USA: Southwest Region


First rule: There are no rules. These resources are completely free and at your disposal. Use as much, or as little, as you want. Study casually, or work to create a portfolio of academic work that will blow the socks off of the educational establishment.

Feel free to adapt the materials for your own purposes. We expect families, business people, backpackers, college students, high school kids, middle aged vacationers, and retirees who are on a late life adventure to take these materials and run with them. We’d be very happy for teachers or travel group leaders to add these materials to their study abroad packets as well.

The nature of open source is collaboration, so please feel free to contribute when you become aware of resources we haven’t listed, or you have project ideas that we haven’t developed. Send us your work and inspire others to reach higher and deeper as they travel!

Our goal with this project is to inspire adventure and further education through experiential learning around the world. Please send us a note and let us know how you used these resources!

Buffet Style Learning

Does the menu look overwhelming? Looking for a formula to use as a skeleton for your studies in the USA? We’ve divided the USA into regions for these resources to help focus your studies in a narrower band. The Southwest, roughly encompasses California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Choose:

  • Two books
  • Two films
  • Three articles
  • One Problem & Solution or Project Option
  • One Cultural Assignment

Table of Contents

Book Recommendations


 

House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest

by Craig Childs

In this landmark work on the Anasazi tribes of the Southwest, naturalist Craig Childs dives head on into the mysteries of this vanished people.

The various tribes that made up the Anasazi people converged on Chaco Canyon (New Mexico) during the 11th century to create a civilization hailed as “the Las Vegas of its day,” a flourishing cultural center that attracted pilgrims from far and wide, and a vital crossroads of the prehistoric world. By the 13th century, however, Chaco’s vibrant community had disappeared without a trace.

Was it drought? Pestilence? War? Forced migration, mass murder or suicide? Conflicting theories have abounded for years, capturing the North American imagination for eons.

Join Craig Childs as he draws on the latest scholarly research, as well as a lifetime of exploration in the forbidden landscapes of the American Southwest, to shed new light on this compelling mystery. He takes us from Chaco Canyon to the highlands of Mesa Verde, to the Mongollon Rim; to a contemporary Zuni community where tribal elders maintain silence about the fate of their Lost Others; and to the largely unexplored foothills of the Sierra Madre in Mexico, where abundant remnants of Anasazi culture lie yet to be uncovered.

Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest

by Lesley Poling-Kempes

WILLA Literary Award, 2016
Reading the West Book Award for Nonfiction, MPIBA
Silver Medal, US History, 2016 IPPY Awards
Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist
Ladies of the Canyons is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world.

Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were transformed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the people and the landscape of the American Southwest. Part of an influential circle of women that included Louisa Wade Wetherill, Alice Corbin Henderson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mary Austin, and Willa Cather, these ladies imagined and created a new home territory, a new society, and a new identity for themselves and for the women who would follow them.

Ladies of the Canyons is the story of New Women stepping boldly into the New World of inconspicuous success, ambitious failure, and the personal challenges experienced by women and men during the emergence of the Modern Age.

Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest

by Douglas Preston

This riveting true story recounts the author’s journey on horseback across Arizona and New Mexico, retracing Coronado’s desperate search for the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. First published in 1992 and now available only from UNM Press, this classic adventure tale reveals the Southwest as it was when Europeans first saw it and shows how much, and how little, it has changed. “The great myth of the American West,” Preston writes, “is that there was a winning of it.”
 
 
 
 

Lost Cities & Ancient Mysteries of the Southwest

by David Hatcher Childress

Popular Lost Cities author David Hatcher Childress takes to the road again in search of lost cities and ancient mysteries. This time he is off to the American Southwest, traversing the region’s deserts, mountains and forests investigating archeological mysteries and the unexplained. Join David as he starts in northern Mexico and searches for the lost mines of the Aztecs. He continues north to west Texas, delving into the mysteries of Big Bend, including mysterious Phoenician tablets discovered there and the strange lights of Marfa. He continues northward into New Mexico where he stumbles upon a hollow mountain with a billion dollars of gold bars hidden deep inside it!

In Arizona he investigates tales of Egyptian catacombs in the Grand Canyon, cruises along the Devil’s Highway, and tackles the century-old mystery of the Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman mine. In Nevada and California Childress checks out the rumors of mummified giants and weird tunnels in Death Valley, plus he searches the Mohave Desert for the mysterious remains of ancient dwellers alongside lakes that dried up tens of thousands of years ago. It’s a full-tilt blast down the back roads of the Southwest in search of the weird and wondrous mysteries of the past!

Tortillas, Tiswin, and T-Bones: A Food History of the Southwest

by Gregory McNamee

In this entertaining history, Gregory McNamee explores the many ethnic and cultural traditions that have contributed to the food of the Southwest. He traces the origins of the cuisine to the arrival of humans in the Americas, the work of the earliest farmers of Mesoamerica, and the most ancient trade networks joining peoples of the coast, plains, and mountains. From the ancient chile pepper and agave to the comparatively recent fare of sushi and Frito pie, this complex culinary journey involves many players over space and time. Born of scarcity, migration, and climate change, these foods are now fully at home in the Southwest of today―and with the “southwesternization” of the American palate at large, they are found across the globe. McNamee extends that story across thousands of years to the present, even imagining what the southwestern menu will look like in the near future.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

by S. C. Gwynne

In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all.

S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.

Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

by Hunter S. Thompson

This cult classic of gonzo journalism is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sam Houston and the American Southwest

by Randolph B. Campbell
In this biography, Randolph B. Campbell explores the life of Sam Houston and his important role in the development of the Southwest.

Governor of two states, president of an independent republic, and for thirteen years a United States senator, Sam Houston forged a life of great adventure, frequent controversy, and lasting achievement. Within the historical context of the emerging West, Houston’s story is not only one of courage and fortitude, but also aids in understanding of the possibilities and limitations of leadership in a Democratic society.
 
 
 
 

The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest

by David Roberts

The dramatic and tragic story of the only successful Native American uprising against the Spanish, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

With the conquest of New Mexico in 1598, Spanish governors, soldiers, and missionaries began their brutal subjugation of the Pueblo Indians in what is today the Southwestern United States. This oppression continued for decades, until, in the summer of 1680, led by a visionary shaman named Pope, the Puebloans revolted. In total secrecy they coordinated an attack, killing 401 settlers and soldiers and routing the rulers in Santa Fe. Every Spaniard was driven from the Pueblo homeland, the only time in North American history that conquering Europeans were thoroughly expelled from Indian territory.

Yet today, more than three centuries later, crucial questions about the Pueblo Revolt remain unanswered. How did Pope succeed in his brilliant plot? And what happened in the Pueblo world between 1680 and 1692, when a new Spanish force reconquered the Pueblo peoples with relative ease?

David Roberts set out to try to answer these questions and to bring this remarkable historical episode to life. He visited Pueblo villages, talked with Native American and Anglo historians, combed through archives, discovered backcountry ruins, sought out the vivid rock art panels carved and painted by Puebloans contemporary with the events, and pondered the existence of centuries-old Spanish documents never seen by Anglos.

Civil War in the Southwest Borderlands, 1861–1867

by Andrew E. Masich

Still the least-understood theater of the Civil War, the Southwest Borderlands saw not only Union and Confederate forces clashing but Indians, Hispanos, and Anglos struggling for survival, power, and dominance on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. While other scholars have examined individual battles, Andrew E. Masich is the first to analyze these conflicts as interconnected civil wars. Based on previously overlooked Indian Depredation Claim records and a wealth of other sources, this book is both a close-up history of the Civil War in the region and an examination of the war-making traditions of its diverse peoples.

Along the border, Masich argues, the Civil War played out as a collision between three warrior cultures. Indians, Hispanos, and Anglos brought their own weapons and tactics to the struggle, but they also shared many traditions. Before the war, the three groups engaged one another in cycles of raid and reprisal involving the taking of livestock and human captives, reflecting a peculiar mixture of conflict and interdependence.

When U.S. regular troops were withdrawn in 1861 to fight in the East, the resulting power vacuum led to unprecedented violence in the West. Indians fought Indians, Hispanos battled Hispanos, and Anglos vied for control of the Southwest, while each group sought allies in conflicts related only indirectly to the secession crisis. When Union and Confederate forces invaded the Southwest, Anglo soldiers, Hispanos, and sedentary Indian tribes forged alliances that allowed them to collectively wage a relentless war on Apaches, Comanches, and Navajos. Mexico’s civil war and European intervention served only to enlarge the conflict in the borderlands. When the fighting subsided, a new power hierarchy had emerged and relations between the region’s inhabitants, and their nations, forever changed.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

by Kevin Fedarko

From one of Outside magazine’s “Literary All-Stars” comes the thrilling true tale of the fastest boat ride ever, down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, during the legendary flood of 1983.

In the spring of 1983, massive flooding along the length of the Colorado River confronted a team of engineers at the Glen Canyon Dam with an unprecedented emergency that may have resulted in the most catastrophic dam failure in history. In the midst of this crisis, the decision to launch a small wooden dory named “The Emerald Mile” at the head of the Grand Canyon, just fifteen miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam, seemed not just odd, but downright suicidal.

The Emerald Mile, at one time slated to be destroyed, was rescued and brought back to life by Kenton Grua, the man at the oars, who intended to use this flood as a kind of hydraulic sling-shot. The goal was to nail the all-time record for the fastest boat ever propelled—by oar, by motor, or by the grace of God himself—down the entire length of the Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. Did he survive? Just barely. Now, this remarkable, epic feat unfolds here, in The Emerald Mile.

Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest

by Sandra Day O’Connor

Now, for the first time in paperback, here is the remarkable story of Sandra Day O’Connor’s family and early life, her journey to adulthood in the American Southwest that helped make her the woman she is today—the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and one of the most powerful women in America. In this illuminating and unusual book, Sandra Day O’Connor tells, with her brother, Alan, the story of the Day family, and of growing up on the harsh yet beautiful land of the Lazy B ranch in Arizona.

Laced throughout these stories about three generations of the Day family, and everyday life on the Lazy B, are the lessons Sandra and Alan learned about the world, self-reliance, and survival, and how the land, people, and values of the Lazy B shaped them. This fascinating glimpse of life in the Southwest in the last century recounts an important time in American history, and provides an enduring portrait of an independent young woman on the brink of becoming one of the most prominent figures in America.

A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest

by William deBuys

With its soaring azure sky and stark landscapes, the American Southwest is one of the most hauntingly beautiful regions on earth. Yet staggering population growth, combined with the intensifying effects of climate change, is driving the oasis-based society close to the brink of a Dust-Bowl-scale catastrophe.

In A Great Aridness, William deBuys paints a compelling picture of what the Southwest might look like when the heat turns up and the water runs out. This semi-arid land, vulnerable to water shortages, rising temperatures, wildfires, and a host of other environmental challenges, is poised to bear the heaviest consequences of global environmental change in the United States. Examining interrelated factors such as vanishing wildlife, forest die backs, and the over-allocation of the already stressed Colorado River–upon which nearly 30 million people depend–the author narrates the landscape’s history–and future. He tells the inspiring stories of the climatologists and others who are helping untangle the complex, interlocking causes and effects of global warming. And while the fate of this region may seem at first blush to be of merely local interest, what happens in the Southwest, deBuys suggests, will provide a glimpse of what other mid-latitude arid lands worldwide–the Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa, and the Middle East–will experience in the coming years.

Written with an elegance that recalls the prose of John McPhee and Wallace Stegner, A Great Aridness offers an unflinching look at the dramatic effects of climate change occurring right now in our own backyard.

Coronado’s Children: Tales of Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of the Southwest

by J. Frank Dobie

Written in 1930, Coronado’s Children was one of J. Frank Dobie’s first books, and the one that helped gain him national prominence as a folklorist. In it, he recounts the tales and legends of those hardy souls who searched for buried treasure in the Southwest following in the footsteps of that earlier gold seeker, the Spaniard Coronado.

“These people,” Dobie writes in his introduction, “no matter what language they speak, are truly Coronado’s inheritors…. l have called them Coronado’s children. They follow Spanish trails, buffalo trails, cow trails, they dig where there are no trails; but oftener than they dig or prospect they just sit and tell stories of lost mines, of buried bullion by the jack load… ”

This is the tale-spinning Dobie at his best, dealing with subjects as irresistible as ghost stories and haunted houses.

Border Visions: Mexican Cultures of the Southwest United States

by Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez

he U.S.-Mexico border region is home to anthropologist Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez. Into these pages he pours nearly half a century of searching and finding answers to the Mexican experience in the southwestern United States. He describes and analyzes the process, as generation upon generation of Mexicans moved north and attempted to create an identity or sense of cultural space and place.

In today’s border fences he also sees barriers to how Mexicans understand themselves and how they are fundamentally understood. From prehistory to the present, Vélez-Ibáñez traces the intense bumping among Native Americans, Spaniards, and Mexicans, as Mesoamerican populations and ideas moved northward. He demonstrates how cultural glue is constantly replenished by strengthening family ties that reach across both sides of the border. The author describes ways in which Mexicans have resisted and accommodated the dominant culture by creating communities and by forming labor unions, voluntary associations, and cultural movements. He analyzes the distribution of sadness, or over-representation of Mexicans in poverty, crime, illness, and war, and shows how that sadness is balanced by creative expressions of literature and art, especially mural art, in the ongoing search for space and place.

Here is a book for the nineties and beyond, a book that relates to NAFTA, to complex questions of immigration, and to the expanding population of Mexicans in the U.S.-Mexico border region and other parts of the country. An important new volume for social science, humanities, and Latin American scholars, Border Visions will also attract general readers for its robust narrative and autobiographical edge. For all readers, the book points to new ways of seeing borders, whether they are visible walls of brick and stone or less visible, infinitely more powerful barriers of the mind.

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

by Marc Reisner

The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecological and economic disaster.

In his landmark book, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city’s growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the competition to transform the West. Based on more than a decade of research, Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic, intriguing history of the creation of an Eden–an Eden that may only be a mirage.

Tortillas, Tiswin, and T-Bones: A Food History of the Southwest

by Gregory McNamee

In this entertaining history, Gregory McNamee explores the many ethnic and cultural traditions that have contributed to the food of the Southwest. He traces the origins of the cuisine to the arrival of humans in the Americas, the work of the earliest farmers of Mesoamerica, and the most ancient trade networks joining peoples of the coast, plains, and mountains.

From the ancient chile pepper and agave to the comparatively recent fare of sushi and Frito pie, this complex culinary journey involves many players over space and time. Born of scarcity, migration, and climate change, these foods are now fully at home in the Southwest of today―and with the “southwesternization” of the American palate at large, they are found across the globe. McNamee extends that story across thousands of years to the present, even imagining what the southwestern menu will look like in the near future.

A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest

by William deBuys

With its soaring azure sky and stark landscapes, the American Southwest is one of the most hauntingly beautiful regions on earth. Yet staggering population growth, combined with the intensifying effects of climate change, is driving the oasis-based society close to the brink of a Dust-Bowl-scale catastrophe.

In A Great Aridness, William deBuys paints a compelling picture of what the Southwest might look like when the heat turns up and the water runs out. This semi-arid land, vulnerable to water shortages, rising temperatures, wildfires, and a host of other environmental challenges, is poised to bear the heaviest consequences of global environmental change in the United States.

Examining interrelated factors such as vanishing wildlife, forest die backs, and the over-allocation of the already stressed Colorado River–upon which nearly 30 million people depend–the author narrates the landscape’s history–and future. He tells the inspiring stories of the climatologists and others who are helping untangle the complex, interlocking causes and effects of global warming. And while the fate of this region may seem at first blush to be of merely local interest, what happens in the Southwest, deBuys suggests, will provide a glimpse of what other mid-latitude arid lands worldwide–the Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa, and the Middle East–will experience in the coming years.

No Country for Old Men – Novel

by Cormac McCarthy

In his blistering new novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, setting of his famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones.

One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law–in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell–can contain.

As Moss tries to evade his pursuers–in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives–McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.
No Country for Old Men is a triumph.

In Search of the Old Ones: Exploring the Anasazi World of the Southwest

by David Roberts

An exuberant, hands-on fly-on-the-wall account that combines the thrill of canyoneering and rock climbing with the intellectual sleuthing of archaeology to explore the Anasazi.

David Roberts describes the culture of the Anasazi—the name means “enemy ancestors” in Navajo—who once inhabited the Colorado Plateau and whose modern descendants are the Hopi Indians of Arizona. Archaeologists, Roberts writes, have been puzzling over the Anasazi for more than a century, trying to determine the environmental and cultural stresses that caused their society to collapse 700 years ago.

He guides us through controversies in the historical record, among them the haunting question of whether the Anasazi committed acts of cannibalism. Roberts’s book is full of up-to-date thinking on the culture of the ancient people who lived in the harsh desert country of the Southwest.

The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History

by by Paul Andrew Hutton

They called him Mickey Free. His kidnapping started the longest war in American history, and both sides–the Apaches and the white invaders—blamed him for it. A mixed-blood warrior who moved uneasily between the worlds of the Apaches and the American soldiers, he was never trusted by either but desperately needed by both. He was the only man Geronimo ever feared. He played a pivotal role in this long war for the desert Southwest from its beginning in 1861 until its end in 1890 with his pursuit of the renegade scout, Apache Kid.

In this sprawling, monumental work, Paul Hutton unfolds over two decades of the last war for the West through the eyes of the men and women who lived it. This is Mickey Free’s story, but also the story of his contemporaries: the great Apache leaders Mangas Coloradas, Cochise, and Victorio; the soldiers Kit Carson, O. O. Howard, George Crook, and Nelson Miles; the scouts and frontiersmen Al Sieber, Tom Horn, Tom Jeffords, and Texas John Slaughter; the great White Mountain scout Alchesay and the Apache female warrior Lozen; the fierce Apache warrior Geronimo; and the Apache Kid. These lives shaped the violent history of the deserts and mountains of the Southwestern borderlands–a bleak and unforgiving world where a people would make a final, bloody stand against an American war machine bent on their destruction.

Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans

by T.R. Fehrenbach

Here is an up-to-the-moment history of the Lone Star State, together with an insider’s look at the people, politics, and events that have shaped Texas from the beginning right up to our days. Never before has the story been told with more vitality and immediacy.

Fehrenbach re-creates the Texas saga from prehistory to the Spanish and French invasions to the heyday of the cotton and cattle empires. He dramatically describes the emergence of Texas as a republic, the vote for secession before the Civil War, and the state’s readmission to the Union after the War. In the twentieth century oil would emerge as an important economic resource and social change would come. But Texas would remain unmistakably Texas, because Texans “have been made different by the crucible of history; they think and act in different ways, according to the history that shaped their hearts and minds.”

Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

by Ken Grossman

Beyond the Pale chronicles Ken Grossman’s journey from hobbyist homebrewer to owner of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., one of the most successful craft breweries in the United States. From youthful adventures to pioneering craft brewer, Ken Grossman shares the trials and tribulations of building a brewery that produces more than 800,000 barrels of beer a year while maintaining its commitment to using the finest ingredients available. Since Grossman founded Sierra Nevada in 1980, part of a growing beer revolution in America, critics have proclaimed his beer to be “among the best brewed anywhere in the world.”

Beyond the Pale describes Grossman’s unique approach to making and distributing one of America’s best-loved brands of beer, while focusing on people, the planet and the product
Explores the “Sierra Nevada way,” as exemplified by founder Ken Grossman, which includes an emphasis on sustainability, nonconformity, following one’s passion, and doing things the right way
Details Grossman’s start, home-brewing five-gallon batches of beer on his own, becoming a proficient home brewer, and later, building a small brewery in the town of Chico, California

Beyond the Pale shows how with hard work, dedication, and focus, you can be successful following your dream.

Nevada Grown: A Year in Local Food

by NevadaGrown

Nevada Grown: A Year in Local Food is a celebration of Nevada’s thriving food culture and an invitation to discover how rich and diverse the bountiful harvest Nevada’s hardworking and talented farmers deliver.

We invite you to source your ingredients from local farms to find out how delicious turnips and beets are when they’re young, tender, and fresh from the field. Rediscover the taste of beef and pork raised on local ranches. Relish the flavor and freshness of locally produced eggs and honey. Try Nevada-grown dates and pistachios. See why Fallon cantaloupe is considered the best in the nation. Delight in kohlrabi cakes, sorrel soup, and kale salad. Be brave and add sunchokes and fennel to your farmers market list. But most of all, enjoy your culinary journey around our state.

Chasing Arizona: One Man’s Yearlong Obsession with the Grand Canyon State

by Ken Lamberton

It seemed like a simple plan—visit fifty-two places in fifty-two weeks. But for author Ken Lamberton, a forty-five-year veteran of life in the Sonoran Desert, the entertaining results were anything but easy. In Chasing Arizona, Lamberton takes readers on a yearlong, twenty-thousand-mile joyride across Arizona during its centennial, racking up more than two hundred points of interest along the way.

Lamberton chases the four corners of Arizona, attempts every county, every reservation, and every national monument and state park, from the smallest community to the largest city. He drives his Kia Rio through the longest tunnels and across the highest suspension bridges, hikes the hottest deserts, and climbs the tallest mountain, all while visiting the people, places, and treasures that make Arizona great.

In the vivid, lyrical, often humorous prose the author is known for, each destination weaves together stories of history, nature, and people, along with entertaining side adventures and excursions. Maps and forty-four of the author’s detailed pencil drawings illustrate the journey.

Chasing Arizona is unlike any book of its kind. It is an adventure story, a tale of Arizona, a road-warrior narrative. It is a quest to see and experience as much of Arizona as possible. Through intimate portrayals of people and place, readers deeply experience the Grand Canyon State and at the same time celebrate what makes Arizona a wonderful place to visit and live.

Georgia O’Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place

by Barbara Buhler Lynes & Lesley Poling-Kempes

When Georgia O’Keeffe first visited New Mexico in 1917, she was instantly drawn to the stark beauty of its unusual architectural and landscape forms. In 1929, she began spending part of almost every year painting there, first in Taos, and subsequently in and around Alcalde, Abiquiu, and Ghost Ranch, with occasional excursions to remote sites she found particularly compelling. Georgia O’Keeffe and New Mexico is the first book to analyze the artist’s famous depictions of these Southwestern landscapes.

Beautifully illustrated and gracefully written, the book accompanies an exhibition of the same name at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It reproduces the exhibition’s 50 paintings and includes striking photographs of the sites that inspired them as well as diagrams of the region’s distinctive geology. The book examines the magnificence of O’Keeffe’s work through essays by three noted authors. Barbara Buhler Lynes, Curator of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and organizer of the exhibition, discusses the relationship of the artist’s paintings to the places that inspired her.

Wicked Women of New Mexico

by Donna Blake Birchell

New Mexico Territory attracted outlaws and desperados as its remote locations guaranteed non-detection while providing opportunists the perfect setting in which to seize wealth. Many wicked women on the run from their pasts headed there seeking new starts before and after 1912 statehood.

Colorful characters such as Bronco Sue, Sadie Orchard and Lizzie McGrath were noted mavens of mayhem, while many other women were notorious gamblers, bawdy madams or confidence tricksters. Some paid the ultimate price for crimes of passion, while others avoided punishment by slyly using their beguiling allure to influence authorities. Follow the raucous tales of these wild women in a collection that proves crime in early New Mexico wasn’t only a boys’ game.

California: A History

by Kevin Starr

California has always been our Shangri-la–the promised land of countless pilgrims in search of the American Dream. Now the Golden State’s premier historian, Kevin Starr, distills the entire sweep of California’s history into one splendid volume. From the age of exploration to the age of Arnold, this is the story of a place at once quintessentially American and utterly unique.

Arguing that America’s most populous state has always been blessed with both spectacular natural beauty and astonishing human diversity, Starr unfolds a rapid-fire epic of discovery, innovation, catastrophe, and triumph.

For generations, California’s native peoples basked in the abundance of a climate and topography eminently suited to human habitation. By the time the Spanish arrived in the early sixteenth century, there were scores of autonomous tribes were thriving in the region. Though conquest was rapid, nearly two centuries passed before Spain exerted control over upper California through the chain of missions that stand to this day.

The discovery of gold in January 1848 changed everything. With population increasing exponentially as get-rich-quick dreamers converged from all over the world, California reinvented itself overnight. Starr deftly traces the successive waves of innovation and calamity that have broken over the state since then–the incredible wealth of the Big Four railroad tycoons and the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906; the emergence of Hollywood as the world’s entertainment capital and of Silicon Valley as the center of high-tech research and development; the heroic irrigation and transportation projects that have altered the face of the region; the role of labor, both organized and migrant, in key industries from agriculture to aerospace.

Kevin Starr has devoted his career to the history of his beloved state, but he has never lost his sense of wonder over California’s sheer abundance and peerless variety. This one-volume distillation of a lifetime’s work gathers together everything that is most important, most fascinating, and most revealing about our greatest state.

Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends

by Barney Hoskyns

Hoskyns brings a genuine love as well as an outsider’s keen eye to the rise and fall of the California scene. . . . This is a riveting story, sensitively told.
—Anthony DeCurtis, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone

From enduring musical achievements to drug-fueled chaos and bed-hopping antics, the L.A. pop music scene in the sixties and seventies was like no other, and journalist Barney Hoskyns re-creates all the excitement and mayhem. Hotel California brings to life the genesis of Crosby, Stills, and Nash at Joni Mitchell’s house; the Eagles’ backstage fistfights after the success of “”Hotel California””; the drama of David Geffen and the other money men who transformed the L.A. music scene; and more.

Kids Book Recommendations


 

The Southwest (A True Book)

by Dana Meachen Rau

Describes the Southwestern region of the United States, including the geography, weather, local animals, native peoples, and history of the region.
 
 
 
 
 

How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend

by Jerrie Oughton

This retelling of a Navajo folktale explains how First Woman tried to write the laws of the land using stars in the sky, only to be thwarted by the trickster Coyote.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Coyote: A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest

by Gerald McDermott

Wherever Coyote goes you can be sure he’ll find trouble. Now he wants to sing, dance, and fly like the crows, so he begs them to teach him how. The crows agree but soon tire of Coyote’s bragging and boasting. They decide to teach the great trickster a lesson. This time, Coyote has found real trouble!

 

Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons: Utah’s National Parks

by Melissa C. Marsted

Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons is the first in a series of books from the Lucky Penny Press collection, National Parks for Kids. Buzzy the bee zips across the state of Utah introducing readers to the Utah’s five national parks, starting with Arches, then to Canyonlands, crossing the state to Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.

Buzzy teaches readers about animals and endangered species that live in the parks as well as how arches, hoodoos and spires were formed many years ago. Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons is a great introduction to the wonders and magic of nature and the national parks system, originally established one hundred years ago in 1916.

Our California

by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Re-illustrated and re-designed, OUR CALIFORNIA (previously CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME!) is a lively tour of award-winning author Pam Muñoz Ryan’s home state. Spirited poems celebrate California’s major cities and regions. Backmatter includes state symbols and additional information about each place.

Bold paintings by illustrator Rafael López capture the spirit of the land.

Film Recommendations


 

The Great California Gold Rush : Documentary on the History of America’s Gold Rush

 


 

The Tallest Trees on Earth

 


 
Experience the magic of old growth redwood forests, where giant sequoias reach to the sky and tell their story to the Ocean, wind and air, as well as to the visitors of the park. T
 

National Geographic Death Valley

 


 

A Documentary on Venice Beach, California

 


 
Situated in southern California is the 2.5km long world famous Venice Beach Boardwalk, renound for its rich and diverse atmosphere, beautiful landscapes, beaches, as well as hundreds of street vendors and performers. It is home to ‘Muscle beach’ where Arnold Schwarzenegger started his career as well as a major filming location for the TV series ‘Baywatch’

This is a short Documentary on the people themselves, and the vast amount of talent, personality, diversity, culture, and ‘feel good vibe’ that this inspiring location offers.
 

California Prison Gangs National Geographic Prison Documentary 2017

 


 

The History of Las Vegas

 


 

High Sierra – A Journey on the John Muir Trail

 


 

Inside Area 51, Secrets and Conspiracies

 


 

The Hoover Dam – Megastructures

 


 
Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives. The dam was controversially named after President Herbert Hoover.
 

Tesla Gigafactory 1 – Full factory Tour

 


 

The Mine Cycle

 


 
Join Lila Michael as she learns the mine cycle phases. She will take you through Barrick North America’s Cortez Mine, an active and modern gold mine located in Northeastern Nevada.
 

Grand Canyon National Park of Arizona, USA

 


 
Grand Canyon National Park is the United States’ 15th oldest national park. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the park is located in Arizona.
 

3D Photographs of Apache Indians in Arizona and New Mexico Documentary (1873)

 


 
Animated stereoscopic photographs of Apache Indians in Arizona and New Mexico. They were taken by Timothy O’Sullivan in 1873 during George M. Wheeler’s survey of the United States west of the 100th meridian. Original captions precede each scene.
 

COLORES | Blackdom | New Mexico PBS

 


 
Blackdom is the virtually untold story of Black pioneers Frank and Ella Boyer dream to create a “colony” for Black people in the prairie of Southeastern New Mexico. It was a community of 300 people, “The Only Exclusive Negro Settlement in New Mexico” as the official township letterhead stated. Blackdom existed in New Mexico from 1908 to the mid-1920.
 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

 


 

World’s First Atomic Bomb – Manhattan Project Documentary

 


 
The Manhattan Project was a research and development job that made the very first nuclear weapons throughout The second world war. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and also Canada. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers; physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was the supervisor of the Los Alamos National Lab that developed the actual bombs.
 

The State Of Texas (American Culture Documentary)

 


 
An incisive, contrary and witty gaze on the Lone Star State. With a Texan in the White House, espousing Texan values, Christopher Hitchens’ investigation is a chance to see what Texas stands for, what this tells us about America today and what this means for the rest of the world.
 

Top Documentary Films: The Science Behind Cattle Ranches

 


 

Article Recommendations


 
Nature Conservency: California

Evolutionary Genomics Informs Salmon Conservation – UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

Weaker Water Conservation Numbers Prompt Fears That California is Going Back to its Old Bad Habits – LA Times

What to Know About Nevada’s Legal Brothels – CNN

The Thorny Economics of Illegal Immigration – Wall Street Journal

Where All the Madness Began: A Look at Gang History – Stanford

California Marijuana Legalization 2016: Growers And Officials Struggle Over Making Pot Farms Environmentally Friendly – International Business Times

California’s Pot Farmers – CBC

Chicken Factory Farming in Texas: The Hard-Boiled Truth – Texas Agriculture Talks

Migrant Farm Workers in Southern New Mexico – University of New Mexico

LA Street Art Gallery

Chaka, Long-Lost L.A. Tagger-Artist, to Have First Legit Art Show – LA Times

Project Options:


 

LA Street Art

If you spend any time at all in Los Angeles (or any other major city in California) you can’t help but notice the street art. “Graffiti” to some, urban art to others. Tagger culture is alive and well in sunny California and has long been a mecca for street artists and enthusiasts.

Perhaps you want to spend some time photographing the art that decorates buildings, bridges, train cars, and public spaces. Or, take it deeper and do some research on the artists in the cities you are visiting. Dig a little deeper and connect with the underground art scene that results in these, sometimes illegal, often controversial art exhibitions for the public. Make a video about the life and work of a willing subject, or, try your hand at tagger-art yourself (legally, of course.

Mining in the Southwest

The western half of the USA was invaded by a wave of immigrants chasing the promise of gold during the Gold Rush. But there are numerous mines for everything from copper to gems, in addition to precious metals across the Southwestern states.

Spend some time learning about mining as a driving economic force in the development of the Southwest. Visit some mines and discover the intricacies of pulling raw materials from the earth. What is the ecological impact of these mines? How do the mines support or drain local economies? Who owns the mines? Where are the products shipped and for what purpose?

Food production in California

Fruit, vegetable, and nut farming are primary industries in California. But they are industries fraught with controversy, from water control, to organics, to farm worker and illegal immigrant employment dramas.

What is grown in California? Which industries are most productive and why? Who owns the farms? Who controls them? Where does the produce grow? What are the problems and struggles that farmers face? What are the lives of farm workers like? Who are the farm workers? What is the production cycle through the seasons for various food products?

Visit a big farm or orchard if you can. Perhaps take a job doing field work for a harvest season while you are traveling. What did you learn about the work and the workers? Read The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan with particular focus on the chapters related to migrant workers in California.

National Parks in the Southwest

The Southwestern USA has a particularly rich collection of State and National Parks. Visit as many as possible. Be sure to spend some time at the ones including archeological digs as well as natural wonders.

Which park is your favorite and why? When and how were the National Parks established? Who is responsible for maintaining them? Create a small travelogue video of the highlights of your adventures in one or more of the parks.

Ranching in the Southwest

Where green vegetable and plant farming are prevalent in California, much of the rest of the Southwest is rich with cattle ranches. Observe the cultural roots of cattle ranching in rural regions. Texas has particularly strong ties to ranching, historically.

What are the roots of the cowboy culture? How did these sprawling ranches take root? What have they grown into? What sorts of ranches are common now? How has ranching changed in the last 100 years.

Visit a cattle ranch and learn something of the life cycle and economic cycle of ranchers. Learn about the ways that ranching affects the economy of the states where it is most prevalent. Or, consider spending some time at a working ranch.

Indigenous Cultures

One of the richest cultural legacies in the American Southwest is that of the mosaic of indigenous cultures.The numerous tribes that populated this area before the Spanish, and later the settlers from the east coast of the USA arrived remain rooted in the land and the culture. Visit some of the archeological sites with cliff dwellings, original wall paintings, and other fascinating finds. Spend some time learning about the history of a particular people group or, better yet, compare and contrast a couple of them.

What was life like in this part of the world before the colonial powers arrived? What is life like now for the indigenous who remain? Identify some of the struggles and the successes of curating an ancient culture in a “new” world. If you can, interview people about the legacy of their culture and what it means to them now?

Profiles of …..

Conduct a series of at least five interviews within a region. The point of the exercise would be to get a well rounded view of what it is like to live in the France from a variety of ages, incomes, employments and experiences. This could be conducted as video, or as text. Do an in depth analysis of the experience/information.

People you might profile:

  • Farmers
  • Teachers
  • Restaurant owners/workers
  • Clergy or Nuns
  • Government officials
  • Doctors or nurses
  • Cafe owners
  • Street vendors
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Drivers
  • Artists or musicians
  • Laborers
  • Cab drivers
  • Long term expats

Problems & Solutions


 

Prostitution

Prostitution is legal in Nevada, but not in the city of Las Vegas. This is the only place in the USA where the sex trade has been legalized or regulated. Do some reading and research about the industry in the United States. How did it become legalized in Nevada?

What is the industry like in Nevada for both clients and sex workers? What can you learn about the life of a prostitute in the USA? Healthcare? Income? Control over work environment? Is there legal recourse for a worker if there is a problem with a client or employer?

Do you think that prostitution should be legal in the United States? What are the pros and cons to the industry being legal vs. illegal? Support your position with facts and evidence.

Climate Change

Climate change is affecting the Southwestern USA. Increased droughts, fires, and mudslides, among other things, are evidence of this. What are some of the consequences already from the changing climate in the regions you have visited? Read one or more of the above listed books about the subject.

Talk with farmers, environmentalists, and average citizens about the ways they notice the climate changing. California, in particular, is progressive in it’s legislation around conservation and emissions that lead to climate change. What are some of the strategies being employed to lower environmental impacts in communities and industries? Are they helping? Examine the grassroots work being done to change peoples’ habits and thinking about climate change.

Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration continues to be a controversial topic in American politics and society. The state of Arizona has enacted aggressive legislation to combat it. All of the states that border Mexico are actively impacted by the flow of persons from Mexico and Central America across the US border, illegally.

Read on both sides of the illegal immigration debate in the USA. Watch a documentary about the subject on Youtube. What is the impact of illegal immigrants on the American healthcare, education, and social services systems? Are immigrants adversely affecting employment opportunities for Americans? If so, in which industries, primarily? Have the legislative actions of Arizona had an impact one way or the other? What are some of the effects?

What is life like for an illegal immigrant in the USA? What are the risks and benefits to them as individuals, as families? Why do they make the journey north?

Gang and Drug Violence

Los Angeles is world famous for rampant gang violence, but it’s not the only city that deals with it. All of the major cities in the Southwest are dealing with gangs related to the drug trade and other things.

There are dozens of Youtube videos about the drug and gang problem in cities. Watch some of those and educate yourself about the subculture that runs below the surface of many urban environments. Are there initiatives in these cities to curb gang violence and prevent young people from being drawn into it? Are those programs working? Why, or why not?

What are the main contributing factors to the growth or decline of drug and gang violence in the major cities of the Southwest. You may wish to profile Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas to start with. Or, compare the major cities within a particular state, like Texas.

Cultural Assignment Options


 

Food

The Southwestern USA has a rich food heritage that is a blend of the cultures that reside there. Reflecting the meat and ranch industries, there’s a fantastic BBQ scene across much of Texas. Mexican influence in cuisine across the border states points to the original borders of Mexico having been drawn much further north than they are now. Traditional indigenous cultures echo as well and have seen a resurgence in regional cuisines.

California has become known for avocados and almonds as well as all sorts of fresh vegetables and fruits. Not to mention the bounty of the Pacific Ocean all along the western fringe of the country. Make sure you eat well and widely across the Southwest. Try every kind of chili you can lay your hands on. Talk your way into a family BBQ or church picnic. Sample the ethnic food from around the world and the adaptation and fusions that have emerged in America.

Make a record (or a video!) of all of the new foods you’re trying as you travel through the Southwest.

Meaningful Connections

What is a meaningful interaction? You get to decide that. In general, it should be an interaction in which cultural exchange took place and you learned something. Often this will be with a local person; sometimes it will be with another traveler.

Sometimes these interactions look like very little on the outside but are totally life changing on the inside. Other times, they are rock your world amazing from every angle. It could be a meal shared, an afternoon’s excursion, a discussion that opens your eyes in some way, a self revelation that happened without any words exchanged at all.

Spend a day with a local individual or family. Document your experience in photos, interviews and the written word. The best way to interact with locals is to just start chatting with them at markets, on tours or on the street. You can also ask other travelers if they have met anyone who has offered some insight into life in the country. If you are a family who have children attending a local school then have a party, invite a parent to coffee, basically just open up your home to new relationships.

Take a Class

There are many options! Don’t be limited by this list:

  • Cooking
  • Language
  • Art or Crafts
  • Indigenous basket making or painting, perhaps
  • Literature
  • Yoga
  • Dance
  • Music

Museum Visits

The Southwest has some fascinating museums, many of them tucked away in tiny places focused on very narrow bands of American history or culture. As you travel, keep your eyes peeled for these and spend some time exploring them.

Here’s a state by state list to get you started:

Save your ticket stubs!

Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to get to know a local community and give back a bit to the places that you choose to travel. There are lots of ways to do this, both organized and arranged privately, as well as impromptu opportunities that will pop up.

If you’re looking for a list of volunteer opportunities in the USA, Go Overseas has a site dedicated to helping you find one. Global Volunteers also has numerous listings for the USA. Please be advised that TAP is not recommending these, only presenting them as a list of possibilities. Vet your volunteer options carefully.

Live local

Get out of the hostel, rent a place in a local village, or do a homestay. Through websites like Airbnb it’s easy to find places to live locally. Consider a co-living space to develop community with like minded travelers while diving a little deeper and going a little bit more local. Coliving.com has a lot of interesting listings for the USA.

Photo essay or a blog description of why living local was different than living in a hostel. How did this experience change the economics of your stay? What did you learn about the way locals live? What challenged you? What would you do differently next time?

Work Stay

Through an organization like WWOOF, HelpX, or Workaway you can arrange for an opportunity to work in exchange for your room and board in a number of capacities, from farm labour to hospitality. Lots of students make use of these experiences to lower the cost of their travels, while at the same time learning valuable skills or “trying out” various career areas that interest them.

Request feedback in the form of a short evaluation that can be used later for a CV or reference

Public Transportation Project

Take as many types of public transportation as possible.

Challenge yourself to take every type of public transportation available while you are in Australia. Create a photo essay or videologue of your adventures. What did you learn?

Attend a Religious Observance

The Southwestern USA has pockets of very religious communities, and other areas that are largely secular. Much of the Southwest’s religious history stems from Spanish settlement (Catholic), the Westward Expansion (Protestant Christian) and settlers fleeing religious prosecution (Mormon). Before the Europeans arrived, Aboriginal religions provided structure for life, there are pockets of people curating these old beliefs. In the cities you’ll find a diverse and tolerant religious community of minorities as well. Take some time to attend various religious observances and see what you can learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. How does the religious climate in Australia compare with what you grew up with?
 

 

How to Create Your Own Course Work


 

Ask

Learn to ask for what you want. If you meet someone interesting, ask them to teach you. Ask them for an interview. Ask to shadow them for a day or a week. You’ll be surprised at how eager people are to share what they know and teach when someone shows actual interest. Learn to ask questions. Learn to take social risks by putting yourself out there as a learner.

Plan

You have an idea or an interest. Something surprises you on your journey and all of a sudden you have a burning desire to know more. Plan your attack:

  • Narrow your field of study to a particular question or topic.
  • Compile resources: Look for teachers. Who knows what you need to know? Or who can you interview to learn more? Are there books or videos on the topic you’re interested in?
  • Quantify it. How will you demonstrate what you have learned? A research paper, a video project, a photo essay, through art or music, a blog post, a published piece, an interview series, a mini documentary or do you have some other idea?

Produce

Produce a quality piece of academic work that reflects your experiential learning. The whole key to quantifying outside the box learning is to translate it into something that reflects the value of what you learned and how it contributed to your overall educational process.

Perhaps this will be as simple as a traditional research paper, depending on the depth and length of your study this could be as short as three pages or as long as a dissertation. Maybe you’ll produce a video for YouTube, or something grander, like a mini-documentary. Perhaps you’ll do something concrete instead, an art, or community action project and you’ll tell the story through a photo essay, or a series of blog posts. The possibilities are limited only by the resources you have at hand. Get creative. Think outside the box and truly experience your education.

 

Do You Have Anything to Add to This Resource Page?

We’re actively seeking to grow these resources in an open-source spirit. Please email jenn(at)bootsnall(dot)com with your edits or submissions of new information or materials.

Thank you!