Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed

Overview

From the 1930s to the 1960s, the United States knowingly used and discarded an entire tribe of people. The Navajo worked unprotected in the uranium mines that fueled the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Long after these mines were abandoned, Navajos in all four corners of the Reservation (which borders Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona) continued grazing their animals on sagebrush flats riddled with uranium that had been blasted from the ground. They drank contaminated water from old pits, which had filled with ...

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Overview

From the 1930s to the 1960s, the United States knowingly used and discarded an entire tribe of people. The Navajo worked unprotected in the uranium mines that fueled the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Long after these mines were abandoned, Navajos in all four corners of the Reservation (which borders Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona) continued grazing their animals on sagebrush flats riddled with uranium that had been blasted from the ground. They drank contaminated water from old pits, which had filled with rain. They built their houses out of chunks of yellowcake, they inhaled radioactive dust borne aloft from the waste piles the mining companies had left behind, and their children played in the unsealed mines themselves. Ten years after the mines closed, the cancer rate on the reservation shot up and the babies began to be born with crooked fingers that fused together into claws as they grew. Scientists filed complaints about the situation with the government but were told it was a mess "too expensive" to clean up.

Few had heard this story until Judy Pasternak exposed it in a prizewinning Los Angeles Times series. Her work not only inspired this book, which is already a winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award, it also galvanized both a congressman and a famous prosecutor to clean the sites and get reparations for the tribe. Yellow Dirt powerfully chronicles both the scandal of neglect and the Navajo's fight for justice.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An explosive account.... Disturbing and well-documented." —-Kirkus Starred Review
Ann Cummins
…disturbing and illuminating…There's nothing clinical or dry about Yellow Dirt. While Pasternak cites a wide array of specialists in fields ranging from geology to nuclear physics, the story unfolds like true crime, where real-life heroes and villains play dynamic roles in a drama that escalates page by page…Pasternak is a compelling writer…
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Journalist Pasternak details the history of American uranium mining and its horrific consequences for the Navajo people in this stunning tale of deception, betrayal, and bitter consequences. Situated atop some of the richest uranium deposits in the country, the reservation covers parts of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona and the area was instrumental in the building of the atomic bomb and, later, the cold war arms race. From 1930 to 1960, Navajo miners worked long days without ventilation or protective gear, while mining companies and government officials withheld from them information about the hazards of radiation. As birth defects and cancers became more prevalent than in the general population (residents of the reservation were 15-200 times more likely to contract stomach cancer), government agencies actively prevented the Navajos from connecting their illnesses to the uranium saturating their water, homes, livestock, and topsoil. The author brings half a century of deception to light and details the halting efforts to secure compensation for the victims. With nuclear power once more being discussed as a solution to America’s energy problems, Pasternak’s portrait of a devastated community and callous governmental indifference is crucial reading. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400149063
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/21/2010
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Library - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Laural Merlington has recorded well over one hundred audiobooks, including works by Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman, and is the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. An Audie Award nominee, she has also directed over one hundred audiobooks.

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Table of Contents

Principal Characters

Prologue S-37, Som, and Soq 1

THE URANIUM RUSH

PART I THE PATRIARCH

Discovery

Chapter 1 The Special Rocks 13

Chapter 2 The Secret Quest 24

Chapter 3 Jumping on the King 33

PART II THE SON

Fear and Frenzy

Chapter 4 The Power of Leetso 43

Chapter 5 Cold War 53

Chapter 6 The Obstacle 65

Chapter 7 A Hundred Tons a Day 80

Chapter 8 Endings 98

TOXIC LEGACY

PART III THE GRANDCHILDREN

Aftermath

Chapter 9 Fallout 119

Chapter 10 Avalanche of Suspicion 131

Chapter 11 A Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear 145

PART IV THE GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN

Death and Awakening

Chapter 12 "Hear Our Voices" 163

Chapter 13 Under Scrutiny from Every Angle 180

Chapter 14 Resistance 197

Chapter 15 Ghosts 220

Chapter 16 Beginnings 241

Epilogue The Steeple 254

Acknowledgments 261

Notes 265

Selected Bibliography 293

Index 305

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