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By Lisa Diethelm
A Cronkite professor teamed up with a fellow investigative journalist to report and write a book that follows the story of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s relentless immigration enforcement and its effects on Maricopa County, Arizona.
“DRIVING WHILE BROWN: Joe Arpaio versus the Latino Resistance” was born of years of reporting by Terry Greene Sterling and Jude Joffe-Block, who documented Arpaio's story and the people who were affected by Arpaio’s actions.
Greene Sterling, the longtime writer-in-residence and an affiliated faculty member at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, met Joffe-Block while they were both reporting on the 2012 trial in the Melendres racial profiling lawsuit against Arpaio. Together, they reported and wrote the book over a five-year period, telling the tale of Arpaio’s influence on immigration policies, his role in Donald Trump’s presidency, and the stories of the Latino resistance that rose up against Arpaio.
“In this political moment, “DRIVING WHILE BROWN” shows how the Latino resistance to Arpaio changed Arizona, and offers hope to a nation struggling to defeat a cycle of white supremacy unleashed by the Trump presidency,” Greene Sterling said.
The book, set to be released next month, also closely follows a number of grassroots activists, including Kathryn Kobor, a devoted Arpaio supporter, and Lydia Guzman, an immigrant rights advocate who worked tirelessly to stop Arpaio. To celebrate the release, the Cronkite School is hosting a Must See Monday discussion with both authors on April 19.
Additionally, the book contextualizes how the Latino-led movement that was galvanized to oppose Arpaio helped shape Arizona’s changing political climate. Joffe-Block said the immigration fights in Arizona foreshadowed the national political climate under Trump.
“As we were actively reporting on the book, we began to realize that this moment we had been interested in was now actually informing the future of the country that Arizona had lived through, a time period that the nation was now following. And so, the book took on new meaning and new importance as we were writing it,” she said.
Joffe-Block, who joined The Associated Press in 2020 after years as a senior field correspondent for KJZZ, also said another theme people can take away from the book is the important role local journalists played in exposing Arpaio’s wrongdoing.
“The book is a guide to the impact that journalists can have on a big story, and we’re really grateful, as fellow Arizona journalists, for all of the legwork that was done over the years,” she said. “The book draws from our own reporting but also from journalists from Phoenix over the years.”
“DRIVING WHILE BROWN,” published by University of California Press, has received pre-publication praise. Kirkus Reviews called the book “a work of exemplary reporting.”
Changing Hands Bookstore is celebrating the book launch on April 21 with its own virtual event, featuring Greene Sterling and Joffe-Block.
Greene Sterling said the book blends investigative reporting with narrative writing, showing how policies and court cases impact real people.
“Narrative journalism is not just pretty writing,” she said. ASU students interested in narrative writing learn to dig into data and records in order to write about the people affected by the data and records, she added.
The reporting and writing in “DRIVING WHILE BROWN,” Greene Sterling noted, is not only investigative, but character-driven. And “very, very deep and intense.”