Winner, Spur Award for Best Contemporary Nonfiction (Western Writers of America)
A Land Apart is not just a cultural history of the modern Southwest—it is a complete rethinking and recentering of the key players and primary events marking the Southwest in the twentieth century. Historian Flannery Burke emphasizes how indigenous, Hispanic, and other non-white people negotiated their rightful place in the Southwest. Readers visit the region’s top tourist attractions and find out how they got there, listen to the debates of Native people as they sought to establish independence for themselves in the modern United States, and ponder the significance of the U.S.-Mexico border in a place that used to be Mexico. Burke emphasizes policy over politicians, communities over individuals, and stories over simple narratives.
Burke argues that the Southwest’s reputation as a region on the margins of the nation has caused many of its problems in the twentieth century. She proposes that, as they consider the future, Americans should view New Mexico and Arizona as close neighbors rather than distant siblings, pay attention to the region’s history as Mexican and indigenous space, bear witness to the area’s inequalities, and listen to the Southwest’s stories. Burke explains that two core parts of southwestern history are the development of the nuclear bomb and subsequent uranium mining, and she maintains that these are not merely a critical facet in the history of World War II and the militarization of the American West but central to an understanding of the region’s energy future, its environmental health, and southwesterners’ conception of home.
Burke masterfully crafts an engaging and accessible history that will interest historians and lay readers alike. It is for anyone interested in using the past to understand the present and the future of not only the region but the nation as a whole.