In Tucson, the month of August is always exciting: school is about to resume, the students begin to trickle back into town, and new books are on their way. But this year, the natural flow of the season has been hampered by the unrelenting heat and scarcity of serious rain. Even the desert’s best-adapted plants have struggled to make it through this summer’s heat-wave.
At the University of Arizona Press, we find that it’s a little easier to exercise hydrological patience by looking back to some of our favorite water-writing. We hope you’ll enjoy this roundup of monsoon books—and who knows—maybe you’ll even be reading one on your back porch when the rain starts. We can always hope!
The vision begins with a river. From this river, you can see a village, marine life, and ancestral rituals. It is here that you recognize origins, and a poison beginning to spread through paradise. Suddenly, a premonition: a wounded animal. The certainty of war cries. What you take with you is what you become, each movement a gamble, a lottery of life that transforms you until this moment, when uncertainty becomes an ally.
Lotería: Nocturnal Sweepstakes is a collection of deeply evocative coming-of-age poems that take the reader on a voyage through the intimate experiences of displacement. Conjuring dreamlike visions of extravagant fruits and rivers animated by the power of divination, these poems follow the speaker from the lash of war’s arrival through an urgent escape and reinvention in a land that saves with maternal instinct but also smothers its children.
In this bilingual collection, Colombian American poet Elizabeth Torres threads together the stories of family dynamics and the realities of migration with the archetypes of tarot and the traditional Lotería game, used for centuries as an object of divination and entertainment. Through these themes and images, the poems in Lotería narrate intimate moments in the lives and journeys of migrants, refugees, and all who have been forced into metamorphosis in order to reach the other side of the river.
Winner of the 2022 Ambroggio Prize of the Academy of American Poets, this collection showcases masterfully crafted and translated poems.
When it was first released in 1982, When It Rains was one of the earliest published literary works in the O’odham language. Speakers from across generations shared poems that showcased the aesthetic of the written word and aimed to spread interest in reading and writing in O’odham.
The poems capture brief moments of beauty, the loving bond between family members, and a deep appreciation of Tohono O’odham culture and traditions, as well as reverent feelings about the landscape and wildlife native to the Southwest. A motif of rain and water is woven throughout the poetry in When It Rains, tying in the collection’s title to the importance of this life-giving and sustaining resource to the Tohono O’odham people. With the poems in both O’odham and English, the volume serves as an important reminder of the beauty and changeability of the O’odham language.
Please note: this book is forthcoming in October 2023
When living in a large sprawling city, one may feel disconnected and adrift. Finding ways to belong and have positive effects is challenging. In Bringing Home the Wild, botanist Juliet C. Stromberg demonstrates how ecologically guided gardening develops a sense of place, restores connections to nature, and brings joy and meaning to our lives.
This book follows a two-decade journey in ecologically guided gardening on a four-acre irrigated parcel in Phoenix, Arizona, from the perspective of a retired botanist and her science historian partner. Through humor and playful use of language, Bringing Home the Wild not only introduces the plants who are feeding them, buffering the climate, and elevating their moods but also acknowledges the animals and fungi who are pollinating the plants and recycling the waste. Some of the plants featured are indigenous to the American Southwest, while others are part of the biocultural heritage of the cityscape. This book makes the case for valuing inclusive biodiversity and for respectful interactions with all wild creatures, regardless of their historical origin.
As author and partner learn to cohabit with the plants who feed them, calm them, entertain them, and protect them from the increasing heat, their desire to live sustainably, ethically, and close to the land becomes even stronger, revealing the importance of observing, appreciating, and learning from the ecosystems of which we are a part.
Published more than forty years ago, The Desert Smells Like Rain remains a classic work about nature, how to respect it, and what transplants can learn from the longtime residents of the Sonoran Desert, the Tohono O’odham people.
In this work, Gary Paul Nabhan brings O’odham voices to the page at every turn. He writes elegantly of how they husband scant water supplies, grow crops, and utilize edible wild foods. Woven through his account are coyote tales, O’odham children’s impressions of the desert, and observations of the political problems that come with living on both sides of an international border. Nabhan conveys the everyday life and extraordinary perseverance of these desert people.
This edition includes a new preface written by the author, in which he reflects on his gratitude for the O’odham people who shared their knowledge with him. He writes about his own heritage and connections to the desert, climate change, and the border. He shares his awe and gratitude for O’odham writers and storytellers who have been generous enough to share stories with those of us from other cultural traditions so that we may also respect and appreciate the smell of the desert after a rain.
Life in the desert is a waiting game: waiting for rain. And in a year of drought, the stakes are especially high.
John Alcock knows the Sonoran Desert better than just about anyone else, and in this book he tracks the changes he observes in plant and animal life over the course of a drought year. Combining scientific knowledge with years of exploring the desert, he describes the variety of ways in which the wait for rain takes place—and what happens when it finally comes.
When the Rains Come is brimming with new insights into the desert, from the mating behaviors of insects to urban sprawl, and features photographs that document changes in the landscape as drought years come and go. It brings us the desert in the harshest of times—and shows that it is still teeming with life.
Signed on November 24, 1922, the Colorado River Compact is the cornerstone of a proverbial pyramid—an elaborate body of laws colloquially called the “Law of the River” that governs how human beings use water from the river system dubbed the “American Nile.”
No fewer than forty million people have come to rely on the Colorado River system in modern times—a river system immersed in an unprecedented, unrelenting megadrought for more than two decades. Attempting to navigate this “new normal,” policymakers are in the midst of negotiating new management rules for the river system, a process coinciding with the compact’s centennial that must be completed by 2026.
Animated by this remarkable confluence of events, Cornerstone at the Confluence leverages the centennial year to reflect on the compact and broader “Law of the River” to envision the future. It is a volume inviting dialogue about how the Colorado River system’s flows should be apportioned given climate change, what should be done about environmental issues such as ecosystem restoration and biodiversity protection, and how long-standing issues of water justice facing Native American communities should be addressed.
In one form or another, all these topics touch on the concept of “equity” embedded within the compact—a concept that tees up what is perhaps the foundational question confronted by Cornerstone at the Confluence: Who should have a seat at the table of Colorado River governance?