A disturbing and pessimistic narrative documenting little-known problems of fossil-fuel dependence.

THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN

DEATH AT MASSEY AND THE DIRTY SECRETS BEHIND BIG COAL

Scrupulously researched account of coal’s resurgence, focused on the Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 miners in 2010.

Having lived there as a child, former BusinessWeek Moscow bureau chief Galuszka has particular empathy for the residents of Appalachian coal country. He consistently contrasts the hard work and poverty they endure with the ruthless, one-sided capitalism long practiced by coal companies. In his view, the 2010 disaster was no fluke, but the culmination of the shortsighted policies of Massey Energy and its then-CEO, Donald Blankenship, a notoriously pugnacious throwback to the robber-baron era. Himself a product of an Appalachian childhood, Blankenship makes a compelling if repellent central figure; he not only relished breaking unions and defying competitors, he even resisted basic safety measures. Galuszka outlines the complex relationship of the rural mining communities in West Virginia and Kentucky with the corporate energy concerns that have consolidated formerly independent mining firms, often with inadequate oversight. He notes that Blankenship played on the cultural conservatism of many miners to attack union and environmental efforts, despite the ecological devastation caused by strip mining and the controversial “mountaintop removal” method. The region’s persistent poverty notwithstanding, overseas demand for Appalachian coal suggests it will remain profitable for corporations undeterred by fearsome tragedies like the one at Upper Big Branch. Galuszka’s thoroughness provides readers a clear sense of the complex class issues at play in Appalachia and the difficult politics within coal-mining communities; he is attuned to both the lives of the miners and the maneuvers of the energy industry. Though his account is at times dry and repetitive, the author ably elucidates the latest chapter in a long history of antagonism around mining issues.

A disturbing and pessimistic narrative documenting little-known problems of fossil-fuel dependence.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00021-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

more