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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowlby Timothy Egan
A fresh, stirring look at the Dust Bowl and Depression, Timothy Egan follows the personal dramas of a handful of families, allowing their voices to reveal the environmental and human tragedies that rocked the nation. Grippingly detailed, this exciting yet compassionate work of history is difficult to put down. I enjoyed it to the last page.
Synopses & Reviews
"The Worst Hard Time is an epic story of blind hope and endurance almost beyond belief; it is also, as Tim Egan has told it, a riveting tale of bumptious charlatans, conmen, and tricksters, environmental arrogance and hubris, political chicanery, and a ruinous ignorance of nature's ways. Egan has reached across the generations and brought us the people who played out the drama in this devastated land, and uses their voices to tell the story as well as it could ever be told." — Marq de Villiers, author of Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prizewinning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod homes to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out. He follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones. Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survived—those who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the grave—Egan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
As only great history can, Egan's book captures the very voice of the times: its grit, pathos, and abiding courage. Combining the human drama of Isaac's Storm with the sweep of The American People in the Great Depression, The Worst Hard Time is a lasting and important work of American history.
Timothy Egan is a national enterprise reporter for the New York Times. He is the author of four books and the recipient of several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
As one who, as a young reporter, survived and reported on the great Dust Bowl disaster, I recommend this book as a dramatic, exciting, and accurate account of that incredible and deadly phenomenon. This is cant-put-it-down history.” —Walter Cronkite
"The Worst Hard Time is wonderful: ribbed like surf, and battering us with a national epic that ranks second only to the Revolution and the Civil War. Egan knows this and convincingly claims recognition for his subject—as we as a country finally accomplished, first with Lewis and Clark, and then for 'the greatest generation,' many of whose members of course were also survivors of the hardships of the Great Depression. This is a banner, heartfelt but informative book, full of energy, research, and compassion." —Edward Hoagland, author of Compass Points: How I Lived
"Here's a terrific true story—who could put it down? Egan humanizes Dust Bowl history by telling the vivid stories of the families who stayed behind. One loves the people and admires Egan's vigor and sympathy." —Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
"The American West got lucky when Tim Egan focused his acute powers of observation on its past and present. Egan's remarkable combination of clear analysis and warm empathy anchors his portrait of the women and men who held on to their places—and held on to their souls—through the nearly unimaginable miseries of the Dust Bowl. This book provides the finest mental exercise for people wanting to deepen, broaden, and strengthen their thinking about the relationship of human beings to this earth." —Patricia N. Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
"Egan tells an extraordinary tale in this visceral account of how America's great, grassy plains turned to dust, and how the ferocious plains winds stirred up an endless series of 'black blizzards' that were like a biblical plague: 'Dust clouds boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled like moving mountains' in what became known as the Dust Bowl. But the plague was man-made, as Egan shows: the plains weren't suited to farming, and plowing up the grass to plant wheat, along with a confluence of economic disaster — the Depression — and natural disaster — eight years of drought — resulted in an ecological and human catastrophe that Egan details with stunning specificity. He grounds his tale in portraits of the people who settled the plains: hardy Americans and immigrants desperate for a piece of land to call their own and lured by the lies of promoters who said the ground was arable. Egan's interviews with survivors produce tales of courage and suffering: Hazel Lucas, for instance, dared to give birth in the midst of the blight only to see her baby die of 'dust pneumonia' when her lungs clogged with the airborne dirt. With characters who seem to have sprung from a novel by Sinclair Lewis or Steinbeck, and Egan's powerful writing, this account will long remain in readers' minds." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since.
Timothy Egans 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.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains during the Depression, going from sod huts to new framed houses to basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out.
About the Author
TIMOTHY EGAN is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of five books, most recently The Worst Hard Time, which won a National Book Award for nonfiction, and was named a New York Times Editors' Choice and a New York Times Notable Book. He writes a weekly column, "Outposts," for the New York Times.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Live Through This 1
I PROMISE: The Great Plowup, 19011930
1. The Wanderer 13 2. No Mans Land 32 3. Creating Dalhart 52 4. High Plains Deutsch 59 5. Last of the Great Plowup 73
II BETRAYAL, 19311933
6. First Wave 91 7. A Darkening 103 8. In a Dry Land 115 9. New Leader, New Deal 128 10. Big Blows 136
III BLOWUP, 19341939
11. Triage 145 12. The Long Darkness 155 13. The Struggle for Air 171 14. Showdown in Dalhart 176 15. Dusters Eve 193 16. Black Sunday 198 17. A Call to Arms 222 18. Goings 236 19. Witnesses 242 20. The Saddest Land 254 21. Verdict 265 22. Cornhusker II 273 23. The Last Men 279 24. Cornhusker III 293 25. Rain 303
Epilogue 309 Notes and Sources 315 Acknowledgments 328 Index 331
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History and Social Science » Americana » Great Plains