A Beautiful, Cruel Country
Eva Antonia Wilbur inherited a unique affinity for the land. Granddaughter of a Harvard-educated physician who came to the Territory in the 1860s, she was the firstborn child of a Mexican mother and Anglo father who instilled in her an appreciation for both cultures. Little Toña learned firsthand the responsibilities of ranching—an education usually reserved for boys—and also experienced the racial hostility that occurred during those final years before the Tohono O'odham were confined to a reservation.
Begun as a reminiscence to tell younger family members about their "rawhide tough and lonely" life at the turn of the century, Mrs. Wilbur-Cruce's book is rich with imagery and dialogue that brings the Arivaca area to life. Her story is built around the annual cycle of ranch life—its spring and fall round-ups, planting and harvesting—and features a cavalcade of border characters, anecdotes about folk medicine, and recollections of events that were most meaningful in a young girl's life. Her account constitutes a valuable primary source from a region about which nothing similar has been previously published, while the richness of her story creates a work of literature that will appeal to readers of all ages.
"The book sits on the cusp of culture and time. . . . a fascinating account of frontier life." —Los Angeles Times
"A most captivating and readable piece of personal history." —Booklist
"There are books that are constructed—and there are books that are lived. What immediately draws the reader to A Beautiful, Cruel Country is this sense of living history, of the author's immersion in the land of her childhood." —Western American Literature
"As fascinating and diversified as the contents of an old trunk . . . [a] most interesting and appealing book." —Western Historical Quarterly
"Transitory wisps of beauty, rose-petal desert sunset clouds, or a golden lace banner of butterflies floating in midair made a deep, long-lasting impression." —The Bloomsbury Review