Chesapeake Requiem - Earl Swift

Staff Pick

The Chesapeake’s Tangier Island has been sinking due to storms and the natural action of the sea since records have been kept, but climate change has rapidly accelerated the process. It will be uninhabitable in twenty-five to fifty years; with a population of roughly 700, and with decreasing stock of the crabs and oysters that support the community, is it worth the billion-plus dollars it would take to save it? And just what would we lose if the place disappears? Swift’s detailed profile of a year among the people who may become “America’s first climate change refugees” makes the question infinitely complicated. Whether eulogy or celebration, however, the book is a fascinating and often beautiful look at a unique way of life. Swift chronicles the human and natural history, highlighting landmark moments—many involving storms—from the eight or more generations of families that have lived there, describes the life cycle of the region’s distinctive blue crabs, and follows the watermen as they set and check their pots. He revels in the unusual, almost cockney English that flourishes on this isolated dot of land and undertakes the more difficult process of uncritically conveying the rigid evangelicalism that causes the islanders to trust in divine providence, reject science, and look to Trump to appreciate their “patriotism, reverence, …[and] strong work ethic” and reinforce their shoreline. Though Trump is sympathetic, it’s likely the ocean will rise faster than the bureaucratic wheels can turn, and even a state-of-the-art seawall won't keep out the rising ocean forever.

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062661395
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dey Street Books - August 7th, 2018

Membership Benefits


 Gift cards can be used online or in-store.

Gift Card