Holding the Line, Barbara Kingsolver's first non-fiction book, is the story of women's lives transformed by an a signal event. Set in the small mining towns of Arizona, it is part oral history and part social criticism, exploring the process of empowerment which occurs when people work together as a community. Like Kingsolver's award-winning novels, Holding the Line is a beautifully written book grounded on the strength of its characters. Hundreds of families held the line in the 1983 strike against Phelps Dodge Copper in Arizona. After more than a year the strikers lost their union certification, but the battle permanently altered the social order in these small, predominantly Hispanic mining towns. At the time the strike began, many women said they couldn't leave the house without their husband's permission. Yet, when injunctions barred union men from picketing, their wives and daughters turned out for the daily picket lines. When the strike dragged on and men left to seek jobs elsewhere, women continued to picket, organize support, and defend their rights even when the towns were occupied by the National Guard.
"Nothing can ever be the same as it was before," said Diane McCormick of the Morenci Miners Women's Auxiliary. "Look at us. At the beginning of this strike, we were just a bunch of ladies."
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(229mm x 152mm x 18mm)
Cornell University Press
Publisher: Cornell University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
Acclaimed fiction-writer Kingsolver (The Bean Trees, 1987); Homeland and Other Stories, p. 572) worked as a journalist covering the strike against the Phelps Dodge Copper Corporation (June 1983 to about December 1985) that shook the economic and social order in several isolated Arizona towns. Her partisan account focuses on how women - as miners, but more often as members of the Women's Auxiliary - emerged to play a major role both in the conflict and in grass-roots labor organization. There's much interesting material here about the past role of women and MexicanAmericans in the labor movement, some shockers about union-busting, and thoughtprovoking material about the strike's uneasy conclusion: workers losing their jobs, mining operations closing, the increasingly radicalized women who eventually defied not just the company but the male leadership of the union emerging with a personal sense of empowerment. But the book is not as successful in one of its stated goals: presenting the human drama, Kingsolver relies heavily on interviews; the quotes go on too long; the women often tell similar stories and their personalities rarely emerge. A better read would be Kingsolver's own short story "Why I Am a Danger to the Public" (from Homeland), which needs fewer than 20 pages to present a vivid fictionalized version, including violent hostility between striking and scab families; the arrival of heavily armed State Police; evictions from company housing, etc. Provocative but limited: the makings of a few excellent magazine articles fall short as a book. (Kirkus Reviews)
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