Book Club Kits
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
by Egan, Timothy
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1. Were you aware of the Dust Bowl era of history prior to reading "The Worst Hard Time?" If so, have your perceptions changed?
2. This book is often contrasted to John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." Through fiction, Steinbeck documented the story of exodusters (residents who left the area). Egan tells the true stories of people who stayed. How familiar were you with either story before reading this book? Which group made the best decision?
3. Derogatory stereotypes developed about the people who tried to settle the Dust Bowl region. Who do you think was to blame for the destruction of the land?
4. Egan personalized this era in history by telling the stories of individual and diverse families. Did you enjoy reading this type of format, why or why not? All of the family had horrible experiences. Can you name one event or person that particularly made an impression on you?
5. Egan brought to light many events that may have been missed in many history classes.For example, did you previously know that some of the dust storms extended to New York City? Or that static electricity was a serious side-effect in a dust storm?
6. Strange times can bring strange actions. One of those, detailed in "The Worst Hard Time", was the organized rabbit-clubbing events. How did you react when you read about this activity?
7. Egan reports that the local residents were humiliated by the documentary film "The Plow That Broke the Plains." This film can be viewed on the website http://www.archive.org/details/plow_that_broke_the_plains. Have you watched it? Are you interested in seeing it and Bam White at the plow? Do you think the locals were right to ostracize Bam for posing for the film?
8. Would people in today's society be able to endure these sort of physical and psychological hardships?
9. "The Worst Hard Time" ends on a cautionary note, stating that while the grasslands have been primarily restored, water is still being pumped out of the Ogallala Aquifer "8x faster that nature can refill it". Are you comfortable with this situation?
10. In an interview, Egan notes similarities between the Dust Bowl and Hurricane Katrina. He states that both tragedies had ample warnings that people chose to ignore and that both resulted in massive exoduses. What do you think about these comparisons?
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