Linda Ronstadt, the acclaimed, multiple Grammy Award–winning singer and author of the 2013 best-selling memoir Simple Dreams, is writing a new book that has been acquired by Heyday, an independent, nonprofit publisher founded in Berkeley in 1974.
Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands— a collaboration with Lawrence Downes, a former editor and editorial writer for the New York Times, and Bill Steen, a noted author and photographer whose grandfather came from the same Arizona town as Ronstadt’s—is a love letter to Ronstadt’s Mexican American roots. It tells of her coming of age in the world between Tucson and the Rio Sonora region of northern Mexico, presented through stories, photographs, and recipes. It will also include watercolor illustrations by Linda’s father, the late Gilbert Ronstadt.
“There’s a Mexican story that isn’t often told,” said Ms. Ronstadt, “about the desert and the families who live there. It takes cooperation and ingenuity to survive and build a beautiful life in such a harsh environment. This is Arizona, where I was born, and Sonora, where my soul is anchored.”
“Heaven to me is a long ride with Linda and Bill from Tucson into Mexico and down along the Rio Sonora,” said Lawrence Downes. “There’s deep beauty and mystery in these borderlands, and those two know how to take you there. When you’re with them, you listen and learn, laugh and get hungry, and then you eat. If we could have done it, this book would have no words, just Linda’s voice, Bill’s photos, and plates of carne asada and frijoles and bottles of mescal bacanora.”
“Feels Like Home is an expression of my love and affection for the people, culture, landscape, and the traditional foods of Sonora,” said Bill Steen. “It’s a story that revolves around culinary traditions that are simultaneously simple and complex, that have evolved as creative yet practical responses to the harsh and arid landscapes of Sonora. The lack of pretense and conviviality present among friends at the Sonoran table, while sharing homemade flour tortillas, fresh regional cheese, chiltepin salsa made from wild chiles, dark sugar-roasted coffee, a shot or two of mescal bacanora, can render a glamorous feast totally unnecessary.”
Steve Wasserman, publisher of Heyday, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Linda and her team to Heyday. We look forward to publishing this exciting book in the fall of 2022. For me personally this project is a thrill and a privilege as I first met Linda when I helped play a role as midwife to the birth of her exquisite musical memoir, Simple Dreams, a decade ago. I’m honored that Heyday will be her home for her new book.”
Linda Ronstadt knows her roots. Long before she was a music legend, the iconic voice behind 100 million record sales across genres, bushels of Grammys, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and an honor from the Kennedy Center, she was Linda Maria Ronstadt from Tucson, the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant, and a child of the Arizona-Mexico borderlands.
In addition to her seminal work in rock, pop, folk, country, opera, and the American songbook, she has made blockbuster Spanish-language albums, starting with Canciones de Mi Padre, a collection of traditional Mexican songs that became the best-selling non-English-language album in American history. But beyond those beloved records and the early pages of her acclaimed musical memoir, Simple Dreams (2013), there is a deeper, richer vein of stories that Ronstadt has never before told in full. Feels Like Home is set in the world between Tucson and the Rio Sonora region of northern Mexico, in the land of her ancestors and her own free-range childhood in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s where vaqueros once herded cattle through cactus and mesquite. It’s where Linda learned to sing harmony and ride horses and cook wild doves, where she traveled with her father in search of the crumbling adobe home where her grandfather Federico was born in 1868. It’s where she sang hymns with nuns in a Benedictine convent, and joined her family’s lavish production (and consumption) of green-corn tamales and high-octane eggnog every Christmas. And it’s a troubled region where she has watched, with anger and sorrow, as shifting border politics have inflicted untold cruelty on immigrants and refugees.
Ignorance and fear have left America deeply estranged from its southern neighbor. Too few native-born voices has led to too little understanding. There is one picture that tends to dominate, of narcos and migrant caravans and desperation along a frightening and fortified border. Feels Like Home offers another perspective, one built on Ronstadt’s deep connection to a land lavish in natural beauty, old traditions, deep friendships, and delicious food. Feels Like Home will be a compelling confection of memoir, photo album, and cookbook that doubles as a traveler’s meditation on the singular beauty of a region and its people, one that will stand the test of time in your kitchen or on your nightstand or coffee table.
LINDA RONSTADT, the great-granddaughter of Frederick Augustus Ronstadt and Margarita Redondo of Sonora, Mexico, is one of the world’s most acclaimed singers. Her six-decade career encompassed rock, folk, country, light opera, Mexican songs, and American standards. She has sold more than 100 million records, has won 12 Grammy Awards, and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, just won a Grammy for best musical film at the 63rd Grammy Awards on March 14, 2021. She lives in San Francisco.
GILBERT RONSTADT, husband of Ruth Mary and father of Linda, Peter, Suzy, and Mike Ronstadt, was a longtime business owner and civic leader in Tucson. He ran the family hardware store and led efforts to improve the downtown and to preserve Spanish missions on both sides of the border. Besides being a gifted singer who appeared on radio and in local clubs and theaters (and was once offered a spot in Paul Whiteman’s orchestra), he was a skilled watercolorist.
LAWRENCE DOWNES, a writer and editor in New York, is a longtime newspaper journalist who worked at the Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday, and most recently the New York Times, where he was an editor and an editorial writer. He covered New York and national politics and disability rights, among many other things. He wrote often about the border and the struggle for immigrant rights and dignity. His feature writing includes articles about traveling in the footsteps of inspiring figures like Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder, Ken Kesey, Flannery O’Connor, and Mark Twain.
BILL STEEN is an author and photographer with deep family roots in Sonora and Banámichi. The latter part of his life has been a love affair with rural Sonoran culture, lore, and cooking, and with making friends in the region. He grew up in Tucson and lives with his wife, Athena, in southern Arizona, where they run the Canelo Project, which works to connect people, culture, and nature. Their book The Straw Bale House is a bible in the world of sustainable and renewable homebuilding.
Heyday is an independent, nonprofit publisher founded in 1974 in Berkeley, California. It is a diverse community of writers and readers, activists and thinkers. Heyday promotes civic engagement and social justice, celebrates nature’s beauty, supports California Indian cultural renewal, and explores the state’s rich history, culture, and influence. The publisher works to realize the California dream of equity and enfranchisement. Heyday’s books are distributed by Publishers Group West/Ingram.