The Fishermen and the Dragon: Fear, Greed, and a Fight for Justice on the Gulf Coast

Viking. Aug. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781984880123. $28. SOC SCI
Shrimping was already a hardscrabble occupation on the Texas Gulf Coast when two significant changes took place in the 1970s. The one the predominantly white fishing community noticed was the arrival of Vietnamese refugees, who took to shrimping to gain a foothold in America. The one they disregarded was the rise of petrochemical plants with their attendant pollution, waste dumping, oil spills, and other profound environmental calamities. The manufacturers were powerful employers and benefactors; their competitors were powerless Vietnamese fishermen. Johnson (The Feather Thief) weaves compelling twin tragedies into a searing narrative that details the escalating conflict between locals and Vietnamese newcomers that explodes into a deadly night in the tiny town of Seadrift in 1979, followed by Klan involvement and a lawsuit featuring Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Local resident, Diane Wilson, also evolves into an environmental crusader, who singlehandedly takes on the petrochemical companies polluting the Gulf Coast.
VERDICT Two stories interweave, collide, and ripple for more than 40 years, and Johnson’s thorough, diligent research and brisk storytelling make this narrative compelling for those seeking thrills or truths. Recommended for readers interested in environmental or racial justice and the power of activism.
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