Name: Ruben Martinez


Author, teacher, musician

Los Angeles, Calif.

Previous books
The Other Side: Notes From the New L.A., Mexico City,
and Beyond; The New Americans and Crossing Over

Why he avoided the natural world in the first draft of his new book
When I started to write Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West, I was still writing against things like elitist environmentalists. And I thought, "If the elitist environmentalist paints this land without human figures, then I'm going to paint the land without landscape!"

And how the environment got into the book
After hanging out with the nonprofit advocacy group Forest Guardians in northern New Mexico, he understood that you can't separate people from nature. "The debate about how humans should be in the forest is profound," he says. "Then the book became about points of view -- how the land is regarded in so many different ways."