It is November now-I am looking back at the books I read and the interviews I conducted during 2020 and compiling lists of my favorite books and book conversations. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Kerri Arsenault. She just published her first book, "Mill Town-Reckoning with What Remains," and this is one of the books I will be including in my year-end best of 2020 roundups for the Cox Ohio newspapers. What a stunning story this is.
Kerri has written about her hometown in Maine, a place that is defined by the paper mill which has operated there for over a century. Generations of residents have gotten good, steady jobs at that mill. Her father worked there. So did her grandfather. And so on. Families have lived and died beneath the shadow of that mill's massive smokestack. The author shows that those steady jobs have come at a high cost. The mill has produced good wages for those who have worked there. It has also polluted the environment and many residents of the region have become sick and died after prolonged exposure to the carcinogens that have been saturating that area for decades.
This powerful memoir is exquisitely rendered. It is a potent account of the ugly reality that many Americans face, the high price some of us must pay as a lethal trade-off for obtaining gainful employment.
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