A personality-rich narrative of one community’s successful fight against a polluter, as well as a vade mecum for other towns...

NIGHT FIRE

BIG OIL, POISON AIR, AND MARGIE RICHARD’S FIGHT TO SAVE HER TOWN

Miami Herald investigative journalist Greene debuts with a David-and-Goliath story that casts Shell Oil as the villain.

Drawing on extensive interviews, newspaper articles, court documents and other public records, the author chronicles the difficulties encountered by Margie Richard, a schoolteacher and community leader, when she took on the giant multinational corporation that threatened the health and safety of her neighborhood. Diamond, a four-block African-American area in Norco, La., was located just outside the fence of a Shell chemical plant, across town from a Shell refinery where many of Norco’s white residents were employed. After deadly explosions and pollution-based illnesses took their toll on her family and neighbors, Richard launched a grassroots campaign in 1989 that sought relocation payments from Shell so that Diamond residents could move away from the hazardous plant. Later, the strategy changed to a suit for damages known as Richards v. Shell, opposed by many local whites whose livelihood depended on Shell. Richard’s group lost the case at trial in 1997, but over the years she had become a knowledgeable, skilled and well-connected environmental activist. In 1999 she addressed the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, and in 2000 she carried a bag of polluted air from Norco to a UN Conference on Climate Change at the Hague, where she presented it to a Shell executive. The resulting publicity, not just in print but on the Internet and on television, put new pressure on Shell. Greene provides a lively, readable account of how this pressure grew and the various ways that Shell responded. In 2002, shortly before the airing of a PBS documentary about the struggle, the corporation offered to buy all the houses in Diamond, enabling Richard and her neighbors to relocate.

A personality-rich narrative of one community’s successful fight against a polluter, as well as a vade mecum for other towns facing similar problems.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-112362-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more