubén Martínez 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 takes us on a deeply personal tour of the drug addiction, race wars, and front lines of illegal immigration in the New 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. “Martínez is one of the brightest voices of a new generation of Hispanic Southern Californian writers. He manages to be both graceful and impassioned; his obsessions with multiculturalism, with the nature of identity and with popular culture are precisely the subjects with which intelligent people today must grapple.” —The Washington Post Rubén Martínez is an award-winning journalist, author and performer. Among the topics he examines in his courses are mixed-genre writing, post-colonial literatures and disapora, and the peculiar particulars of Los Angeles (his hometown) and the American West. His essays, opinions and reportage have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Salon, Village Voice, The Nation, Spin, Sojourners, and Mother Jones. He is the recipient of a Lannan Foundation Fellowship in Non Fiction, a Loeb Fellowship from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, a Freedom of Information Award from the ACLU, a Greater Press Club of Los Angeles Award of Excellence, and an Emmy Award for hosting PBS-affiliate KCET-TV’s Life & Times. As a musician, Martínez has been featured on albums by Concrete Blonde, Los Illegals, and the Roches, and he has been active in the spoken word and performance scenes for over twenty years. He is the author of Flesh Life: Sex in Mexico City, The New Americans, Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail, Eastside Stories, and The Other Side: Notes from the New L.A., Mexico City and Beyond. C-SPAN BOOK TV's joining us this evening,as is Litseen. You, too!