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

Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation
by Candy J. Cooper with Marc Aronson
Middle School, High School    Bloomsbury    243 pp.    g
5/20    978-1-5476-0232-2    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5476-0233-9    $13.29

Imagine: a deadly health crisis hits and the government delays, makes light of the risks, and blames the citizens and doctors instead of taking action, making residents fear for their lives and mistrust their own government. Such was [also –ed. note] the case in Flint, Michigan, in 2014, when a water crisis hit. But, as the authors carefully delineate, the disaster did not begin that year. Its roots lay in the city’s history of racism, corporate greed, and environmental plunder. The immediate crisis, though, began when a new pipeline was being built from Lake Huron to Flint and, in the meantime, the residents had to drink water from the filthy Flint River, with assurances that it would be properly treated and perfectly potable. But people began to experience skin rashes, hair loss, and upper respiratory infections and to be diagnosed with anemia, lead poisoning, and Legionnaires’ disease. The book wisely puts the citizens of Flint front and center, letting them tell their stories, while placing those stories into historical context with information about the town and river dating back to Flint’s founding in 1819. It’s a powerful tale of an “obscene failure of government,” but also democracy and a “commingling of racial, ethnic, religious, and income groups working together.” Photographs, maps, and charts support the timely account; an appended “Note from the Authors” discusses their research.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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