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DESERT CHROME Final Cover.jpg
DESERT CHROME: Water, a Woman,
& Wild Horses in the West

by Kathryn Wilder



KATHRYN WILDER's work, cited in Best American Essays and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, has appeared in such publications as High Desert Journal, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, Sierra, and many anthologies and Hawai‘i magazines. A past finalist for the Ellen Meloy Fund Desert Writers Award and the Waterston Desert Writing Prize, Wilder holds an MA from Northern Arizona University and an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. She lives among mustangs in southwestern Colorado.

Reader's Guide


Kathryn Wilder's personal story of grief, motherhood, and return to the desert entwines with the story of America’s mustangs as Wilder makes a home on the Colorado Plateau, her property bordering a mustang herd. Desert Chrome illuminates these controversial creatures—their complex history in the Americas, their powerful presence on the landscape, and ways to help both horses and habitats stay wild in the arid West—and celebrates the animal nature in us all.

May 2021 | Nonfiction | 978-1-94881436-2 | $18.95 

Cover photo by TJ Holmes


Colorado Book Award Winner, Creative Nonfiction
Nautilus Book Award Winner, Silver, Memoir
Women's Book Awards Sarton Awards shortlist, Memoir




“Testimony to the healing power of wildness . . . a candid memoir that interweaves a trajectory of loss, pain, and hard-won serenity with a paean to wild horses.” 


“Lyrical and vivid . . . an homage to the wildness and beauty of the West. Desert Chrome will especially appeal to those readers who love horses, dogs, ranching, and the ever-changing and at-risk earth we all inhabit. Wilder has written an unforgettable book.”


“Wilder’s love of horses and the land is the theme threaded through her,

and her writing makes a heartsong of it all.” 
LIDIA YUKNAVITCH, author of Verge

Desert Chrome journeys through parched valleys, on wild rivers, and into deep rock canyons on a unique quest. In this authentic, hard-won account of her life, Kathryn Wilder finds the warm, true hearts she’s been seeking and that deserve our humanity, healing, and a hell of a lot better future than they’ve been dealt. There’s a quiet heroine at the center of this story, yes, pointing toward a beautiful world. It can be ours if we'll love better, lean closer, and listen to the voices, like Wilder’s own, well worth heeding from birth.”
 —REBECCA LAWTON, author of The Oasis This Time

“A raw and honest journey of addiction, love, trauma, and redemption—grounded in a deep love of place and all things mustang. The best memoirs reveal the deeply personal in order to see the larger world with renewed clarity and insight—this is one such book. As Wilder moves from heroin to horses, we see a substantive journey of recovery and strength—and ultimately, of resilience.”
LAURA PRITCHETT, author of Stars Go Blue


“I learned so much reading Kathryn Wilder’s book, Desert Chrome—about wild horses. About desert and water. About Kat. We were neighbors years ago, but the new paths along which, with smooth and stunning prose, she leads readers into the depths of her life suggest how little we know those close to us. And how huge life can be once we commit with our whole hearts to wildness.”
BROOKE WILLIAMS, author of Open Midnight

“For too long, the lone cowboy myth has corralled the American West in the barbed wires of dominion and destruction. Tangled in that telling are women and mustangs—their wildness, togetherness, and vulnerability. In Desert Chrome, Kathryn Wilder bucks against a story as desiccated as the deserts she has dwelled in—kicking hard enough to free what was bound, to redeem what was broken. Listen now, to the thundering of hearts and hooves. They’re coming for us, at last.” 

AMY IRVINE, author of Air Mail and Desert Cabal

“A powerful coming-of-age story, into the age of a woman's strongest power, when, with complete awareness of her past, she can, with might and strength, will the future before her."
 —CMARIE FUHRMAN, author of Camped Beneath the Dam

“‘Blame it or praise it,’ Virginia Woolf writes, ‘there is no denying the wild horse in us.’ Desert Chrome is the story of a landscape and the many ways the land sings us into being. It is the story of one of our most iconic North American species, Equus caballus, the wild horse. And, most of all, it is the story of a woman coming to know her own wildness—a wildness that is free, and sustaining, and on her own terms.”
JOE WILKINS, author of Fall Back Down When I Die and The Mountain and the Fathers

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