Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Dust Bowl for History: Years of Dust


by Albert Marrin

This is one of the "further reading" books I selected for First Son for his first term of American History following the Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis™. He's been reading from this book once a week and will finish it in five weeks. I didn't ask for narrations.

I picked this book from our library after searching for an option on the Dust Bowl. I wanted something with this concentration because we live in Kansas and the causes of the Dust Bowl and dust storms are important to consider as citizens of the Great Plains.

This book provides an excellent explanation of how settlers did not understand the ecology of the Great Plains when they moved in and started farming aggressively and how killing the buffalo was the first act to sabotage the health of the Great Plains. There are quotes throughout from a variety of sources: fictional books, poetry, songwriters, and presidents, to name a few. Wendell Berry is quoted:
We ployed the prairie and never knew what we were doing, because we did not know what we were undoing.
There are lots of pictures, clear descriptions, eyewitness accounts, and a text that draws connections between the actions of farmers and ranchers in the past with the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and how that story is being repeated (or not) into the current day. The final chapter is a little heavy-handed at times, but I wasn't bothered too much because I agree with much of what Marrin wrote.

This is an excellent option for further reading for Level 4, especially for a student who is perhaps not quite as agile a reader or reads well but only reluctantly. As I mentioned, First Son read it in five weeks, but a more interested Level 4 student could easily read it more quickly and have time for other readings.

Week 1
Darkness at Noon and The Great Plains World pp 1-16

Week 2
Conquering the Great Plains and The Coming of the Farmers pp 17-40

Week 3
In Hard Times and Dust Bowl Days pp 41-74

Week 4
Refugees in their own Land and The New Deal pp 75-106

Week 5
Future Dust Bowls pp 107-122

Another good option for a student who reads voraciously, would be The Worst Hard Time by Tim Egan, an excellent book for anyone interested in the Great Plains and the Dust Bowl.

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