David Wallace Adams

Three Roads to Magdalena author David Wallace Adams receives Weber-Clements Book Prize Nov. 15, 2017

Three Roads to Magdalena coverAcclaimed as a unique and enduring window into borderlands history, David Wallace Adams’ 2016 book, Three Roads to Magdalena: Coming of Age in a Southwest Borderland, 1890-1990, received this year’s Weber-Clements Prize for Best Non-Fiction Book on Southwestern America on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. The public event was hosted by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

Three Roads to Magdalena is a unique blend of oral, social and childhood history about a region of New Mexico that Adams fell in love with while serving as curriculum director at a Navajo Reservation school in Alamo, New Mexico. Thirty miles to the northwest was Magdalena, a once-booming frontier town where Navajo, Anglo and Hispanic people have lived in shifting, sometimes separate, sometimes overlapping worlds for well over a century.

Adams’ time as a Clements Center Fellow from 2005-06 afforded him the opportunity to hone several thousand pages of multi-faceted, highly personal research he had collected into what would become this 454-page book, published by University Press of Kansas.

David Wallace Adams, kroberts@abqjournal.com

David Wallace Adams

Now professor emeritus of history and education at Cleveland State University in Ohio, Adams teaches courses about the American West and Native American history. He also is the author of the acclaimed 1995 book, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928.

The Weber-Clements Award, overseen by the Western History Association (WHA), honors fine writing and original research on the American Southwest. The competition is open to any nonfiction book on Southwestern life published in the year prior to its selection. The winning author receives $2,500.

Three Roads to Magdalena “draws upon a precious trove of interviews to explain what it was like growing up in this multicultural borderland during the late 19th and 20th centuries,” WHA judges noted. “From the hazy, tactile memories of early childhood through the hot and precise recollections of adolescent adventures, people across the region shared moving and intimate stories of the kind historians are seldom privileged enough to hear. Balancing critical distance with insight, humor and compassion, Adams has woven these recollections together into a book that is wise, challenging, absorbing, ingeniously researched and beautifully written.”

SMU history professor Neil Foley recently made the book required reading in his graduate-level class, “Citizenship and Transnational Identity.” When Foley learned that two of his assigned books had been considered for the Weber-Clements Prize, “I decided to ask the students, ‘If you were on the prize committee, which one of these two finalists do you think should win?’ After a straw poll, the students unanimously agreed Three Roads to Magdalena should take the prize. And to everyone’s delight, Foley informed the class that Adams’ book did win.

“That just goes to show you don’t have to be a professional historian to write good history [Adams has a doctorate in education] – and you don’t need to be a professional historian to know when you’re reading good history,” Foley says.

— Written by Denise Gee

SMU symposium studies ‘Love and Power’ in the American West

Clements Center 2010 Public Symposium poster imageThe family histories of the U.S. West include characters as diverse as Comanche warriors, Pueblo Indian women, Catholic priests, children of the fur trade, Mexican mothers and Washington policy makers. The ways in which these men, women and children were linked by bonds of love, power and obligation will be the focus of the 2009-10 Annual Public Symposium presented by SMU’s William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

On the Borders of Love and Power: Families and Kinship in the Intercultural American West” is cosponsored by the Center for the Southwest at the University of New Mexico, the Institute for the Study of the American West at the Autry National Center and the Clements Center. It will take place 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Feb. 27 in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall.

The symposium explores the relationship between family life and larger structures of social and political power in specific times and places in the history of the American West, says SMU History Professor Crista DeLuzio, the symposium co-organizer (with David Wallace Adams of Cleveland State University). “Participants will learn about what happened when people from different backgrounds, whether compelled by force or drawn by affection, forged family ties with one another,” she says.

“They will learn something about the ways in which family relations have been shaped by the imperatives of economic, social and political relations in the West. And, conversely, they will learn about the role the family has played in reproducing, mediating and challenging social order and power relations in the West.”

The symposium presentations will be published as a book of essays for course adoption as well as for the general public.

Programs like the Clements Center Symposium “are vital to furthering the University’s mission of contributing to the advancement of knowledge and also to the sharing of that knowledge across various constituencies,” DeLuzio adds. “That includes the SMU community and those of our neighboring academic institutions; the Metroplex community; and – with the publication of the essays – with scholars and readers throughout the nation and the world.”

The symposium is open to the public and has been approved for Continuing Education Credit. High school and middle school teachers “can expect to take back to their classrooms some knowledge about the ways in which family life has been defined and experienced in the history of the West,” DeLuzio says.

“We hope participants will leave with a more complex understanding of the history of family life in the United States and of the vital ways in which family dynamics in the intercultural and interracial American West have shaped our national story.”

The preregistration cost is $5 for general admission ($20 including a lunch at the SMU Faculty Club) and $2 for graduate students ($10 including lunch). Register online or contact the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, 214-768-3684.

Find a complete schedule at the Clements Center Annual Symposium homepage