Chrissie's Reviews > The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
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's review
Aug 30, 2010

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bookshelves: history, flora, kirkus, text-checked, usa
Read from August 13 to 16, 2010

Pstscript: My husband is now reading this book and so of course we are talking about it. Well, I have discovered at least two errors, and this gets me worried. What other facts have I absorbed as true and perhaps are false? I am left with an unpleasant feeling. Error number one is on page 26-27. There it says that Native Americans were not American citizens in 1926. I wanted to know when they were allowed to become American citizens. What did I find? They were given citizenship in 1924. What? Something is wrong! The other error my husband pointed out to me. On page 94-95 it says:

"As the ranks of the jobless grew, they took to the rails, going from town to town, dodging Rock Island bulls in the south, the Burlington Northern bulls in the other direction, swapping stories about places where the sun shined and a man might still get paid for a day's work. Two million Americans were living as nomads."

The Burlington Northern railroad line began in the 1970s, not the 30s!

Review: The scope of the book is so wide - you get everything from the immigration policies of Catherine the Great to the tales of the Volga Russian Germans who settled in Oklahoma to FDR's New Deal. History is discussed in such a manner that you thoroughly understand why and what has happened to cause the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Parts read like horror fiction. On the negative side: sometimes all the facts and dates and prices and statistics become overly heavy.

Overall a very sad episode of American history. The whole book is very sombre in tone, but what can you expect!
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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Lynne This was good, but it did get a bit repetitive. It gave me a better perspective on the time period which I only knew through fiction. For fiction covering the same period, I liked That Old Ace in the Hole.

Chrissie I saw that you only gave it three stars, but I am interested in the Dust Bowl Disaster. and I didn't like the other book I had read by Proulx.

Chrissie Thanks! No, the food one isn't for me....

Hubert On point 2, does the author specifically refer to the Burlington Northern railroads per se, or just that there was a railroad they used in those regions of the country?

Chrissie Hubert, he refers specifically to the Burlington Northern railroads. It wasn't me that spotted this error but my husband when he read the book and we were discussing it. He loves reading about history and railroads.....

Mrs. Johnson As a self proclaimed research "dork" I was dismayed to read that there were errors in the books so I did some quick researching & found that the Burlington Northern that was formed in the 1970s was a merger of 3 other lines that ran in the mid-west in the 1930s. So the dates ares correct, but maybe he should have left off the word "northern".

Chrissie Mrs,
Removing the word "Northern" would be one way of avoiding this error, but an even better solution would have been to use the correct full name of the railroad, namely the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Bibliophile Mmm, I didn't notice those errors, but he implied that German hyperinflation was going on during the Great Depression when it actually ended in November 1923. The problem in the Depression was not inflation but deflationary policies (in Germany and the US) until Roosevelt and yes, Hitler, began to job creation programs. So ... I was troubled by what seemed to be a fundamental lack of understanding of what was going on during the world economic crisis. I realize it's not a book about the Great Depression but if you're going to mention it and talk about chains of causality between the Wall Street crash and the decline in commodity prices, then you need to get your facts straight! Still, the narratives are quite gripping.

Chrissie Well, I do not like errors.

message 11: by Judy (new)

Judy Full voting rights were not conferred until a Supreme Court decision in 1948. That is what Egan was thinking of...

message 12: by Joy (new) - added it

Joy One error I've found so far is the glaucoma outbreak he referee to which caused one of the Russian Germans to be quarantined at Ellis Island was actually trachoma. The two words sound the same, but they are quite different diseases, however both affect the eyes.

message 13: by Charlene (new) - added it

Charlene Intriago Thanks for your review, the information about the errors, and the lively debate you started! The date for citizenship for Native Americans would have been an easy one to confirm so I'm not sure why that slipped past the author.

message 14: by Ken (new) - added it

Ken Ah! I was wondering if there was some communicable version of glaucoma in the past.

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