In August of 2017 Michigan in Books' first issue or posting hit the Internet. In the past month Michigan in Books surpassed 10,000 total page views. My heartfelt thanks go out to all the regular and occasional readers of the blog and my admiration continues to grow for Michigan's little known and often ignored self-published authors who write with such passion and eloquence about our state whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Please keep writing, your voices will be heard.
The Flint Water Crisis is a familiar story to most of us in Michigan. But none of the previous accounts approaches or studies the city's water crisis from the perspective of a social scientist. The reader gets a thorough account of how the water crisis occurred when the source of Flint's water supply was switched to the Flint River. The book covers the struggle by Flint residents to convince local and state officials they were being poisoned even as the same officials repeatedly claimed the water was fine, lead levels were not dangerously high, and there were no adverse effects from drinking, washing, cooking, or bathing in Flint's new water supply. It wasn't until Dr. Hanna-Attisha revealed the dangerous levels of lead found in Flint's children and charged, in the case of Flint, it was "poisoning by policy" that the full extent of the crisis was realized.
The book explores environmental justice and the lack of it when it comes to the poor or people of color. The author also weighs in on the political climate within the state that permitted this "catastrophic breakdown in trust" between those "poisoned by policy" and their elected officials and government-appointed bureaucrats' who failed to listen, investigate, or simply tried to ignore the problem. The book is especially critical of Michigan's policy of replacing elected officials with state-appointed emergency managers in financially strapped cities like Flint. The emergency managers answered to the state and not to the people who they had been appointed to govern.
A social scientist's inquiry into the Flint water debacle presents an added dimension to the story. The author makes clear that when the people of Flint demanded clean, safe water they also called for the restitution of their democratic rights. This reviewer must add that in the introduction and occasionally in the narrative neither my education nor IQ prove anywhere near adequate to untangle or understand academic gobbledegook such as: "This kind of normative language, some have agreed, has proven to be highly co-optable into the post-political "consensus" of neoliberalism, with favorite activist ideas like the "human right to water" operationalized by elites in ways compatible with privatization and other neoliberal agendas." But don't let the occasional sentence like the one above stop you from reading this important and revelatory book.
Flint Fight Back: Environmental Justice and Democracy in the Flint Water Crisis by Benjamin J. Pauli. MIT Press, 2019, $35 pb.
Unlike the first in the series, this book does not provide the reader with as complete a portrait of a small-town doctor's practice. What you do get is a doctor so committed to her patients' she will even try to prove one of them innocent of a decade-old murder. The plot keeps the reader guessing until the last page and in some ways, the construction and unfolding of the plot reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery. Those looking for a throwback mystery absent of foul language, raw violence, and gratuitous sex will find this book to their liking.
The Life of the Lakes: A Guide to the Great Lakes Fishery 4th ed. by Brandon C. Schroder, et al. Michigan Sea Grant College Program, the University of Michigan, 2019, $19.95
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