Three Roads to Magdalena
Coming of Age in a Southwest Borderland, 1890-1990
David Wallace Adams
David J. Weber-William P. Clements Prize
Robert G. Athearn Award
“Adams has crafted a remarkable history of Magdalena, New Mexico through the oral histories of the Alamao Navajo, Hispanic, and Anglo children who grew up there in the last century. . . . a nuanced history of childhood and learning. . . . Adams reconstructs what it was like to grow up in a small, tricultural ranching and farming community in the twentieth century.”
—History of Education Quarterly
“Rarely is such an insightful historical analysis such a pleasure to read. . . . Adams has written an extraordinary and accessible work that will appeal to anyone interested in U.S. Southwest and borderlands history, ethnicity studies, and indigenous and Latino history.”
—Journal of American HistorySee all reviews...
“[Adams’s] work navigates the cultural context and social intersections of three distinct groups within the immediate region of Magdalena—Hispanics, Anglos, and Navajos. What emerges is a multicultural, yet remarkably intimate portrait of a distinct place in the American Southwest.”
—Western Historical Quarterly
“The stories that [Adams] relates highlight the ways in which children in the Magdalena region internalized difference while simultaneously figuring out how to transcend the strictures of the worldview they had been raised with in order to find economic, social, and personal success. . . . Adams's writing style is engaging, and he presents readers with a plethora of intriguing stories from Magdalena.”
“Throughout this account, the author successfully meshes children’s experiences into a broader discussion of how family, community, religion, and place have influenced the coming-of-age process and identity formation.”
—Montana The Magazine of Western History
“Although Adams is clearly a talented practitioner of borderlands history, his book’s true power lies in his exceptionally clear prose and command of narrative history. Reading like a fine novel, Adams’s history of children, families and growing up in a rural borderland reads with a compassion that is rare among the heap of detached scholarly works. This book is a treasure. Essential.”
“From hundreds of hours of oral history interviews, David Adams has re-created an intimate childs-eye view of the rural world of Magdalena, New Mexico in the mid twentieth century. As Adams captures how children came of age in Magdalena, he also demonstrates how they learned distinct racial identities and boundaries—Anglo, Hispanic, and Alamo Navajo—and sometimes breached them. This is a great read.”
—Margaret D. Jacobs, author of White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880–1940
“A unique and unforgettable book. Dissatisfied with the mere glimpses of children that he found in New Mexico’s archives, David Adams went knocking on doors and inviting aged Anglos, Hispanics, and Navajos to talk. They talked, and the author has woven their memories into a work of startling depth, humanity, and originality. I can’t remember the last time a history book made me feel as much as Three Roads to Magdalena. It conjures up a starkly different world by using achingly familiar stories of childhood. Follow David Adams to Magdalena. You wont regret it.”
—Brian DeLay, author of War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War
“Overflowing with stories from Navajo, Hispano/a and Euroamerican settlers in this unique corner of New Mexico, David Wallace Adams’ Three Roads to Magdalena carries a universal message of compassion, humor and understanding, while reinterpreting a little known region of the High Desert American Southwest.”
—Margaret Connell-Szasz, Regents Professor of History, University of New Mexico
“Known for his outstanding scholarship on the American Indian boarding school system, David Wallace Adams has once again delighted readers with his long anticipated borderland history of Native and non-Native people. Deeply personal, and highly engaging, Three Roads to Magdalena tells a wonderful story of the ways Navajos, Hispanics, and Anglos negotiated the social and cultural dynamics of a small mining and livestock community in western New Mexico. It is a story of how individuals, including children, from different backgrounds intersected to ultimately determine and influence their future and a region of the American West that has received little attention from other scholars.”
—Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, author of Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902–1929See fewer reviews...
Choice Outstanding Academic Title
“Someday,” Candelaria Garcia said to the author, “you will get all the stories.” It was a tall order, in Magdalena, New Mexico, a once booming frontier town where Navajo, Anglo, and Hispanic people have lived in shifting, sometimes separate, sometimes overlapping worlds for well over a hundred years. But these were the stories, and this was the world, that David Wallace Adams set out to map, in a work that would capture the intimate, complex history of growing up in a Southwest borderland. At the intersection of memory, myth, and history, his book asks what it was like to be a child in a land of ethnic and cultural boundaries. The answer, as close to “all the stories” as one might hope to get, captures the diverse, ever-changing experience of a Southwest community defined by cultural borders—and the nature and role of children in defending and crossing those borders.
In this book, we listen to the voices of elders who knew Magdalena nearly a century ago, and the voices of a younger generation who negotiated the community’s shifting boundaries. Their stories take us to sheep and cattle ranches, Navajo ceremonies, Hispanic fiestas, mining camps, First Communion classes, ranch house dances, Indian boarding school drill fields, high school social activities, and children’s rodeos. Here we learn how class, religion, language, and race influenced the creation of distinct identities and ethnic boundaries, but also provided opportunities for cross-cultural interactions and intimacies. And we see the critical importance of education, in both reinforcing differences and opening a shared space for those differences to be experienced and bridged. In this, Adams’s work offers a close-up view of the transformation of one multicultural community, but also of the transformation of childhood itself over the course of the twentieth century.
A unique blend of oral, social, and childhood history, Three Roads to Magdalena is a rare living document of conflict and accommodation across ethnic boundaries in our ever-evolving multicultural society.
Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University