NONFICTION

Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation

Bloomsbury. May 2020. 304p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781547602322.
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Gr 6 Up–The water crisis of Flint, MI, came to international attention thanks to a cohort of well-placed whistleblowers, journalists, scientists, and concerned citizens. In 2011, a series of state-appointed Emergency Managers tasked with minimizing costs and maximizing revenues took control of debt-strapped Flint. In April of 2014, the city’s water supply switched from the Detroit-treated waters of Lake Huron to the locally pumped, pollutant-laden Flint River. Astute citizens immediately noticed that something was wrong. The water reeked, wasn’t transparent, and tasted awful. Those who consumed or even touched it experienced pains, rashes, hair loss, and other mysterious illnesses. Tests revealed it was loaded with toxins, bacteria, and extremely high quantities of lead. Though residents’ collective health and pocketbooks suffered, they refused to bear injustice in silence. Thoroughly sourced and meticulously documented, this stomach-churning, blood-boiling, tear-jerking account synthesizes a city’s herculean efforts to access safe, clean water. Readers receive a crash course in a century’s worth of institutional malfeasance, then join a resident-constructed coalition that crosses every conceivable demographic line, organizing, researching, and protesting alongside them. Flint stands today, not due to proper oversight or intervention, but because the community stands together. Their story should ignite us all—especially the next generation of citizen activists.
VERDICT This compulsively readable, must-buy narrative nonfiction serves as the ultimate antidote to civic complacence.

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