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A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America Hardcover – December 29, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

A Safeway in Arizona, is Zoellner's quirky, uneven, brave and astonishingly heartfelt attempt to make sense of the Saturday-morning massacre…he carefully and convincingly treads new ground and concludes that “events-especially violent ones-never happen in a vacuum.”…it’s [Zoellner’s] love for both Giffords and Arizona that makes A Safeway in Arizona so compelling a read.”
(San Francisco Chronicle)

“[A] book that embraces an almost thriller-style narrative structure…A Safeway in Arizona is a masterly work of reporting, historical analysis, and sly cultural criticism.”
(The Boston Globe)

“[A] nuanced book that [Zoellner] is unusually (probably uniquely) qualified to write…Readers outside Arizona should find plenty to admire in this book—including Zoellner’s deep investigation into Loughner’s life; the narrative of the author’s friendship with Giffords; the thoughtful treatment of gun control as an explosive socioeconomic-political issue fueled by demagogues across the desert terrain; and the explication of how the builders of Tucson and other Arizona locales seem to have failed miserably in making community possible, thus creating a breeding ground for structural dysfunction.”
(The Houston Chronicle)

“No one has probed the terrain around the Tucson shooting better than author and journalist Tom Zoellner…Zoellner set out to transcend the endless political banter over blame and explores the social contexts underscoring how Giffords’ act of democratic participation–”reaching out to strangers at the fringe of a Safeway”–could lead to one of the most disturbing assassination attempts in recent history.  In the process, Zoellner asks a lot of questions most Arizonans would prefer to ignore.”
(Salon.com)

“There’s a gaping gulf between the shooting itself and the glib remembrances that make it into the news. Tom Zoellner’s new book about the shooting, A Safeway in Arizona, almost fixes this.”
(Slate.com)

"Tom Zoellner's remarkable book about a moment of tragedy in Arizona ends up a story of survival--a wounded Congresswoman's survival, and a wounded nation's survival as well."
(-Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America)

"Zoellner brilliantly evokes the past and present of Arizona, the outsized personalities that have shaped the state and the paranoia lurking at the edge of society. A sure-to-be-controversial, troubling tale of the wages of fear on the body politic."
(-Kirkus Reviews)

About the Author

Tom Zoellner has worked as a contributing editor for Men’s Health magazine and as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. His book The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds and Desire will be published in the summer of 2006.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (December 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670023205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023202
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Zoellner is an American author and journalist. He is the author of popular nonfiction books, described as "genre-defying," which take multidimensional views of their subject and show the descent of an influential object through history. These boosk have been praised as "dazzling" (Entertainment Weekly), "mesmerizing" (Booklist), and "enchanting" (New York Post). He is an Associate Professor of English at Chapman University and lives in downtown Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Hillary Zappel on February 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a moving, thought-provoking book and would recommend it. It sheds light not only on the shooting in Tucson last year, but also on the state of political discourse and our social relationships - in Arizona yes, but nationally as well. The points that Zoellner makes have larger implications. He is very forthright in admitting that this is not a piece of objective journalism (he even states it in an author's note at the beginning of the book), and his personal anecdotes about his relationship with the Congresswoman and his childhood in Arizona make that point very clear in case you missed the note. There were moments where I felt the personal narrative - and specifically his description of his relationship with Congresswoman Giffords - seemed overdone, but for the most part I felt Zoellner wove together the threads of personal experience, journalistic investigation and social commentary to great effect. The book is eminently readable in part because of these personal threads (though his writing here, as in previous books, is accessible in the more journalistic sections as well), and I appreciated how he was able to use them in service of larger points about isolation and the fracturing of our communities.

In short, Zoellner is able to take personal and national tragedy and draw useful, thoughtful lessons with larger implications. I thought of "What's Wrong with Kansas," but with a heart. This is a welcome response to this kind of event, especially from one personally affected by it, and particularly when placed alongside last year's autobiography of Rep. Giffords and her husband. That book seemed to me to be rather the worst kind of response something like this, one used for personal aggrandizement and advancement. And I say this as a loyal Democrat with a huge amount of admiration for Rep Giffords - both her personal struggle and her politics. Zoellner has written a much bigger book and one that I believe will stand the test of time.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Constance Swanson on February 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A piece of information: my husband and I live in Northern Michigan but have spent the last three winters in Green Valley, south of Tucson. We both read the book and have hours talking about it. ( I guess if two people who have been married 47 years can spend hours talking about a book, that book must be pretty good.) I knew Arizonians would be defensive about the way Zoeller reveals the serious problems that plague this state. I think of the way people have trashed my lovely state and I understand loving a place. (And by the way, Arizona is a beautiful state. Come here and see.) The idea that intrigued me the most in this book was how the style of architecture affected a spirit of community. No stoops for sitting and watching the neighbors go by, no broad front porches to watch the kids at play. In Arizona, garages take up the front of a home; all else takes place in the walled-in back area. Zoeller's point--and perhaps this was his thesis--is the lack of cohesiveness, a joint feeling that we are all in this together. I'm not sure if he really connects this concept to the Safeway shootings, but the idea has certainly made me think.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Melanie Archer on March 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One thing you learn quickly when you grow up in Arizona is that people everywhere else think you come from a bleak wasteland devoid of natural and cultural attractions. Countering this false assumption was hard enough given the state's modest profile in national rankings(for instance, economic performance). It became impossible after January 8, 2011, when a gunman shot nineteen people in a Tucson parking lot, among them his Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.

Zoellner writes as both an Arizonan and a personal friend of Giffords. He's pained by abrupt changes in his home state, such as the rise in poverty, the jerry-built suburbs blighting the landscape, and a public discourse apparently detached from intelligence and reason. He recalls the optimism at the beginning of Giffords's term, when it seemed that Arizona's seeming decline might be reversed.

And who was Jared Loughner? Zoellner manages to write about the murderer with compassion: here is a young man with almost no prospects in a state that strives to punish the poor and the sick. In Arizona, it was easier for Loughner to buy guns than to obtain psychiatric treatment...as in many other states.

I think this is Zoellner's point. The tragedies in Arizona won't remain unique to it. Other states have destructive sprawl, weak economies, eroded community feeling, and dwindling commitment to public health and schooling. For a change, Arizona seems to be in the vanguard. And while it's customary to blame changes there on "Californians" or "Mexicans," right now it looks to be all Arizona's own handiwork.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TC3 on January 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been meaning to review this book since it came out. The news this week finally moved me: Gabrielle Giffords resigned from the US House of Representatives to recuperate from being shot in the head. Also this week, as the President visited Arizona, a police sergeant in a suburb of Phoenix posted a photo on Facebook of men holding aloft two assault rifles, a bolt action rifle, a revolver, and a t-shirt bearing a likeness of the President full of holes and gashes above the word HOPE. (The Secret Service is investigating.)

If you think the shooting of U.S. Rep. Giffords and the posting of the photo might be related in some cultural way, and you're curious too about Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Jared Loughner and the *hows* and *whys* of Arizonan extremity, then this book is for you. I loved Zoellner's books about uranium and diamonds. He is thoughtful, thorough, straightforward and honest--a wonderful writer and reporter. His parents "moved us," as he puts it, to a suburb of Tucson when he was 11; he later covered the statehouse for the Arizona Republic. He worked on Giffords' campaigns and remains her friend and admirer--and he interweaves this information with a lot of solid reporting to explain and understand the violence of Arizona. Certain digressions are unexpectedly enlightening, such as his history of the development of La Toscana Village, where the Safeway in question is located. ("This simulacrum of a 'village' then, a bad photocopy of an older America, was the true patrimony of the northwest side.") I guess this book is political, but only in the most general, important way: Zoellner is trying to make sense of a tumultuous corner of America.
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