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Description - At the Edge of West by Mark Arax

Teddy Roosevelt once exclaimed, When I am in California, I am not in the West. I am west of the West, and in this book, Mark Arax spends four years travelling up and down the Golden State to explore its singular place in the world. This is California beyond the clichs. This is California as only a native son, deep in the dust, could draw it. Compelling, lyrical, and ominous, his new collection finds a different drama rising out of each confounding landscape. The Summer of the Death of Hilario Guzman has been praised as a stunningly intimate portrait of one immigrant family from Oaxaca, through harrowing border crossings and brutal raisin harvests. Down the road in the Home Front, right-wing Christians and Jews form a strange pact that tries to silence debate on the War on Terror, and a conflicted father loses not one but two sons in Iraq. The Last Okie in Lamont, the inspiration for the town in the Grapes of Wrath, has but one Okie left, who tells Arax his life story as he drives to a funeral to bury one more Dust Bowl migrant. The Highlands of Humboldt is a journey to marijuana growing capital of the U. S. , where the old hippies are battling the new hippies over pollution pot and the local bank collects a mountain of cash each day, much of it redolent of cannabis. Arax pieces together the murder-suicide at the heart of a rotisserie chicken empire in The Legend of Zankou, a story included in the Best American Crime Reporting 2009. And, in the end, he provides a moving epilogue to the murder of his own father, a crime in the California heartland finally solved after thirty years. In the finest tradition of Joan Didion, Arax combines journalism, essay, and memoir to capture social upheaval as well as the sense of being rooted in a community. Piece by piece, the stories become a whole, a stunning panorama of California, and America, in a new century.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781586483906
ISBN-10: 1586483900
Format: Hardback
(236mm x 156mm x 33mm)
Pages: 368
Imprint: PublicAffairs,U.S.
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 31-May-2008
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - At the Edge of West by Mark Arax

US Kirkus Review » A lucid, warts-and-all portrait of California by a native son.Arax (Nonfiction Writing/Claremont McKenna Coll.; The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, 2003, etc.) embarks on a sometimes ominous tour that, he warns, is on a "road trenched by 9/11 and the War on Terror and the anomie of the digital age and the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression." He finds stories to tell about all those things, beginning with his grandfather, who was "a migrant fruit picker, a farmer, a grocer, a communist, a capitalist, an atheist, a believer - in other words, a consummate Californian." Arax is less admiring of another agriculturist, the classicist and neoconservative Victor Davis Hanson, "a raisin farmer whose family had worked the same piece of dirt since 1872 [and who] had become the hawk of the month for the Bush administration." Another character whom Arax mentions in passing drove his tractor into the Pacific Ocean by way of protesting tax policies - and who had five wives, white, black and Latina. The author explores the Okie migration and its latter-day reflection in the influx of fieldworkers from Mexico, such as one Oaxacan who worked hard for nine years and had accumulated a couple of beat-up vehicles to park "in the dirt path that led from the vineyard to the three-room shack that cost him $400 a month to rent." That shack is within sight of gleaming palaces, to say nothing of INS databases - yet more parts of the California story.In the library of Californiana, worthy of a place alongside the works of Bill Barich, Carey McWilliams and even Joan Didion. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Mark Arax

Award-winning author and journalist Mark Arax is a co-author of The King of California and author of In My Father's Name. He is a contributing writer at Los Angeles magazine and a former senior writer at the Los Angeles Times. He teaches nonfiction writing at Claremont McKenna College and lives in Fresno.

Books By Mark Arax

West of the West by Mark Arax
Paperback, March 2011
King Of California by Mark Arax
Paperback, January 2005
In My Father's Name by Mark Arax
Paperback, August 1997