BookBrowse Reviews Yellow Dirt by Judy Pasternak

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Yellow Dirt

An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed

by Judy Pasternak

Yellow Dirt by Judy Pasternak
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2010, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2011, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A journalistic exposé of uranium mining on a Navajo reservation

The story told in this book should not be a familiar one. A tale of corporate negligence, impotent bureaucracy, and an alternately confused and devastated group of people should be the exception - or at least generate outrage. But for many, these descriptors sound all too familiar. Worse, some may have run out of outrage, having spent it on so many recent events. Thankfully, author Judy Pasternak and a few others had the concern and the energy required to pursue the truth regarding the effects of uranium mining on Navajo land and several generations of Navajo citizens.

Vanadium and uranium mining on Navajo tribal land began over sixty years ago. A company called the Vanadium Corporation of America began bargaining for reservation mining rights in 1941. The Navajo, who had previously resisted such requests, were swayed this time by not only the prospect of stable jobs, but also by their desire to support the United States government in its fight against Germany and Japan. The vanadium would be used in protective armor plate for the military, helping a cause most Navajo deemed noble. Very few people knew, however, that another ore - uranium - was also being harvested for a top-secret government research program officially named the Manhattan Engineering District, a program more commonly known as the Manhattan Project.

When the successful product of the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb, ended World War II, it began another another longer conflict, the Cold War. The Atomic Energy Commission, a replacement of sorts for the Manhattan Project team, began in 1946 and the Commission's Raw Materials Division in particular was the driving force in a frantic search for as much uranium - especially domestic uranium - as could possibly be found. What followed in this race for nuclear superiority was a decades-long crime of deception and frustrating complexity. The crime was perpetrated against an entire nation and its sacred land. Yellow Dirt covers this tragedy from just before the beginning until the present day and follows one Navajo family, Adakai of Cane Valley and his progeny, throughout the long, sad story. Pasternak's narrative closes in the fall of 2009, when the cleanup of spoiled Navajo land and the replacement of contaminated Navajo homes were still a work in progress.

Yellow Dirt is a work of the highest quality journalism, an exposé made possible by meticulous research. Pasternak's dedication to accuracy amidst the confusion of oral accounts and the obstacle of institutional stalling is evident in her extensive notes and bibliography. She has taken a large cast of characters, a bulging list of corporations and government agencies, and a scientific subject and managed to unite them in a story that the average reader can comprehend. The numerous and overlapping names of people, places and institutions make it necessary to re-read some passages, but the story is well worth the extra effort. This book is a solemn reminder of what harm can result when governments act in haste and fear and business decisions are based solely on profit. The American story of Yellow Dirt is a piece of recent history that could not be more relevant today.

Interesting Link:
Photographs associated with the book can be viewed on the author's website.

Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie

This review was originally published in November 2010, and has been updated for the July 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Navajo Nation

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Lola
    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Don't join the book burners...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -