Winner, Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association, 2015
The Texas of vast open spaces inhabited by independent, self-reliant men and women may be more of a dream than a reality for the state’s largely urban population, but it still exists in the Big Bend. One of the most sparsely settled areas of the United States, the Big Bend attracts people who are willing to forego many modern conveniences for a lifestyle that proclaims “don’t fence me in.” Marcia Hatfield Daudistel and Bill Wright believe that the character traits exemplified by folks in the Big Bend—including self-sufficiency, friendliness, and neighborliness—go back to the founding of the state. In this book, they introduce us to several dozen Big Bend residents—old and young, long-settled and recently arrived, racially diverse—who show us what it means to be an authentic Texan.
Interviewing people in Marathon, Big Bend National Park, Terlingua, Redford, Presidio, Alpine, Marfa, Valentine, Balmorhea, Limpia Crossing, and Fort Davis, Daudistel and Wright discover the reasons why residents of the Big Bend make this remote area of Texas their permanent home. In talking to ranchers and writers, entrepreneurs and artists, people living off the grid and urban refugees, they find a common willingness to overcome difficulties through individual skill and initiative. As one interviewee remarks, you have to have a lot of “try” in you to make a life in the Big Bend. Bill Wright’s photographs of the people and landscapes are a perfect complement to the stories of these authentic Texans. Together, these voices and images offer the most complete, contemporary portrait of the Texas Big Bend.
"I love the West, and what’s still left of its most raw beauty is in Big Bend. Heat as endlessly wide as an ocean, with mythic snakes, thorns, and insects of unsentimental enormity. Night is another faraway time and exotic land, and you do get drunk on the astronomy of heaven. I never lived there, only drove around, slept here and there, always wondering what it’d be like day-to-day. Authentic Texas lets me meet the neighbors I never got to have."
"In incredibly beautiful color and black-and-white photographs and in many in-depth interviews, Bill Wright and Marcia Hatfield Daudistel have documented the West Texas landscape and the self-reliant people who have chosen to live in isolated desert communities. In the huge horseshoe curve that extends to the international border—from the Davis Mountains to Presidio on the Rio Grande—the artists, retirees, storekeepers, pastors, teachers, and many more individualists are all here in this fascinating, must-read book."
"An awesome journey into the lives of families who live on the often brutal landscape of the Texas Big Bend. They live ‘authentic’ lives in one of the least populated regions of the United States, often existing outside of popular culture and the digital revolution, surviving and thriving in a landscape of heat and dust. We meet amazing people like Curry and Kate, owners of Eve’s Garden, an ecologically progressive bed-and-breakfast in an isolated town of five hundred people, and the Nietos, a Mexican-American family that owns the oldest department store in the border town of Presidio, a store where in days past all the Mexican cowboys used to come and buy their hats and boots. Daudistel writes with clarity and a poet’s sense of character and place, her words beautifully woven into descriptions as powerful as the photographs that accompany them. She brings to life these ‘ordinary’ extraordinary families, and she makes their stories resonate within. They are not just Texans, they are living proof of our past and a hopeful testimony of our future.
Wright’s photographs are amazing, deserving to become classics in both documentary and landscape photography. His images of people are as beautiful and vivid as those of Dorothea Lange. His desert landscapes are breathtaking, and as we gaze into the vast space he presents to us, we can’t help but to ask, ‘Where are the people? Who lives out there?’
Authentic Texas is the stunning answer to those questions."
"If you have ever had any interest in the Big Bend region of Texas, this is the book for you. And if you think you do not want to know more about the Big Bend, this is also the book for you."
Southwestern Historical Quarterly