Desert America

Desert America.  It’s hot, in more ways than one.  Rubén Martínez takes us there.

Children riding bikes at the desert mobile home park called "Duroville" in Thermal, Calif. After a decade of legal wrangling, the encampment known as Duroville was scheduled to close Sunday June 30, 2013, by court order. (AP)

Children riding bikes at the desert mobile home park called “Duroville” in Thermal, Calif. After a decade of legal wrangling, the encampment known as Duroville was scheduled to close Sunday June 30, 2013, by court order. (AP)

Desert America, the big Southwest, has had a lot of headlines lately.  Record heat in Death Valley.  Nineteen dead in Arizona’s wildfire.  Record spending voted for border security.  Drug busts.  Drought in west Texas.  Home prices jumping in Phoenix, Las Vegas.

It’s ground zero for the immigration debate.  For a national culture debate.  For a “who owns America” debate.  For a decade of boom and bust.  Rubén Martínez writes about it all from a desert level view.  Close to the people, the heat.

This hour, On Point:  Rubén Martínez on desert America, and where it’s going.

– Tom Ashbrook


Rubén Martínez, Emmy-award winning journalist, and writer, performer and teacher. His latest book, just out in paperback, is “Desert America: A Journey Through Our Most Divided Landscape.”

Matea Gold, reporter for the Washington Post covering money and politics. Author of the Post article: “Immigration deal would boost defense manufacturers.” (@mateagold)

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Review: ‘Desert America’ by Ruben Martinez — “The new old West, Martínez tells us, is where John Wayne filmed many an iconic movie and where immigrants die crossing the desert. It’s home to cookie-cutter subdivisions and water wars. Americans think of its open spaces as a blank page where any loser or dreamer can rewrite his or her life story. At each of his stops, however, Martínez probes the local history and quickly discovers how wrong-headed that thinking is. ‘Desert America’ is a memoir that also manages to be an excellent work of reportage. Its main subject is the resilient people who populate the West’s harshest landscapes.”

The Hill: GOP lawmaker warns total border security is impossible goal — “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) said the Southern border is simply too wild for law enforcers to plug all the gaps in the fight against illegal immigration. ‘Anybody that thinks you can totally secure the Southern border has never been to the Southern border,’ Carter said. ‘I’ve been down there all my life, and I’m telling you, you can have a 40-foot wall and put machine guns on it, and you can’t secure the Southern border. There’s too much wild country.'”

Excerpt: “Desert America” by Rubén Martínez

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