My review of: The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time:

The Untold Story

of Those Who Survived

the Great American Dust Bowl

by

Timothy EGAN

312 pages

This book counts for

My Dewey Decimal Challenge

for

The 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge

ABOUT THE BOOK

The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, “the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect” (New York Times).

In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is “arguably the best nonfiction book yet” (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature. [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Timothy Egan is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who resides in Seattle, Washington. He currently contributes opinion columns to The New York Times as the paper’s Pacific Northwest correspondent.

In addition to his work with The New York Times, he has written six books, including The Good Rain, Breaking Blue, and Lasso the Wind.

Most recently he wrote “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America” which details the Great Fire of 1910 that burned about three million acres and helped shape the United States Forest Service. The book also details some of the political issues of the time focusing on Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot.

The Worst Hard Time, a non-fiction account of those who lived through The Great Depression’s Dust Bowl, for which he won the 2006 Washington State Book Award in History/Biography and a 2006 National Book Award.[1]

In 2001, he won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his contribution to the series How Race is Lived in America. [Goodreads]

REVIEWS BY OTHERS

On April 14, 1935, the biggest dust storm on record descended over five states, from the Dakotas to Amarillo, Texas. People standing a few feet apart could not see each other; if they touched, they risked being knocked over by the static electricity that the dust created in the air. The Dust Bowl was the product of reckless, market-driven farming that had so abused the land that, when dry weather came, the wind lifted up millions of acres of topsoil and whipped it around in “black blizzards,” which blew as far east as New York. This ecological disaster rapidly disfigured whole communities. Egan’s portraits of the families who stayed behind are sobering and far less familiar than those of the “exodusters” who staggered out of the High Plains. He tells of towns depopulated to this day, a mother who watched her baby die of “dust pneumonia,” and farmers who gathered tumbleweed as food for their cattle and, eventually, for their children. [The New Yorker]

MY OWN THOUGHTS

A friend recommended this book so highly I had to try it, and I could hardly put it down! It reads like a novel, a horror novel, the problem is, this is plain history [oops, pun unintended], plain American history. I had no idea this happened. I asked a few Americans in their 30s, 40s, they did not know either! Hmmm.

Egan’s writing is amazing, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work; he’s really good at presenting the life and reaction of his characters; it reads like a novel, but these are all real people, that he traced through their descendants and/or their journal on the time.

I thought I was quite aware of all the bad stuff we did/do to our planet and its consequences, but I honestly I had no idea how much it already affected the US almost a century ago.

Since then, I have watched a couple of movies/documentaries on the subject; Our Daily Bread, by King Vidor, is excellent.

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
OR ANY OTHER BOOK BY TIMOTHY EGAN?
DO YOU FEEL LIKE READING THIS BOOK?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS  IN A COMMENT PLEASE

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6 thoughts on “My review of: The Worst Hard Time

  1. I’ve only read a handful of books set during the Dust Bowl but all were fiction and with the exception of The Grapes of Wrath, none were particularly good (I especially despised the young adult book Out of the Dust…). In general I’ve often felt that the Depression is a period of time skipped over in literature (perhaps because the wars that came before and after hold so much more drama…?), and the Dust Bowl in particularly. Very interesting to learn about this book.

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    • Thanks for your comment. If you have a chance to read it, I would be interested in knowing what YOU think about it. Egan is a very fine writer. As for your question about this period and fact often skipped, I wonder if this has to do with some kind of “national unconscious guilt”, with what we did to our own country. tough to tackle.
      I went to your own blog and added it to my google reader list, it looks very interesting. I’m curious, How did you find me?? Emma

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  2. Pingback: My Dewey Decimal Challenge 2011 « Words And Peace

  3. It was so good! Now I really want to read The Big Burn, I hadn’t heard of that one before. It is disturbing to realize that we were destroying the planet a century ago. It’s not just a recent development.

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  4. Pingback: November deal: The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan | Words And Peace

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