A Safeway In Arizona
On the morning of January 8, 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire with a handgun at an event held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords outside of a Safeway supermarket near Tucson, Arizona.The shootings left six people dead and thirteen injured, including Giffords, whom he shot in the head at close range.
Award-winning journalist and fifth-generation Arizonan Tom Zoellner, a longtime friend of Giffords, sets out to examine the social conditions in his home state that made such a horrific event possible — the venomous political dialogue, the lingering effects of the housing market’s boom and bust, the proliferation of guns, the lack of established communities and the hysteria surrounding race and immigration.
Zoellner argues that the shootings must be understood in their true context. Loughner did not come out of nowhere and he was not a natural disaster that can be easily dismissed. He was a specific product of his environment. Arizona became a state one hundred years ago in February, 1912, the youngest in the continental United States. Its history is the story of the American West in brief: a rough and wild place rapidly transformed by federal dams, air conditioning, cheap land and a thirst for reinvention and the good life. With a systemic tension that dates to the founding of the United States, Arizona has now become a crucible for multiple national anxieties and one overarching question how can extreme personal liberties be reconciled to a world that needs cooperation to survive?
Zoellner offers a revealing portrait of this Southwestern state at the time of its centennial, and a close examination of what helped make possible those fifteen seconds of bloodshed. His book is ultimately a plea for a saner and more humane way of life in an uncertain new American century.
Praise for A Safeway In Arizona:
“Zoellner’s genre-defying project, which was somehow completed in less than a year, is staggeringly ambitious….A Safeway in Arizona is a masterly work of reporting, historical analysis, and sly cultural criticism.” — The Boston Globe
“A Safeway in Arizona is Zoellner’s quirky, uneven, brave and astonishingly heartfelt attempt to make sense of the Saturday-morning massacre that left six people dead and 13 injured…. The cultural and political climate of early 21st century Arizona did not make the Tucson massacre inevitable. Nor were they the motivating cause of the tragedy. But, as Zoellner successfully argues, they were aggravating factors.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“Tom Zoellner’s remarkable book about a moment of tragedy in Arizona ends up a story of survival–a wounded Congresswoman’s survival, and a wounded nation’s survival as well.”—Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
“This is a remarkable book. It was deeply reported before Tom Zoellner could have known he would write it. It was deeply reported after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords made it absolutely necessary for him to write. Zoellner’s long, intense relationships with his two main subjects—Giffords and the State of Arizona—give enormous authority to his storytelling. Unsentimental but driven by powerful emotion, the book makes crisp, riveting, expansive sense of a tragedy that was far more than a random massacre by a madman.”-William Finnegan, author of Cold New World: Growing up in a Harder Country, and staff writer for The New Yorker
“A compelling cry from the heart, this poignant book mixes an intimate personal story with painstaking journalism, and in doing so draws meaning from a terrifying attempt at political assassination. “A Safeway in Arizona” reveals the life-and-death consequences of alienation in an asphalt desert, and it makes a simple, forceful appeal: give a damn about your neighbor.” — Michael Downs, author of House of Good Hope
“One of the great comforting fictions of our time is the notion that acts of public violence are random things. In his exemplary account of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the murder of several other people, Tom Zoellner denies us the cheap solace of easy answers and sets Jared Loughner’s rampage in the context of a violent time in a country that seems more fragile by the hour.” — Charles P. Pierce, author of Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue In The Land Of The Free