Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of the Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.
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This book was a selection for World Book Night. It was my 2nd choice, but it was the title that I was going to receive. I thought I'd better read it so I can talk it up as I passed out twenty copies on April 23 (See worldbooknight.org for more info. about this.).
This book took me, a reader, over a month to complete. How was I supposed to hand this title out to "reluctant readers" to "encourage literacy" when I could barely get through it myself? The text was interesting, but like the people in the Plains area, I was choking on the dust.
The book is over 300 pages, divided into three sections. There were many stories of how the people of the region survived (or didn't) during the early 1900s. I felt such compassion and empathy for these people. Their stories reminded me of my grandparents who lived in central Texas during this time. I learned about how the term "dust bowl" was coined and how the land became so stripped that it could do nothing but blow away and leave farmers penniless.
I chuckled when the Washington, D. C. bureaucrat was urging for money and help to region to deaf ears. Deaf ears until the west Texas dust blew in to D. C.! The money was approved within a day (Egan 228).
I liked, and at the same time didn't like, the format Egan used to tell the stories. Egan layers the stories to overlap and then sometimes takes a divergent path to examine one person's story. I took (8 pages) notes (as usual) while reading and often felt like I was rereading something because of the overlap.
As I read, I was transported back in time to this region. Egan has done the research and crafts a book that reflects many people. The dust did not discriminate. It affected everyone in No Man's Land.
One thing I did do after reading this book is find the movie "The Plow that Broke the Plains" and watched it looking for Bam White.