May 15, 2024 - News

River stories feature prominently in Arizona's National Book Festival representation

Illustration of a sun with rays made from an open book

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Take a trip on the river to see who's representing Arizona at this year's National Book Festival.

The big picture: Melissa L. Sevigny's "Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon" and Phoebe Fox's "On the Verde River" will represent Arizona at the festival, which will be held on Aug. 24 in Washington, D.C.

Zoom in: "Brave the Wild River" is the story of botanists Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter, who surveyed the Colorado River's plant life during a 43-day expedition in 1938.

  • Sevigny, a science writer and reporter at KNAU in Flagstaff, writes that no comprehensive plant list had been published and that Clover and Jotter's work was the go-to source on the subject for 50 years.
  • The book details not only their journey but the sexism Clover and Jotter faced at the time.
  • Some newspaper accounts described the scientific endeavor primarily as "thrill-seeking jaunt these reckless women had no business participating in," the Arizona Republic wrote in 2023 review, while one newspaper reported at the time that the perilous river was "a mighty poor place for women."

Between the lines: Fox's "On the Verde River" is an illustrated chronicle of the Verde Valley's plants and animals.

  • "The book's poetic prose and beautiful artwork convey a message of appreciation and stewardship for the Verde River," wrote Friends of the Verde River, which published the book.
  • Fox is a children's author who'd written eight books prior to "On the Verde River."

Catch up quick: Last year, Tom Zoellner's "Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona" and Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford's "Raulito: The First Latino Governor of Arizona" represented the state at the festival.

🗣 You tell us: What recent Arizona-centric books from local authors do you think should represent the state at the National Book Festival?

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