Which books and authors should I bring with me?
A great feature of border culture is the lure of a bargain. For decades, the clear lure of cheap muffler (« mofle ») shops has drawn tourists south; now it’s cheap dentures and Viagra. So we offer a unique classic, the anthology “Pure Border: dispatches, snapshots and graffiti from La Frontera.” Edited by Tijuana’s Greatest Literary Son, Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, Alongside the Late El Paso Great Bobby Byrd and his son John William Byrd, this wild anthology covers the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many of the greatest fringe thinkers and writers are featured on its covers: Charles Bowden, Leslie Marmon Silko, Sam Quinones, Juan Villoro and Doug Peacock (model for the infamous hero of Edward Abbey’s novel « The Monkey Wrench Gang »), among the others. Funky, funny, literary, angry – it will show you things you may have wondered about and things you may not have imagined.
What writers or books will help me feel the spirit of this place?
Even if you don’t read poetry, the borderlands require it. In a place both lush and austere, alien and familiar, filled with symphonies of languages and accents, smells and sounds, silence and raucous music, nothing touches the experience of being there like poetry. It’s no coincidence that most of the writers on my list are also poets. They will carry you.
Ophelia Zepeda, a 1999 MacArthur Fellow, is a Tohono O’odham poet of such elegant and exact rhetoric, such integrity of scholarship and vision, that you miss his silent genius at your peril. He returned the songs of Tohono O’odham to the earth. Come to the chapels of his books « Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert » AND “Where clouds form.«
I highly recommend a book that brings me endless joy as a reader and endless inspiration as a writer: The Foundational Anthology by Harry Polkinhorn and Mark Weiss “Across the Line/Al Otro Lado”. It covers the wide and astounding body of Baja California poetry, from indigenous songs to postmodern epics, and includes works that reflect the savory cross-genre/intercultural/cross-border adventures writers foresee over the span of this decade.
Arizona’s first Poet Laureate, Alberto Rios, born in Nogales, Arizona, is a true borderland writer. Though all of his poetry books are excellent, “A little story about the sky” remains my favourite. However, of particular interest to this list is « Capirotada: A Memoir of Nogales ».