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…This sense of hope bordering on the irrational has always been a part of the Arizona character. The state itself takes its name from a mineral strike in 1736 that was there and gone within weeks…And a little bit of that huckster spirit remains—actually, a lot of that huckster spirit—in you know, the selling of what by any objective measures is not the easiest place to live.

Tom Zoellner, author of Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona.

Arizona’s unique natural beauty and lingering “Wild West” spirit often charm outside observers. That allure may waver when closer examination reveals realities of extreme temperatures, extended drought, and what author Tom Zoellner refers to as a “transient” community fabric.

In his 2023 book, Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona, Tom’s collection of essays details his one-man pilgrimage across the state to better understand its history and its enduring appeal—even in a warming world. His multidimensional perspective offers further context for our recent podcast episode on sustainability in Arizona, and for the complex factors that drive migration here and throughout the Ten Across region.

In this episode, Ten Across founder Duke Reiter and Tom Zoellner unpack important themes found within Tom’s recent New York Times editorial,“Don’t Flee the American Southwest Just Yet”, and his book of Arizona essays. Through salient points in the state’s history—from its unsavory beginnings in the Indian Wars to the post-war residential and agricultural booms to the current evolution of the state’s Republican party—this conversation explores how history reverberates today in the legislature, at the border, and in environmental priorities.

Guest Speaker

Tom Zoellner is a fifth generation Arizonan and the author of nine nonfiction books, including Island on Fire: The Revolt that Ended Slavery in the British Empire, which won the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award, and Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona. He is currently a professor at Chapman University and Dartmouth College and editor-at-large of the Los Angeles Review of Books.