In 2001, journalist Jessica DuLong ditched her dot-com desk job
for the diesel engines of a rusty antique fireboat, the John J.
Harvey, and the storied waters of the Hudson River. My River
Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson tells the story
of this mechanic's daughter and Stanford graduate who had left
her blue-collar upbringing behind until the fireboat drew her
back, offering a chance to become an engineer and a taste of
home she hadn't realized she was missing.
The more time DuLong spent toiling in the engine room, running
the boat's finely crafted machinery, the more she wondered what
America is losing in our shift away from handson work. These
questions crystallized in the aftermath of the September 11,
2001, attacks, when the FDNY called the retired fireboat back
into service, and DuLong and the rest of the boat's civilian
crew pumped water to fight blazes at Ground Zero. As blue-collar
workers clambered on the pile, DuLong was struck by the dignity
of physical labor and the honor of having joined the world of
skilled labor whose talents were useful at the site.
DuLong brings her two worlds vibrantly to life in this
beautifully written memoir that evokes the vitality of New York
City's bygone working waterfront and the Hudson River, a
birthplace of American industry. Blending four centuries of
Hudson River history with unforgettable present-day characters
and events, DuLong offers a porthole-view narrative of the river
and its social tapestry as a microcosm of postindustrial
America. As she tracks changes along the shoreline, where
industrial sites give way to recreational respites, a
celebration of American labor and craftsmanship emerges. While
searching along the river's edge for the meaning of work in
America, DuLong pays homage to our industrial past and raises
important questions about the future at this pivotal moment in
our national story.
My River Chronicles is a journey with an extraordinary guide, a
woman who bridges blue-collar and white-collar worlds and turns
a phrase as deftly as she does a wrench. Soulful and
illuminating, My River Chronicles is a deeply personal story of
a unique woman's discovery of her own roots -- and America's --
as she runs the fireboat's diesels on the ever-changing river
that flows both ways.