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My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudsonby Jessica Dulong
Synopses & Reviews
In 2001, journalist Jessica DuLong ditched her dot-com desk job for the diesel engines of a rusty antique fireboat, the John J. Harvey, and the storied waters of the Hudson River. My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson tells the story of this mechanic's daughter and Stanford graduate who had left her blue-collar upbringing behind until the fireboat drew her back, offering a chance to become an engineer and a taste of home she hadn't realized she was missing.
The more time DuLong spent toiling in the engine room, running the boat's finely crafted machinery, the more she wondered what America is losing in our shift away from handson work. These questions crystallized in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, when the FDNY called the retired fireboat back into service, and DuLong and the rest of the boat's civilian crew pumped water to fight blazes at Ground Zero. As blue-collar workers clambered on the pile, DuLong was struck by the dignity of physical labor and the honor of having joined the world of skilled labor whose talents were useful at the site.
DuLong brings her two worlds vibrantly to life in this beautifully written memoir that evokes the vitality of New York City's bygone working waterfront and the Hudson River, a birthplace of American industry. Blending four centuries of Hudson River history with unforgettable present-day characters and events, DuLong offers a porthole-view narrative of the river and its social tapestry as a microcosm of postindustrial America. As she tracks changes along the shoreline, where industrial sites give way to recreational respites, a celebration of American labor and craftsmanship emerges. While searching along the river's edge for the meaning of work in America, DuLong pays homage to our industrial past and raises important questions about the future at this pivotal moment in our national story.
My River Chronicles is a journey with an extraordinary guide, a woman who bridges blue-collar and white-collar worlds and turns a phrase as deftly as she does a wrench. Soulful and illuminating, My River Chronicles is a deeply personal story of a unique woman's discovery of her own roots — and America's — as she runs the fireboat's diesels on the ever-changing river that flows both ways.
When journalist Jessica DuLong ditched her dotcom desk job to ply the waters of the Hudson River as engineer of a rusty antique fireboat, she found a taste of home in a maritime community that was quickly disappearing. In this heartfelt and marvelously illuminating book, she weaves together stories of life on the water with tales from Hudson Valley history.
Published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic voyage up the river that bears his name, My River Chronicles is a journey with an extraordinary guide. Once Jessica DuLong started toiling in the engine room of Fireboat John J. Harvey, she never looked back. The more time she spent with the boat’s finely crafted machinery, the more she wondered what America is losing in our shift away from hands-on work. Her service pumping water to fight blazes at Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001 attacks reinforced in her mind the importance of blue-collar skills. Masterfully grounding her own experiences with narratives from the river’s rich history, she introduces us to seventeenth-century explorers, nineteenth-century canal builders, and a cast of present-day characters—including a salvage diver hunting sunken tugboats, a foundryman who casts iron in the old way, and a distiller who crafts bourbon from local corn—that reminds us how colorful and dynamic the Hudson continues to be. What emerges is a celebration of labor (and leisure) from a woman who straddles blue-collar and white-collar worlds and turns a phrase as deftly as she does a wrench.
About the Author
Jessica DuLong, a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed Merchant Marine Officer, is one of the world’s only female fireboat engineers. She’s also a journalist whose work has appeared in Newsweek International, Rolling Stone, Psychology Today, CosmoGIRL!, Parenting, Today’s Machining World, and Maritime Reporter & Engineering News, and other publications. Her passion for the
On September 11, 2001, Fireboat John J. Harvey was called out of retirement to pump water at the
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