Monday, January 18, 2010

Years of Dust

Marrin, Albert. 2009. Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl. New York: Dutton.

On May 9, 1934, winds kicked up a dust storm that scientists estimate carried away 350 million tons of topsoil.  Although it began in the plains of Montana and Wyoming, in the next two days,

 "Some 12 million tons of dust enveloped Chicago in a gritty haze - four pounds for every man, woman, and child in the Windy City.  On May 12, the New York Times reported, 'a cloud of dust thousands of feet high...filtered the rays of the sun for five hours yesterday. New York was obscured in a half-light similar to the light cast by the sun in a partial eclipse.' Three hundred miles out at sea, sailors wrote their names in the dust that settled on ships' decks."

But this was not the biggest storm, nor the only storm.  The Dust Bowl years lasted a decade and spanned the plains in a wide swath from Montana and North Dakota to Texas.

Albert Marrin tells the story from a wide range of viewpoints -  geological, historical, economical, political, artistic, environmental, social, literary and individual.  The era that was the Dust Bowl touched every aspect of our civilization and every component of our natural habitat.  Marrin employs the voices of newspapers, individuals, poets, and writers of the time, including the great John Steinbeck to convey the harsh realities of the day.  He uses images of newspapers, handbills, and period artwork as well as photographs, including those of the famous Dorothea Lange.

Words to Know, Notes, Books for Kids, Bibliography and Index complete this intense and exhaustive study of one our country's worst social and environmental catastrophes.

Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl is a cautionary tale of the consequences of our own actions.  A powerful book.

Click for links to all of today's Non-Fiction Monday reviews.

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