- Lost Homelands: Ruin and Reconstruction in the 20th-Century Southwest
At a time that regional studies are struggling vis-à-vis the ever-increasing focus on globalism in literary scholarship, Audrey Goodman has written a book that promises to reenergize Southwestern studies. In Lost Homelands: Ruin and Reconstruction in the 20th-Century Southwest, Goodman traces the ties that bind this U.S. region to larger social, political, and global shifts that have shaped the U.S. since the Great Depression and tallies the costs of these entanglements for the Southwest, but she also presents hope for the "reconstruction" of the region.
Analyzing texts and images side-by-side, the author discovers a set of common concerns about the fragmentation of the individual, the breakdown of community, the transformation and exploitation of the natural landscape, and the repression of alternative stories and histories of the Southwest. If the Great Depression marked the end of migrants' hopes for "relatively stable homelands," she writes, the 1940s and '50s were at the beginning of the nation's ever-more sophisticated scientific development, increased militarization efforts that found expression in numerous atomic tests, and the attendant contamination of Southwestern landscape itself (5). Meanwhile, the region has also provided the setting for progressively more complex cross-cultural and cross-border relationships that shape experiences of migration and exile. Even as she thus records the region's disintegration, Goodman discovers in the fragments—"ruins"—of the Southwest-as-homeland a point of departure for recovery that may enable a new sense of belonging and community: "By making us mindful of the present and encouraging us to excavate the many layers of the past," Goodman writes, "photographic and literary representations of Southwestern landscapes can engage us in the challenging process of living with ruins and constructing homelands in a culture that overtly values mobility, growth, and change" (10).
The book is structured thematically with each chapter focusing on a specific type of vernacular landscape: "The Road," "The Village," "The Bridge," "The [End Page 237] Desert," "The Border," and "Magical Regions." Examining the road as a symbol of mobility, of detachment from the local, and of an increasingly commercialized culture that at once defies community and creates its own group identity, the first chapter discusses photographs by Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, and Russell Lee alongside John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust, and Preston Sturges' film Sullivan's Travels. The second chapter traces how individual writers—Cleofas Jaramillo, Frank Waters, and Denise Chávez—reconstruct a sense of community and juxtaposes these works with John Collier Jr.'s and Russell Lee's Farm Security Administration photos. The chapter "The Bridge" examines the ruins of wartime atomic programs and Japanese internment camps and explores the ways in which narratives by Frank Waters and Gary Ohikiro and art by Meridel Rubenstein, Ellen Zweig, Steina and Woody Vasulka, and Joan Myers expose the traumatic history of a landscape that made the secrecy of atomic testing and the forced ethic isolation of the internment camps possible. In her fourth chapter, "The Desert," Goodman concentrates on Georgia O'Keeffe's, Leslie Marmon Silko's, and Terry Tempest Williams' representations of trauma epitomized in "civilization's ruins"—the land's contamination and the effects of radiation on the body. In her last two chapters, Goodman turns to the border as a contested space and assesses its potential to morph into a home for a hybrid culture. Considering photographs by Peter Goin and Geoffrey James next to Cormac McCarthy's, Alberto Ríos's, and Arturo Islas' fiction in chapter five, she measures, in chapter six, the ability of magical realism both to express the traditional and modern worlds and to open up the region to productive cultural exchanges.
Drawing on an impressively exhaustive and interdisciplinary range of criticism and theory (e.g., Gloria Anzaldúa, Clement Greenberg, Henri Lefebvre, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Gerald Nash, José David Saldívar, Richard Slotkin, Rebecca Solnit, Donald Worster), Goodman centers her argument on geographer John Brinkerhoff Jackson's discussions...