Los Angeles writer Rubén Martínez traveled through the American West looking for the Garden of Eden; what he found was ''Eden with poverty, Eden with drugs, Eden with class warfare.'' A mixture of reportage and memoir, Martínez's latest book, Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New ''New West,'' covers his time in New Mexico and Texas. He encounters all sorts of weirdness on his travels, such as Native Americans hunting down Mexican immigrants who cross reservation land; locals responding to a casting call to play Iraqi villagers in a simulated battle at a nearby military base; and newly arrived environmentalists trying to prevent their neighbors from participating in the centuries-old practice of gathering firewood. Customs and cultures collide in Desert America, and Martínez’s lyrical writing gives the conflict an epic literary landscape.
Thu., Feb. 28, 7 p.m., 2013