Drowning Tucson

A novel by Aaron Michael Morales

May 1, 2010 • 6 x 9 • 330 pages • 978-1-56689-240-7

Hi-def, brutally honest tales from the streets of Tucson.

Set in Tucson’s toughest neighborhoods during the late 1980s, this riveting debut follows the disintegration of the Nuñez family and the people whose paths they cross. From young gangbangers to crooked cops, and from murderous vigilantes to prostitutes plying their trade along the “Miracle Mile,” each character’s destiny is linked by crushing poverty, the brutal codes of the street, and the harsh nature of the desert.

In this small city with major metropolis problems—a place of both drought and flood—“civilization” is every bit as dangerous as its surroundings. Like a southwest version of HBO’s The Wire, this heartrending novel is an episodic portrait of a desperate, violent America, populated by characters as lethal as they are sympathetic.

About the Author

Born in 1976, Aaron Michael Morales is the author of Drowning Tucson, his debut novel. Morales grew up in Tucson and at age ten, he became a paperboy for the Arizona Daily Star. Since then his jobs have ranged from working in a car parts factory to bartending in Chicago’s Oak Park neighborhood. Now, with a BA from Indiana State University and an MFA from Purdue University, Morales teaches writing and literature at Indiana State University and is working on his second novel.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“[Drowning Tucson] presents characters with depth and awareness who refuse to be defined by their circumstances, even when they cannot escape them. Morales, in a style reminiscent of Hubert Selby Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn), vividly details a community’s beauty and brutality.” Chicago Tribune

“The bleakly human debut of the new Bukowski.” Esquire

“Visionary . . . episodic, brutal, and honest.” Bookslut

“As heartbreaking as it is frightening. These are brutal and frequently riveting stories of the mean streets rendered in highly emotional, cinematic language.” Booklist

“Snapshots of life on the lower rungs in the Arizona desert. . . . Morales affects a plain-spoken, colloquial style that captures the rough-and-tumble attitudes of the people who live there.” Kirkus

“A complicated multi-layered drama about a group of people whose fates wind and circle and collide through the troubled streets of a working class Latino neighborhood. . . . [Drowning Tucson] presents a different view of Arizona than what the media have been showing . . . gives readers a place where Mexican/Chicago/Latino identity and culture are deeply rooted.” —Rigoberto Gonzalez, Critical Mass National Book Critics Circle blog

Drowning Tucson is indeed a breathless book, one that requires you now and then to surface before going back in. It’s worth all your efforts. It’s a book that won’t soon leave you.” Los Angeles Review

“This is Tucson as most of us could not begin to think of it: the painted desert like distant and beautiful imagination and with a heart of violence pounding at its core. . . . Morales’s art, like his talent, is considerable. Two things seem certain: you won’t ever look at Tucson in quite the same way again. And you won’t rest easily until the last page is turned.” January Magazine

“This novel-in-stories graphically portrays Tucson’s troubled underclass, and Morales’s depiction of his characters is always honest and engaging.” Largehearted Boy

Drowning Tucson is up to something simultaneously guttural and technical, resonant and crafted. . . . Morales is a master of the grab-you-by-the-throat opening line. . . . Morales makes it look easy.” The Collagist

“The meek don’t inherit the Earth in Aaron Michael Morales’ unsettling debut novel, Drowning Tucson. They’d be lucky just to cling to it until it’s shoveled over their faces. Morales fully realizes his central characters and creates unforgettable—if at times unbearable—scenes. Morales’s vision shakes up the comfortable. The novel is impressive; his writing is powerful; his message is layered.” Tucson Weekly

“Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s recent move of signing into law a bill . . . effectively legalizing racial persecution and institutionalizing discrimination . . . makes Aaron Morales’s debut novel about a side of humanity long feared and ignored by the status quo especially timely.” Denver Books Examiner

“Morales wrestles with nothing less than the parameters of the human soul.” —Luis Alberto Urrea

“This novel will not make you feel good. It will make you want to avert your eyes in the same way Richard Wright made you want to avert your eyes in Native Son. I am in awe of the muscular writing here, writing that is brave, honest, precise, and disciplined. Drowning Tucson took my breath away.” —Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“You will not forget Drowning Tucson. The characters will haunt you, and even after you know the stories are getting to you, you won’t be able to stop reading this book.” —Leslie Marmon Silko