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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
An Environmental Memoir
Counterpoint 05/02 Paperback $15.00
In this terrifying and haunting memoir, poet Susanne Antonetta reveals how the poisoned landscape of her childhood has destroyed her body causing a heart arrhythmia, a seizing brain, severe allergies, and useless reproductive organs. It turns out that her youthful activities swimming in New Jersey's Toms River, crabbing in Potter's Creek, picking berries were hazardous to her health. Nearby, Denzer & Schafer X-Ray, a negative stripping plant, was leaching lead, chromium, and mercury into the water. The Ciba-Geigy Corporation left 14,000 barrels of toxic chemicals in her neighborhood, and a nuclear power plant sent radioactive emissions into the air.
Antonetta probes the idiosyncrasies of her parents and grandparents but is most troubled by the genetic inheritance she received from them in the way of chemicals in her mother's milk. In downtown Toms River, she visits a pink-and-cream monument to 32 children who died of cancer. Reading the details of her story, we find ourselves saying a prayer for all those now living in what environmentalists call "sacrifice communities" generally poor and rural areas chosen to house toxic wastes and nuclear power plants. Their residents, like the Antonetta family, are held hostage by greedy and soulless entrepreneurs and corporations who will do anything to make a quick buck or cut costs.
Today, the author and her son live in Washington State. As they begin their day with a regimen of pills, inhalers, sprays, and masks, the nuclear power industry is expanding and the waste repository at Yucca Mountain continues to burrow into the skin of the earth. No doubt we will be reading many more environmental memoirs in the future until the madness stops.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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