The Worst Hard Time
Thursday, January 26, 2012Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
The Worst Hard Time:
The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
by Timothy Egan
Before reading this I thought I had a good idea of what the dust bowl was like. I’d read The Grapes of Wrath and knew about the Great Depression, but I had no idea just how bad it was. This nonfiction book tells the story of the farmers in the Great Plains and the tragedies they suffered during this time.
Egan has a wonderful talent for blending anecdotes with information. One that particularly stands out is the story of a woman who worked in a clothing factory. She was sewing a huge pair of overalls for a man who special ordered them and she couldn’t help but wonder about the man who would eventually wear them. She sewed a note inside the overalls for him to find, saying she said she wanted a “real man.” After reading it, the shy farmer decided to write back and eventually the two got married.
Another section talked about the prejudice towards German-Americans during World War I. It’s horrible to see one more example of Americans persecuting a specific race. We seem to have done that consistently throughout our history, with the Japanese-Americans during WWII with Middle Eastern people today, etc. Fear is what drives those actions, but it doesn’t excuse them.
In addition to those stories, there were many more that break your heart. During this time people were traveling from the east coast to the west coast to get “fresh air” to help their health. Instead, they found a dust filled sky that you sometimes couldn’t see through. There were babies who died because their lungs filled with dirt. Cows and other animals starved to death because their stomachs filled with dirt and they couldn’t fit any food in.
The reason I enjoy books like this one is because I feel like I’m learning about a piece of history. There was so much about this period that I didn’t know and it was truly inspiring to see what people can survive.
“The problem with history was that is was written by the survivors, and they usually wrote in the sunshine, on harvest day, from victory stands.”
Image from here.