Linda Ronstadt Fills the House at the Tucson Book Festival

A note from Heyday Publisher Steve Wasserman

Linda Ronstadt was the headliner at the just-concluded annual Tucson Book Festival. As her publisher, I was thrilled to be there to feel the palpable affection and esteem sent her way by the twelve hundred people who packed the Arizona Ballroom at the University of Arizona’s Student Union on Sunday afternoon to hear her talk. Tucson is Linda’s hometown and her book, Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands is a paean to the place where she was born and raised and which, as she recounts, shaped her entire sensibility, musical and otherwise. But something occurred at that event that was genuinely surprising beyond the love for Linda and her musical legacy. A member of the audience made striking and newsworthy and wholly unexpected remarks.

During the open mic given to members of the crowd to ask questions, a lanky man wearing a large cowboy hat stood up from the back of the hall and introduced himself as the Sheriff of Santa Cruz County. He said his name was David Hawthorne and he proceeded to make a remarkable confession, a confession that took some political guts.

He said he’d come to Ronstadt’s talk because he’d been moved by her activism, by what she’d been saying for years, insisting that the demonization of migrants was a matter of national shame, writing in her new book, Feels Like Home, that she was “heartbroken to see how the country has sunk into anti-immigrant racism and horrifying violence. . . . The tragedy is that many present-day descendants of immigrants look back at their own ancestors as the righteous and holy ones, and regard the newest arrivals with suspicion and disgust,” concluding that “It would be more honest if we called our country the United States of Who the Fuck Are You?”

Hawthorne said he’d been greatly affected by her example, that his was a fifth-generation Arizona family that had done business with her grandfather, and that he personally was seeking to act toward others with empathy, trying to put into place policies throughout the county that would treat migrants with the dignity and decency they deserved. The audience erupted in applause. He strode toward the dais and presented Linda with a sheriff’s coin as a token of his respect and appreciation.

Later, Linda told me she was happy to have this badge of honor as you never know when you might be pulled over for speeding or some other infraction and it just might be useful as you were showing your driver’s license to have such a badge poking out of your purse.