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TRUE WEST: Myth and Mending on the Far Side of America


"True West disentangles reality from centuries of myth and mystique."

—HAMPTON SIDES, New York Times bestselling author of Blood and Thunder 

From the Northern Rockies to the Southwest deserts, Betsy Gaines Quammen explores how myths shape our identities, heighten polarizations, and fracture our shared understanding of the world around us. As she investigates the origins and effects of myths of the American West, Gaines Quammen travels through small towns and big cities, engaging people and building relationships at every stop.


Misperceptions about land, politics, liberty, and self-determination threaten the well-being of people and communities across the country, and Gaines Quammen interrogates it all as she seeks to reconcile the anger and misunderstandings that continue to be fueled by the West’s enduring myths and complex history. Whether sitting down with a militia member seeking to protect his rural Utah town from Antifa or talking with grassroots organizers working across ideological divides, Gaines Quammen brings to life connections and contradictions that shape our politics and our lives far beyond the West.

October 2023 | Nonfiction | 9781948814911 | 312 pp | $28.95 

"I am reminded over and over how important it is to listen deeply and learn from each other. When we do, we move beyond myth making, myth busting, and misinformation to something much more powerful: connecting. This is where truth can be found, strolling together down the long halls of a museum of western myths."


Ronan Donavan.jpg

Historian and writer BETSY GAINES QUAMMEN examines the intersections of extremism, public lands, wildlife, and western communities. She received a PhD in History from Montana State University, a MS in Environmental Studies from University of Montana, and a BA in English from Colorado College. She lives in Bozeman, Montana, with her spouse, writer David Quammen. Author photo: Ronan Donavan


AMERICAN ZION: Cliven Bundy, God, and Public Lands in the West

American Zion is the story of the ongoing feud between Mormon ranching family the Bundys, the federal government, and the American public. Gaines Quammen examines the roots of the Bundys’ cowboy confrontations, and how history has shaped an often-dangerous mindset which today feeds the militia movement and threatens public lands.


“Gaines Quammen uses science, broadminded inquiry, and historical records to capture all aspects of the movement to rescind the laws creating public lands. She also offers hope for the future of precious Southwestern landscapes.”



 “People think they ‘know’ the West but they’re usually wrong, that’s because there’s no region of our country more steeped in fallacy, fake news, and fable. Betsy Gaines Quammen, a wry and wise observer, takes us on a ride across the modern West—and along the way, disentangles reality from centuries of myth and mystique.”

—HAMPTON SIDES, New York Times bestselling author of Blood and Thunder 



“Gaines Quammen reminds us that in order to keep this fractured country together we must meet our fellow Americans where they are, on their own terms.”
—BETO O’ROURKE, author of We’ve Got to Try 



“A political and intellectual page-turner.”
—TIM CAHILL, author of Jaguars Ripped My Flesh 



“Betsy Gaines Quammen has an uncanny ability to boldly cross any divide, literal or metaphorical, with grace and an intention to learn and understand, building rapport and inviting conversation, which we as humans so desperately need.”



“There are few people as savvy as Betsy Gaines Quammen when it comes to comprehending the nuance and contradictions prevalent in this so-called American West. True West shows how the relationship people have with the land shapes their view of the world in deeply personal and broadly universal ways. Quammen shows us that this common humanity is where we must focus to find the solutions for a beautiful future in a region so many of us love.”
—CHRIS LA TRAY, author of One-Sentence Journal


“Our national myths tell us the west is grand and rough, and it is, but it’s also complex and deeply conflicted. This book is an expertly guided tour through the revealing parts of our twisted western reality. At once beautiful, engaging and disturbing, Quammen's book is a revealing mirror to the place us westerners call home.”
—RYAN BUSSE, author of Gunfight 


True West shines a necessary light on persistent, often wrong and damaging myths that define the American West in our collective imagination. Betsy’s work tells the stories of real people who live and work here, and how their lives are more complex and interesting than the same old tropes. At its heart, the book is a great story about Americans whose identities have been flattened into stereotypes. This book corrects the myths and gives readers a reason to care about the West beyond the tired old caricatures of cowboys.”
—KATHLEEN MCLAUGHLIN, author of Blood Money

 “True West hit many of my soft places. The fluency and gracefulness of Quammen's writing kept me turning pages. It’s often important for a writer to be likable, and with subject matter like this, I think it’s crucial—and she is an immensely likable writer.”
—DON SNOW, founder and editor of Northern Lights Magazine

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