Rodeo Queens and the American Dreamby Joan Burbick
Rodeo Queens is a bittersweet journey into the lives of women who have worked the rodeo circuit in the rural West from the 1930s to the present/i>/i>
This "delectable slice of Americana" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) explores "the glitter and the glamour of the rodeo subculture and, at the same time, some of its deepest contradictions." (Los Angeles Times)
Rodeo Queens is a bittersweet journey into the lives of women who have worked the rodeo circuit in the rural West from the 1930s to the present. For over eight years, Joan Burbick traveled the backroads of the West, searching for "rodeo queens," the women who promote and perform in the elaborate pageantry of the rodeo. She interviewed dozens of queens in their living rooms, kitchens, barns, and ranches. She followed current queens down the rodeo road from tiny Western towns to the show-biz glitter of Las Vegas. Through their stories we witness dramatic changes in the rodeo, including the decline of skilled horse handling, the fierce conflicts over gender and race, and the intense commercialization of the rodeo. Combined with Burbick's wonderful collection of rodeo queen photographs, this rich tapestry of women's voices echoes and challenges our clich?s of the rural West. Their stories of fulfilled dreams and lost hopes reveal the tenacity of the myth of the American West, a place of muscled men, golden-haired women, relentless beauty and tragic limits.
Author Biography: Joan Burbick teaches American Studies at Washington State University. Born in Chicago, she has lived in the Palouse region of northern Idaho and eastern Washington for the last twenty years, writing, raising a family, and, in her free time, working with horses.
The rodeo circuit provides another framework for Western legend; barrel-racing cowgirls spent their time away from the arena "polishing white boots and powdering white hats," according to Rodeo Queens and The American Dream. Author Joan Burbick interviews female rodeo stars, starting with the foremothers of the nineteen-thirties. "Buckle bunnies," as they were called, "were on a strict work schedule. Western heritage was serious business."
Farther west lay California, and particularly Southern California, with its stark contrasts of reality and fakery, history and amnesia. "Accept no man's statement that he knows this Country of Lost Borders well," Mary Austin warned in 1909, but more than seventy contributors take a shot in Writing Los Angeles. One of them, Helen Hunt Jackson, described L.A. in 1883 as a city of "century-long summers" -- an earlier version of Truman Capote's assessment: "Snow is on the mountains, yet flowers color the land, a summer sun juxtaposes December's winter sea." In other words, wish you were here.(Lauren Porcaro)
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