Synopses & Reviews
The gripping true story of one woman's fight to save her town and her way of life from deadly industrial chemicals.
Diane Wilson, fourth-generation shrimp-boat captain and mother of five, proves that one "ordinary" woman can force a giant chemical company to change its ways. When Wilson learns that she lives in the most polluted county in the United States, she launches a campaign against a multi-billion-dollar corporation that has been covering up spills, silencing workers, flouting the EPA, and dumping lethal ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride into the bays along her beloved Texas Gulf Coast.
In an epic tale of bravery, Wilson takes her fight to the courts, to the gates of the chemical plant, and to the halls of power in Austin. Along the way she meets with scorn, bribery, character assassination, and even death threats. Finally, Wilson realizes that she must break the law to win justice: she resorts to nonviolent disobedience, direct action, and debilitating hunger strikes.
An Unreasonable Woman is a page-turner to rival stories like Erin Brockovich, Silkwood, and The China Syndrome. Wilson's vivid South Texas dialogue resides somewhere between Alice Walker and William Faulkner, and her dazzling prose brings to mind the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, replete with dreams and prophesies.
This book heralds the arrival of a vital new literary voice, and introduces us to a daring, hopeful women's activism that the times demand.
"With the discovery that her 'piddlin' little county on the Gulf Coast' led the nation in toxic emissions, shrimper Wilson, a mother of five, found herself embarking on a voyage of discovery and activism that would strain her marriage and stretch her horizons. A David up against big-time chemical Goliaths, Wilson is a gifted storyteller, rendering dialogue and pacing plot turns as a novelist might. Anonymous informants, uncomfortable whistleblowers, unanticipated opposition from civic powers and seductive offers of cash bribes pepper this first-person account of Wilson's attempts to save her hometown. Although there are moments when the trail of meetings, memos and petitions seems drawn out, the tell-everything approach reveals how a woman awed to discover 'they can lie on TV news! And it is all right!' can learn to master the media. Wilson's hunger-striking, boat-sinking and pole-climbing combined with the help of a pro bono lawyer and a Greenpeace activist ultimately wring a 'zero tolerance' agreement out of Formosa Plastics and Dow/Union Carbide. Wilson's book is longer than it needs to be, but her Texas twang is catchy, and often spellbinding, as she goes about her mission, sometimes with a child 'by one hand and a handful of documents in the other.' (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Wilson's] story is delivered in an affecting, soft-spoken style that pulls readers in. There is more to be learned from this extraordinary woman than how to fight big industry." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"For the American environmental movement, An Unreasonable Woman could not come at a better time....This book does for environmentalism what All the President's Men did for government reform. Watch for the movie." San Diego Tribune
"An Unreasonable Woman will stand as one of this nation's greatest works of nonfiction....This book inspires in us the courage to believe to remember we can still change the world." Rick Bass, award-winning author of The Hermit's Story and Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had
"Wilson's first attempt at professional writing is certainly memorable....An Unreasonable Woman is an interesting book, an important book. But it is not an easy book to become immersed in, or to finish." Houston Chronicle
"What a terrific book. I don't often gush, but this book had me fascinated from the first page and whomper-jawed half the time. A voice like Diane Wilson's working-class woman with five kids is so rare. For one thing, if you have five kids and a job, not to mention a battle with an international chemical company on your hands, it's hard to get around to writing. And to write this well is a stunning achievement." Molly Ivins, nationally syndicated political columnist and author of Who Let the Dogs In?
"Texas is famous for its tall tales, but they pale in comparison to the true tale of Diane Wilson. Hers is a mind-bending story of corporate intrigue, government shenanigans and all-around political dirty tricks. This is a book about one of our greatest local heroes that could just give Texas a good name for a change." Jim Hightower, author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush
"Read and delight in the story how one fierce and feisty fisher-woman wrestled the corporate polluters and won. Diane Wilson's pit-bull tenacity when it comes to defending Mother Nature is the stuff of legends. Hip to the fact that well-behaved women rarely make history, Diane has already inspired a new movement of totally uncontrollable, irresistible and unreasonable women!" Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK and coauthor of Stop the Next War Now
"This is a book with arms so strong it reaches out, grabs you, and won't let go until its last dying words. Even then it haunts. An Unreasonable Woman is the first book in years that has caused me to lose sleep. This is the extraordinary story of a woman who gambled everything for her place. It is like nothing I have ever read. This book is a crucible and no one will finish it unchanged." Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land
"Imagine if Faulkner were the Mad Hatter on a mission to save the planet and you get some idea of Diane Wilson's astonishing story and her rawboned but powerful prose style. This is an important book because it proves that eternal vigilance and magnificent obsession are often the price that must be paid to save our fragile ecosystems from those bent on despoiling them for profit." Ken Wells, author of Meely LaBauve
"Wilson doesn't always know where her frontal attack will carry her. We don't always know, either, which gives readers the sense of being packed into the back of her van like one of her small children and driven wildly through attempted negotiations, protests, hunger strikes, family rifts, changing alliances, and secretive confessions. Occasionally, restful passages describe life by the water's edge. But for the most part it's an exhausting, breathtaking journey with the highest of stakes." Kendra Nordin, the Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire Christian Science Monitor review
A gripping true story about one woman's heroic battle against Formosa Plastics, a giant chemical corporation poisoning her town, its sea life and its people.
About the Author
Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation shrimper, began fishing the bays off the Gulf Coast of Texas at the age of eight. By 24 she was a boat captain. In 1989, while running her brother's fish house at the docks and mending nets, she read a newspaper article that listed her home of Calhoun County as the number one toxic polluter in the country. She set up a meeting in the town hall to discuss what the chemical plants were doing to the bays and thus began her life as an environmental activist. Threatened by thugs and despised by her neighbors, Diane insisted the truth be told and that Formosa Plastics stop dumping toxins into the bay.
Her work on behalf of the people and aquatic life of Seadrift, Texas, has won her a number of awards including: National Fisherman Magazine Award, Mother Jones's Hell Raiser of the Month, Louis Gibbs' Environmental Lifetime Award, Louisiana Environmental Action (LEAN) Environmental Award, Giraffe Project, Jenifer Altman Award, and the Bioneers Award. She is co-founder of Code Pink and continues to lead the fight for social justice.
An Unreasonable Woman is Diane's first book.