The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

"A few weeks ago the Ken Burn’s two-part series on the Dust Bowl was on PBS.  I had seen it advertised and had “Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan on my shelves so decided before the film aired on TV I should read the book.  It turned out to be one of the best books I have read this year.  It is an excellent example of narrative non-fiction.  Instead of a narrative flow that tells the story of the whole great big event in straight time-line format, the author choose to tell the story by breaking the event into the personal stories of different families who lived in the heart of the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s.  This technique allowed him to concentrate on the effect of the natural disaster on the people who lived through it and bring the reader right into their lives and a discovery of the impact of this huge natural disaster on them.
 
"This book is especially pertinent to those of us in Kansas and southwest Nebraska because several of the families and people he writes about lived in this region.  He covers all kinds of details in the book that bring the scope of the disaster home in very personalized accounts.  If the book has any faults it is that it might be long on story and short on analysis.  By that I mean that the author focuses on the human tragedy and not on the science or governmental programs implemented to contain and stop the soil erosion.  As a resident of Kansas I would have liked to read more about things like the beginnings of the ASCS and other soil conservation methods, and the immediate and long range impact of they had on the environment.  But as far as reading about what happened to people as a result of the prolonged drought – you can’t get narrative history better than this."
 
~Review by Benita Strnad
Curriculum Materials/Reference Librarian
McLure Education Library
The University of Alabama