Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland
By Geraldo L. Cadava
Harvard University Press
$39.95; 320 pages; non-fiction
Tucson native Geraldo L. Cadava opens this exploration of the Arizona-Sonora cultural, social, geographic, political and economic region with the story of the 1940 making of the Columbia Pictures film Arizona. For authenticity, the film—a romance about the first white settlers in the territory—was to be filmed in the Sonoran Desert, and Columbia Pictures created a movie set (the forerunner of Old Tucson Studios) depicting Tucson in1860. "Authenticity" was the watchword for the film but, according to Cadava, the representation of the region was anything but authentic: It perpetuated the myth of white frontier ingenuity, underplayed the contributions of indigenous groups and inhabitants of Mexican descent, and overlooked the area's relationship to Mexico.
In Standing on Common Ground, Cadava, an assistant history professor at Northwestern University, sets out to debunk that myth. He argues that understanding our border region requires seeing beyond the international line and considering the "range of economic, political, social, and cultural relationships transcend(ing)" it; bearing in mind the "world of transnational migration"; and recognizing that border issues include acknowledging "a regional culture forged through the institutions and traditions of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands."
By featuring locales such as Tucson and Hermosillo, the Nogaleses and Guaymas, Cadava depicts a borderland community we recognize and celebrate.
The Last Firewall
By William Hertling
$11.95; 302 pages; science fiction
Never have quite trusted those smart-lookin' guys who lurk around the University of Arizona's computer science building, and now I have a reason why: the risk of World Domination. Web developer and strategist and online community organizer William Hertling spent three years at the UA, so where better to hide an Evil Bot than in the UA's Gould-Simpson Building?
In The Last Firewall, life in 2035 has gotten quite comfy. In addition to cool self-driving road and air vehicles and moneyless transactions, technology has advanced so far that artificial intelligences do all the heavy thinking and humans have Internet access through enhancers inserted in their brains. People don't actually have to work anymore; they can indulge in social media, gaming and neural implant sex 24/7. Two unintended consequences of this life converge in this novel, though: unmotivated humans and power-hungry robots. A young woman with unusual intellectual skills is unexpectedly thrust into what turns out to be an attempt to dominate the world. Much action—physical, mental and technological—ensues.
Reading The Last Firewall feels a lot like whipping through a fast-paced online game. Attached to a girl hero.
My Name Is Resolute
By Nancy E. Turner
Thomas Dunn Books
$27.99; 560 pages; historical fiction
Tucsonan Nancy E. Turner (These Is My Words, Sarah's Quilt, The Star Garden) has set her latest novel, to be released next month, in the American colonies. It's 1729 and pirates wrench siblings August, Patience and Resolute (meaningful name alert here) from their comfortable plantation in Jamaica and sell them as indentured servants in the New World. Abused by her Puritan owners, captured by a band of Indians and sold again to a convent near Montreal, young "Ressie" develops street cunning as well as trades skills—spinning and weaving. After six years, she escapes and settles along the historically ripe Lexington-Concord corridor.
Although essentially telling a story of a woman's life—we follow Resolute from childhood to old age—Turner has wound through her tale threads of social, religious and political issues; colonial history; a little myth and superstition; and considerable fashion and textile description. The problems of being a woman without family affiliations arise as do the social distinctions in the colonies. We see conflicts among religious groups—Puritans, Quakers, Roman Catholics—and watch the growing independence movement divide families.
It's Resolute the novel is about, though, and Turner has drawn a character whose trials, loves, losses and achievements Turner fans will happily follow.