The first StoryLines America series aired in the Northwest (Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming) and Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, southern Colorado, and West Texas) regions in fall 1997. The project was based on “Big Sky Radio,” a series of library-sponsored call-in radio programs in Montana, and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona
An epic Southern California story of star-crossed love embedded in the rancorous 19th-century usurpation of Mexican and Native American lands, life-styles, and traditions by U.S. immigrants. Written by an outspoken social reformer and champion of equal treatment for American Indians, this self-conscious, romantic period piece is noted for its old-fashioned sentimentality, florid prose, and broad interpretations of racism.
Americo Paredes, With a Pistol in His Hand
An ethnomusicologist’s unique, in-depth study of The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, one of the most famous and popular historical ballads conceived and sung along the U.S.-Mexico border of South Texas—a corrido that underscores the cultural (and legal) chasm separating Anglo-Texans and Mexican-Texans in the early 20th century. Part history, part anthropology, part folklore, and part investigative journalism, this story of accused sheriff-killer Gregorio Cortez is told in fascinating detail.
Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
This historical novel is based on the life of the autocratic French Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, northern New Mexico’s first resident bishop and the most influential, reform-minded Catholic official in the region during the late 1800s. Criticized in later years by some New Mexicans, who took issue with Cather’s negative portrayals of Padre Antonio Josè Martìnez and other local Hispanic priests, the book describes a pivotal period in New Mexico history, as the isolation of Spanish and Mexican rule gave way to much greater influence from the U.S. and Europe.
Frank Waters, People of the Valley
Told through the story of Doña Marìa, an independent and strong-willed goat farmer of Hispanic and Native American descent, this deeply moving historical novel tells how an isolated, agrarian, and mostly Spanish-speaking people in northern New Mexico’s Mora Valley confronts change as English-speaking newcomers seek to mold their destiny through manipulations of technology and the law. Nature-oriented mysticism and evocative descriptions weave together the tricultural roots of the contemporary Southwest in this story, set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
N. Scott Momoday, House Made of Dawn
This is the story of Abel, a young Native American man in the mid-20th century, caught between two very different worlds: one of ancient tradition, sacred ritual, and natural rhythm; the other of alcohol, forbidden sex, and self-destruction. Set at central New Mexico’s Jèmez Pueblo, the novel describes how Abel, who has just returned home after fighting a foreign war for a white man’s army, is torn apart by his conflicting experiences and loyalties.
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
The coming-of-age story of Tayo, a young Native American who has survived the horror of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, only to return to his home at central New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo and confront a profound and disturbing estrangement from his people. This poetic novel follows Tayo’s search for comfort and resolution through an understanding and acceptance of ancient Laguna traditions, beliefs, ritual, and history. Tayo’s difficult quest becomes a curative ceremony that promises to defeat his recurring despair.
Josè Villareal, Pocho
Using down-in-the-barrio language and memorable characters, this Depression-era story describes a young Chicano’s search for identity in an urban Southern California setting that contrasts dramatically with the rural Mexico background of his immigrant parents. The main character, Richard, feels painfully torn between his loyalty to his family’s past traditions and his attraction to the new ideas offered by his peers in a Spanish-speaking, working-class Los Angeles neighborhood.
Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima
A young boy, Antonio Marez, grows up in a household that straddles two distinct Southwest traditions: the wild, restless plains of his cowboy (vaquero) father and the placid, nurturing fields of his farm-bred mother. His close relationship with a curandera—one who cures with herbs, faith, and magic—helps Tony find his way among the conflicting ties of family, culture, and religion that bind him to his past. Its integration of folklore, mysticism, and myth have made this book a classic.
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
The last of a long line of rough-hewn Texas cattle ranchers comes of age along the Mexican border—beautiful and desolate, rugged and cruelly civilized. Young John Grady Cole, with two companions, sets out on a icaresque adventure that is by turns comic and violent, charming and tragic. McCarthy brings a lyric Southern literary tradition to a recurring Western theme: finding an identity within La Frontera, a region that is neither U.S. nor Mexico.
John Nichols, The Milagro Beanfield War
An epic, socially-conscious tale of water and land rights conflicts, racism and cultural imperialism, community cohesion and outsider development. Outsider-activist Nichols sets his contemporary novel in a tiny Spanish-speaking village in rural northern New Mexico, focusing on the remarkable chain of events that follow passionate everyman Joe Mondragòn’s illegal diversion of an irrigation ditch to water his beanfield.
Denise Chavez, Face of an Angel
An intimate, humorous look at life in a small southern New Mexico town, as seen through the eyes of its world-wise, free-spirited heroine, Soveida Dosamantes, a once-divorced, once-widowed waitress whose life reads something like a Balzac comedy. Through a series of colorful dialogues and monologues woven throughout the book, the day-to-day world of the Hispanic working class comes to life in the words and deeds of the main character’s customers, coworkers, and extended family.
Joy Harjo, In Mad Love and War
A collection of poems that are at once fiery and candid, stately and formal, written from the perspective of a contemporary young woman caught between two often conflicting domains: that of the traditional, rural Native American (Muskogee/Creek) and that of the modern, urban Anglo American. Harjo taps the frustration, beauty, anger, challenge, and solace presented by this juxtaposition of old and new, mainstream and minority.
Edward Abbey, The Brave Cowboy
A Thoreauesque story about a taciturn, self-reliant cowboy at odds with the contradictions and technologies of modern human society as it seeks to impose itself on the rural Southwest of the mid-20th century. Jack Burns’s personal code of ethics sets him on a collision course with the keepers of law and order. Like other Abbey novels, this work explores the problematic relationship between wilderness and civilization, between environmental consciousness and the push for exploitation and development.