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Barren, Wild, and Worthless: Living in the Chihuahuan Desert Hardcover – October, 1995

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A collection of insightful essays . . . Here are stories of conditions often out of balance, mostly without visible remedy—short-sighted urban renewal, the legacy of over-grazing, aquifer depletion, the loss of an old church and with it the gathering place of a whole community. . . . Those interested in the history and ecology of the region will want to pick it up, as well as those looking for good contemporary essay writing about the West." —The New Mexican
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Appearing barren and most definitely wild, the Chihuahuan Desert of northern Mexico and the southwestern United States may look worthless to some, but for Susan Tweit it is an inspiration. In this collection of seven elegant personal essays, she explores undiscovered facets of this seemingly hostile environment. With eloquence, passion, and insight, she describes and reflects on the relationship between the land, history, and people and makes this underappreciated region less barren for those who would share her journeys.
"There's often little to this terrain, but to the author it's a beautiful landscape bursting with stories and wildlife, with big cities and small chunks of quietness found in few other places on earth. Tweit's essays have a pleasant style that combines history with personal discovery." --"Book Talk" "Sense of place is measured by one's awareness of the landscape and the extent to which it dictates thought and behavior. "Barren, Wild, and Worthless" dramatizes the aspirations, needs, and functional rhythms of life that are revealed and defined by this seventh sense." --"Southwestern American Literature" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 203 pages
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press; 1st edition (October 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826316514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826316516
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,505,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book. I moved to El Paso which is unlike any landscape and environment I've ever experienced. I'm from the East Coast - a little island. So, the desert was a shock and I immediately fell in love with it. This was the perfect book for me. If anyone has any other recommendations for books about the Chihuahua desert region please comment!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I live in Western Colorado, and I love the open spaces. Susan's book takes me back into the wild, empty landscape of New Mexico.
And I think again of the austere beauty, the fragil environment, its fascinating and elusive creatures. And of the sad price if this landscape is inundated by humanity.
I love the book!
The Naturalist-in-Training
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Format: Paperback
In Barren, Wild, and Worthless: Living in the Chihuahuan Desert, we arrive with author Susan J. Tweit in her new landscape, so named by explorer John Russell Barlett in 1856. Her husband's job has brought them and their young daughter to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Raised in the Midwest and recently moved from her familiar and loved landscape of Wyoming, Tweit is determined to like her new home. She looks around: "Here is a spacious landscape, indeed, I said to myself cheerfully. But deeper inside a voice wailed, 'It's so brown! And so hot!'" That night, alone in a motel room, Tweit cries herself to sleep.

So begins this poignant journey, as Tweit transforms her despair into a detailed exploration of her new home. We walk with her through the desert, and learn every new creature and cactus. Written with gritty honesty, the book doesn't shy away from the tougher topics, artfully weaving the historical roots and current events into her narrative, addressing such issues as spadefoot toads, storm sewers, and the disappearance of the grizzly.

No reader will forget her essay "Weeds," in which Tweit follows the explosion of tumbleweeds and their aftermath in the social and political terrain of the West and compares this with the experience of Mexican immigrants in the Southwest today. Weaving together past and present, land and people, Tweit begins with the death of an undocumented immigrant along a busy highway outside of Las Cruces, NM. "As they zipped by in their air-conditioned vehicles, passers-by could not have missed seeing the man as he stood just a few yards from the road, growing increasingly delirious from hunger and thirst." What makes such a thing possible? "When does a weed become a problem, something that we root out, spray with herbicides, destroy?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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