Linda Ronstadt’s second memoir, “I Feel Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands,” could easily be a cookbook.
Her friend CC Goldwater, whose political grandfather was Barry Goldwater, suggested that the singer do a cookbook to raise money for research into Parkinson’s disease, which Ronstadt was diagnosed with in 2012.
“I said, ‘I don’t cook,'” says Ronstadt, 76, laughing. She said, ‘Oh, it’s okay. “”
A plan was made to collect recipes from Goldwaters, Ronstadts, and family friend Bill Steen, who provides the photos in “Feels Like Home.”
The book includes some family recipes, but over time, it has grown into a broader celebration of Ronstadt’s Arizona roots.
It is a departure from her first memoir, Simple Dreams, which focused more on Ronstadt’s musical career.
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Ronstadt, who lives in San Francisco, spoke about the book (which she co-wrote with Lawrence Downs), and how growing up in Tucson shaped her character and the importance of family.
s: Having read both notes, I like that they are two different books, even though they cover some of the same area.
Answer: Well, “Simple Dreams” is about my musical work. That’s a little bit about it, because my childhood was part of my music career. In fact, it was inseparable. But I just wrote about something different.
Can you talk about the importance of sharing this aspect of your story – your Mexican-American heritage, your life in the borderlands?
We are really dealing with three different cultures with the same roots. There is Mexico. There is the United States. There are Mexican Americans. …Mexican food took over. You can get tacos anywhere. I don’t think Sonoran (desert) hot dogs are everywhere. But I eat them (laughs). I don’t eat sausages and hamburgers. But the Sonoran Hot Dog is too good to miss.
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You often hear of successful musicians coming from musical families, but it sounds like your family was probably more musical than most.
In those days, everyone played the piano. It was just something that happened with the kids. They took piano lessons and practiced. There was no radio. So you had to make your own music. And people did. It may not be really good but I think everyone should have their own music that they can play and sing to. It will not be Paul Simon. But we have Paul Simon for that. And he does a good job.
Did you ever come to Phoenix to perform before you moved to California as your teen?
We did the test in some club, I don’t remember what it was called. We did really well and they offered us a job, but my brother was going to the police department and didn’t think they would agree, he was just getting around on a great dive.
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I know it’s a Randy Newman song that I’ve recorded more than once. But what impressed you about the title “Feels Like Home”?
It seemed like a good way to sum up the topic of the book. And I think family is important, the things your ancestors went through.
How did growing up in the borderlands and traveling to Mexico from Tucson shaped you?
We were driving through the landscape which was typical for me. I thought everyone had an aloe vera plant in their backyard. But it turns out they didn’t. I’ve always been proud of my heritage and where I come from. I love Tucson.
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Do you miss the desert?
Oh yes. The developers plowed a lot of desert land and didn’t put houses on it and didn’t bother to put any ground cover. So there are clouds of dust constantly. The last time I traveled to Phoenix from Tucson, I was in a dust storm for two hours.
This is the wall they built. That stupid fence that doesn’t stop people from entering it. It scars the desert and causes erosion. The water table is emptying because they use all the water to make concrete. It prevents animals from migrating. They need to migrate to survive.
An American farmer would buy 2,000 acres in Montana and build his house right in the middle so that it would be completely isolated. Mexicans build their home in a village and share pastures.
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You grew up crossing the border to visit family from your father’s side.
If you wanted to go south away from Nogales, you had to get a permit, and the permit only lasted until such and such a date. So I was going to get the pass, cross, and come back, it wasn’t that long line of trucks where it takes hours to arrive. You just showed your passport and you were there.
There was no point in erecting a fence. Some of these fences pass directly through the farm owners’ lands. One of them goes straight through the Tohono O’odham Preserve. This is unreasonable. It costs a fortune. It has no value. She is harsh. They stressed cruelty by separating families.
What do you think should be done about the situation at the border?
I think we should make it easier for them to work. They don’t take jobs from Americans. They do jobs that Americans won’t. They come on a work visa, earn money to send to their families, and then come back. It couldn’t be more perfect. I think the most ideal thing is to pay them fairly.
You write that much of the Tucson you knew in the 1950s and 1960s was decimated by black tops and sprawl.
They demolished a community to build (Tucson Convention Center), the so-called community center. This was a nice section. The buildings were adobe and located on the street. Now people pay a lot of money to have a building like this, but it was for the poor. And having tore it apart, the two available were rented to lawyers and money men. It’s where the wealthy now live.
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