December 1, 2022
Richard Shelton brought Southern Arizona to the world. Again and again, we heard stories of how Going Back to Bisbee touched readers near and far, from the person who moved here from across the country, inspired by the book, to the job candidate from Connecticut who went to their local library to see what the Press had published and discovered this literary gem. He was a brilliant storyteller.
In Crossing the Yard, he chronicled what was perhaps his life’s work—teaching writing in the Arizona State prisons. As publishers, it was incredibly moving to work on this book. It is a testament to the transformative power of writing and our common humanity. As one of his students, facing relocation to another prison, wrote to him, “I am not afraid, dear Richard. I am singing.”
Shelton’s exploration of our common humanity continued in his final work of nonfiction, Nobody Rich or Famous, a quietly profound memoir of his upbringing in Boise, Idaho. Evoking both the beauty of the natural world and the sorrows of poverty, it stands alongside the greatest of contemporary memoirs.
Richard Shelton’s legacy will be detailed by many—and it will take many to document his transformative contributions to the University of Arizona, to literature, and to so many lives. When we remember Dick, however, we will remember him through these books, books that let us know him and that touched us all.