June 27, 2023
The University of Arizona’s Nancy Montoya interviewed Tom Zoellner about his book, Rim to River during the 2023 Tucson Festival of Books. The UA’s Digital Futures Bilingual Studio hosted the interview, and the video is available here.
The book is 17 essays inspired by Zoellner’s walk across the state, from Utah to Mexico, on the Arizona Trail. “There’s a chapter in the book called ‘White Bones’ and it’s about the water shortage and the Colorado River,” says Zoellner in the interview. “And we’re running into a harsh reality in Arizona. To put it simply, it’s going to be farmers versus cities. And cities are going to win.” He thought a lot about water while hiking: “I developed a profound appreciation for water, the feeling of your body as you dehydrate. It’s a terrifying feeling.” In one of his chapters, Zoellner links this feeling of dehydration to the experience of border crossers, “the hardship of crossing the desert, and what they endure to feed their families back home.”
Rim to River is the story of his extraordinary journey through redrock country, down canyons, up mesas, and across desert plains to the obscure valley in Mexico that gave the state its enigmatic name. The trek is interspersed with incisive essays that pick apart the distinctive cultural landscape of Arizona: the wine-colored pinnacles and complex spirituality of Navajoland, the mind-numbing stucco suburbs, desperate border crossings, legislative skullduggery, extreme politics, billion-dollar copper ventures, dehydrating rivers, retirement kingdoms, old-time foodways, ghosts of old wars, honky-tonk dreamers, murder mysteries, and magical Grand Canyon reveries.