Austin's charming and evocative stories dramatize the legacy of conquest upon a land and its native peoples. Although these stories, out of print for almost a century, were first intended as delightful and instructive reading for children, on another level they are an intense examination of the dramatic implications of a legacy of conquest upon the land and its native peoples. In Austin’s tales, cocky young glaciers, contemplative pine trees, resourceful ancient Paiutes, and rabbits too clever for their own good all become companions and teachers to Alan, the young son of homesteaders in early Nevada. The kindly but mysterious Basket Woman, who tells him these tales, is a keeper of her people's traditions. She doesn't simply tell stories: she transports her young friend into a powerful and mythic past, where Alan learns the secrets of the trees and animals and the wisdom of the people who flourished in this "land of little rain" before the arrival of foreigners from the east. A new foreword by Austin scholar and environmental writer Mark Schlenz provide ample context for a multilevel appreciation of one of this remarkable writer's most important works.
Set primarily in the lonesome southwest desert lands of the 1920s, this novella is a powerful story in which landscape reflects and defines character. In this beautifully written tale, a promising young politician, Grant Arliss, flees from this pressure-ridden life in New York City to the serenity of the desert’s open spaces.
There, he finds not only a place to sort out his confusion but also a remarkable woman, unlike any he has met. In his eyes, Dulcie Adelaid is an aloof creature of the desert who relies only on herself. Challenged and yet inhibited by the desert’s unrelenting force, Arliss admires Dulcie’s instinctive ability to thrive in the harsh country. She also provides a spiritual sustenance that he has never found with any other woman. Together they engage in lively conversations about his political convictions and her beliefs and values. Inspired, Arliss returns to New York where he delivers eloquent speeches to an overwhelmingly supportive constituency.
Placing Cactus Thorn in biographical, feminist, and literary perspective, Melody Graulich's commentary discusses how Austin’s themes are timeless in setting and moral tone. Foreword and afterword by Melody Graulich.
Mary Austin University of Nevada Press, 2001 Library of Congress SF375.4.C2A88 2001 | Dewey Decimal 636.3083097948
This classic novel, first published in 1906 and based on Mary Austin's own experiences, captures the way of life of shepherds in the Sierra. Austin blends natural history, politics, and allegory in a genre-blurring narrative, championing local shepherds in their losing battle against the quickly developing tourist business in the Western Sierra during the nineteenth century. Austin had met many shepherds while visiting the Tejon ranches of Edward Beale and Henry Miller, and cultivated relationships with men others often thought of as ignorant, unambitious, and dirty, listening closely to their stories. Her neighbors were scandalized, but Austin respected the shepherds’ ways of thinking. Rather than portray these shepherds’ lives as part of a romantic bygone era, in this novel, she instead positions them as exemplifying potentially radical ways of living in and thinking about the world. Afterword by Barney Nelson.
When The Land of Journeys' Ending was first published in 1924, The Literary Reviewwarned, "This book is treacherous, waiting to overwhelm you with its abundant poetry." In it, successful New York author Mary Austin describes the epic journey she undertook in 1923, when left her East Coast home at the age of fifty-five to travel through the southwestern United States, the area where she lived as a child and where she would later retire.
The journey the book describes is a double one. Austin describes her transition from the cosmopolitan North East to the arid and largely unfamiliar land between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. In telling her own story, Austin also tells the story of those who journeyed there before her-–Native American tribes, Spanish conquistadores, miners, adventurers, and California-bound migrants. The result is both an homage to the magnificence of the desert, mountains, rivers, canyons, plants, and animals of the Southwest and a history of the waves of people who inhabited the region.
Part memoir, part travel narrative, part historical investigation, and part ecological study, The Land of Journeys' Ending is a moving account of a woman coming full circle, finding solace in the broad landscape of her youth.
The Trail Book
Mary Austin University of Nevada Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS3501.U8T73 2004 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
The Trail Book is a classic of American nature writing. First published in 1918, it is a collection of children’s tales, framed by its setting in New York’s Museum of Natural History. For two children, Oliver and his sister Dorcas, the museum’s famed dioramas (which were new at that time) come to life and admit them into a series of exciting adventures that include talking animals and magical travels. Along the way, the children discover the ways of the ancient Native Americans and the landscapes of the pre-Columbian continent, as well as the impact on both Indians and wildlife from contact with European explorers and Euro-Americans. Told by a variety of narrators, including some of the animals, the stories offer a perceptive and sympathetic view of the natural history of North America and of Native American–white relations.
This edition of The Trail Book includes an afterword by Austin scholar Melody Graulich that addresses Austin’s motives in writing the book and its significance as an early example of interdisciplinary multicultural literature. The illustrations by Milo Winter that enlivened the original edition are included, as are Austin’s appendix giving historical background and a glossary of Indian and Spanish names.