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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl » User review

Particularly relevant in the turbulant economic times in which we live.

  • Dec 2, 2008
Rating:
+5
It is one of the most gut-wrenching books I have ever read.  Like an episode of the old TV series "Time Tunnel" author Timothy Egan transports the reader back to the Great Plains in the 1930's.  The stories of personal hardship and determination in "The Worst Hard Time" will likely hit you like a ton of bricks.  This is a story that needs to be told again and again.  As you will learn in "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl" what would be forever known as the "Dust Bowl" was a largely self-imposed tragedy.  It is extremely important that the American people understand just what went wrong with the land in America's mid-section during those tumultuous years and to learn the lessons from this monumental environmental disaster.
 
Prior to reading "The Worst Hard Time" my knowledge of the calamity known as the "Dust Bowl" was limited to not much more than a passing reference in a high school history book and perhaps a few articles in the newspaper.  I simply had no idea of the scope and the magnitude of this tragedy.  In "The Worst Hard Time" Timothy Egan introduces us to a half dozen or so families who would settle various parts of this region.  These were hardy folks who came to settle in this area from many different places and for a variety of reasons.  It was the height of the Great Depression and for most the lure of farming your own tract of land was just too enticing to pass up.  For an all too brief time it appeared to be a wise decision.  But as the 1930's progressed most of the people who had settled in places like Boise City in the Oklahoma panhandle, Dalhart in Northwestern Texas or Cimmaron County, New Mexico would rue the day they decided to settle there.  Something had gone horribly wrong with the land.  Most would experience unspeakable hardship over the next several years and lose practically everything.  Surely, "The Worst Hard Time" is an apt description of what went on.

Aside from Timothy Egan's exceptionally well-written narrative "The Worst Hard Time" also presents a series of unforgettable photographs that will leave you with an indelible image of the landscape in places like "No Man's Land" and Baca County, Colorado during the height of the "Dust Bowl".  These scenes will break your heart and make you wonder how these people were able to cope with such devastation and economic deprivation.  It is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of a crisis where millions upon millions of tons of prime topsoil blow away in violent storms.  In less than a generation what had been hundreds of millions of acres of prime grasslands had been destroyed, perhaps forever. Discover just who was to blame for this calamity and learn about FDR's ambitious plans to resuscitate the area.

With "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl" Timothy Egan brings the spectacle of the "Dust Bowl" to the attention of a new generation of Americans.  Aside from reacquainting all of us with the who, what, when and where of this unfortunate chapter in American history, Egan reminds of the important environmental lessons that we should have learned from these events.  The "Dust Bowl" was an environmental disaster of nearly biblical proportions. And it could happen again.  Towards the end of the book Timothy Egan discusses some of highly questionable policies being pursued in the Great Plains even to this day.  They seem incredibly foolhardy to me.  But judge for yourself.  "The Worst Hard Time" is an important book that should find its way into every library in America.   This is history at its absolute best.    Very highly recommended!
Dust Bowl 1 Dust Bowl 2 Dust Bowl 3 Dust Bowl region

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More The Worst Hard Time: The Untol... reviews
Quick Tip by . June 09, 2010
For history buffs everywhere. A well written and researched book about one of the worst periods of American history. It speaks to the amazing ability of people to withstand hardship.
Quick Tip by . May 25, 2010
Great Journalistic Style of Writing
review by . May 12, 2009
I picked up The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan due to a review that Tom "Duffbert" Duff did on it a year ago. I was not disappointed as this ranks as one of the best books I have read this year.      Contents:   I - Promise: The Great Plowup, 1901-1930   II - Betrayal, 1931-1933   III - Blowup, 1934-1939   Epilogue   Notes and Sources   Acknowledgements …
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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A Conversation with Timothy Egan
Why a book on the Dust Bowl now?

The story of the people who lived through the nation's hardest economic depression and its worst weather event is one of the great untold stories of the Greatest Generation. To me, there was an urgency to get this story now because the last of the people who lived through those dark years are in their final days. It's their story, and I didn't want them to take this narrative of horror and persistence to the grave. At the same time, this part of America — the rural counties of the Great Plains — looks like it's dying. Our rural past seems so distant, like Dorothy's Kansas in the Wizard of Oz. Yet it was within the lifetime of people living today that nearly one in three Americans worked on a farm. Now, the site of the old Dust Bowl — which covers parts of five states — is largely devoid of young families and emptying out by the day. It's flyover country to most Americans. But it holds this remarkable tale that should be a larger part of our shared national story.

Do you see any parallels between the Dust Bowl and Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster of our time?

There are so many echoes of what happened in the 1930s and the hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast in the summer of 2005. For starters, there were ample warnings that a large part of the United States could be rendered uninhabitable if people continued to live as they did — in this case, ripping up all the ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 061834697X (hbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780618346974 (hbk.)
Author: Timothy Egan
Genre: Natural Disasters, Depression, History
Publisher: Houghton Miflin
Date Published: December 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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