A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America

A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America

by Tom Zoellner
     
 

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A riveting account of the state of Arizona, seen through the lens of the Tucson shootings

On January 8, 2011, twenty-two-year-old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a Tucson meet-and-greet held by U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. The incident left six people dead and eighteen injured, including Giffords, whom he shot in the head.

Award-winning

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Overview

A riveting account of the state of Arizona, seen through the lens of the Tucson shootings

On January 8, 2011, twenty-two-year-old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a Tucson meet-and-greet held by U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. The incident left six people dead and eighteen injured, including Giffords, whom he shot in the head.

Award-winning author and fifth generation Arizonan Tom Zoellner, a longtime friend of Giffords's and a field organizer on her Congressional campaign, uses the tragedy as a jumping-off point to expose the fault lines in Arizona's political and socioeconomic landscape that allowed this to happen: the harmful political rhetoric, the inept state government, the lingering effects of the housing market's boom and bust, the proliferation and accessibility of guns, the lack of established communities, and the hysteria surrounding issues of race and immigration. Zoellner's account includes interviews with those directly involved and effected, including Arizona's controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Zoellner offers a revealing portrait of the Southwestern state at a critical moment in history- and as a symbol of the nation's discontents and uncertainties. Ultimately, it is his rallying cry for a saner, more civil way of life

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Writer and fifth-generation Arizonan Zoellner (Uranium) seeks “to make sense of a fundamentally baffling event” in this rambling examination of the January 8, 2011, shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Jared Lee Loughner—22 years old, unemployed, and “obviously deranged”—killed six people and wounded 13, including Giffords, when he opened fire at a political meet and greet at a Tucson Safeway. Concluding that events “never happen in a vacuum,” the author searches for clues to the tragedy in the context in which the shooting took place. He finds his answers in the dysfunctional social and political culture of Arizona—its isolation, misplaced paranoia about immigration, gun laws, the “withering” of its mental health care system, absent leadership, and the partisan nastiness of politics and talk radio. Even while conceding that there is only one responsible party for the tragedy and that he is “gravely mentally ill,” Zoellner concludes that “Loughner’s feelings of existential helplessness were a distorted amplification of what surrounded him that year in Arizona.” Zoellner, a personal friend of Giffords, admits that this is “not a work of objective journalism,” and his subjective rendering of Arizona proves problematic, as is his effort to connect the dots between cause and effect. (Jan.)
San Francisco Chronicle

A Safeway in Arizona, is Zoellner's quirky, uneven, brave and astonishingly heartfelt attempt to make sense of the Saturday-morning massacre…he carefully and convincingly treads new ground and concludes that “events-especially violent ones-never happen in a vacuum.”…it’s [Zoellner’s] love for both Giffords and Arizona that makes A Safeway in Arizona so compelling a read.”
The Boston Globe

“[A] book that embraces an almost thriller-style narrative structure…A Safeway in Arizona is a masterly work of reporting, historical analysis, and sly cultural criticism.”
The Houston Chronicle

“[A] nuanced book that [Zoellner] is unusually (probably uniquely) qualified to write…Readers outside Arizona should find plenty to admire in this book—including Zoellner’s deep investigation into Loughner’s life; the narrative of the author’s friendship with Giffords; the thoughtful treatment of gun control as an explosive socioeconomic-political issue fueled by demagogues across the desert terrain; and the explication of how the builders of Tucson and other Arizona locales seem to have failed miserably in making community possible, thus creating a breeding ground for structural dysfunction.”
Salon.com

“No one has probed the terrain around the Tucson shooting better than author and journalist Tom Zoellner…Zoellner set out to transcend the endless political banter over blame and explores the social contexts underscoring how Giffords’ act of democratic participation–”reaching out to strangers at the fringe of a Safeway”–could lead to one of the most disturbing assassination attempts in recent history.  In the process, Zoellner asks a lot of questions most Arizonans would prefer to ignore.”
Slate.com

“There’s a gaping gulf between the shooting itself and the glib remembrances that make it into the news. Tom Zoellner’s new book about the shooting, A Safeway in Arizona, almost fixes this.”
-Richard Rodriguez

"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."
From the Publisher
"A Safeway in Arizona, is Zoellner's quirky, uneven, brave and astonishingly heartfelt attempt to make sense of the Saturday-morning massacre…he carefully and convincingly treads new ground and concludes that "events-especially violent ones-never happen in a vacuum."…it's [Zoellner's] love for both Giffords and Arizona that makes A Safeway in Arizona so compelling a read." - San Francisco Chronicle

"[A] book that embraces an almost thriller-style narrative structure…A Safeway in Arizona is a masterly work of reporting, historical analysis, and sly cultural criticism." - The Boston Globe

"[A] nuanced book that [Zoellner] is unusually (probably uniquely) qualified to write…Readers outside Arizona should find plenty to admire in this book-including Zoellner's deep investigation into Loughner's life; the narrative of the author's friendship with Giffords; the thoughtful treatment of gun control as an explosive socioeconomic-political issue fueled by demagogues across the desert terrain; and the explication of how the builders of Tucson and other Arizona locales seem to have failed miserably in making community possible, thus creating a breeding ground for structural dysfunction." - The Houston Chronicle

"No one has probed the terrain around the Tucson shooting better than author and journalist Tom Zoellner…Zoellner set out to transcend the endless political banter over blame and explores the social contexts underscoring how Giffords' act of democratic participation–"reaching out to strangers at the fringe of a Safeway"–could lead to one of the most disturbing assassination attempts in recent history.- In the process, Zoellner asks a lot of questions most Arizonans would prefer to ignore." - Salon.com

"There's a gaping gulf between the shooting itself and the glib remembrances that make it into the news. Tom Zoellner's new book about the shooting, A Safeway in Arizona, almost fixes this." - Slate.com

"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

"Zoellner brilliantly evokes the past and present of Arizona, the outsized personalities that have shaped the state and the paranoia lurking at the edge of society. A sure-to-be-controversial, troubling tale of the wages of fear on the body politic." - Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
Former Arizona Republic reporter Zoellner tries to make the case that Arizona's toxic sociopolitical culture, lack of mental health care, and generally maladaptive governance were responsible for schizophrenic Jared Loughner's attempt on the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. However, Zoellner's argument is colored by his personal friendship with both Giffords and fellow shooting victim Gabe Zimmerman; other reporters and analysts have shown that this tragedy could have happened anywhere. Zoellner interjects his personal story of growing up bored in the Tucson suburbs, an experience not necessarily unique to Arizona. His narrative is at times encumbered by mawkish prose (he twice refers to Giffords as a "wounded queen"). Some individual vignettes—particularly an interview with megalomaniacal Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio—are fascinating and do get to the heart of what is unique about Arizona's political climate. VERDICT Political junkies and supporters of gun control and those who liked Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? may seek this out. A more thorough examination of the state's politics, particularly its gun culture, anti-immigration sentiment, and boom-and-bust economy is still needed.—Kate Stewart, American Folklife Ctr., Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
Investigative journalist and native Arizonian Zoellner (Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock that Shaped the World, 2009, etc.) combines memoir, history and reportage in an attempt to understand mass murder and the attempted assassination of a friend in Tucson. The author notes he has truly loved few people in his life, but "Gabrielle had quietly come to be one of them." In January 2011, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head outside a Safeway supermarket by Jared Lee Loughner. Six people died, and 18 were injured. Loughner alone was responsible for this carnage, but what was it about Arizona, and perhaps America, that facilitated his schizophrenic rampage? Zoellner finds this context in the fear and hatred that has engulfed Arizona. Always a place for self-reinvention, this was accompanied by a rootlessness culminating in endless tracks of suburban housing where neighbors isolated themselves in air-conditioned solitude. When economic hard times hit the state, isolation turned to unremitting anger. Latinos--though soon to be the majority population of the state--were suspect, and laws were passed to root out the illegals among them. Big government became a chimerical enemy, and hatred of it was fueled by politicians who found that extreme positions brought votes, and by talk radio with its "constant generation of low-grade outrage." When fellow citizens were viewed as potential predators, carrying a gun became a must, and one could buy guns and ammo as easily as a quart of milk--which is precisely what Loughner did. The gunman wandered alone, ignored or purposefully avoided, until he acted, taking from his environment shards of reality that led to mayhem. Zoellner brilliantly evokes the past and present of Arizona, the outsized personalities that have shaped the state and the paranoia lurking at the edge of society. A sure-to-be-controversial, troubling tale of the wages of fear on the body politic.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670023202
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/29/2011
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Tom Zoellner has worked as a contributing editor for Men’s Health magazine and as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. His book The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds and Desire will be published in the summer of 2006.

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