Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Worst Hard Time

The Fairfax Library Book Discussion Group will meet this Thursday, December 8th  at 7 p.m. in the meeting room of the Fairfax Library to discuss our December book: The Worst Hard Time by Tim Egan.

Here are some links for additional background and information:

Woody Guthrie singing Dust Bowl Blues and Dust Cain’t Kill Me

Newspaper articles and photos of Dust Bowl (scroll to bottom for pictures of rabbit roundups)

 Discussion Question are Below.

Coming up, we have the following titles to look forward to reading:

Thursday, January 12th – The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

Thursday, February 9th – Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Thursday, March 8thAngle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Thursday, April 12thThe Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

Thanks for reading with us. I look forward to seeing you at the Fairfax Library.

Beth Bailey-Gates
Friends of the Fairfax Library


1. What does Egan present as the reasons for the dust bowl tragedy? Was it a confluence of unforeseen events that produced the perfect storm? Or was it a man-made disaster that might have been avoided, or at least mitigated?
2. Should everyone have known better—was there enough known at the time about the impact of farming techniques on erosion?
3. Who tried to warn about the dangers of farming in the grasslands and what were the gist of their warnings? Why were they ignored? Is it simply human nature to take heed in hindsight rather than in real time?
4. Which of the families' stories do you find particularly poignant? Which characters do you find most admirable?
5. What descriptions of the dust storms did you find most shocking or most tragic—Black Sunday, static electrcity, dust pneumonia, just to name a few?
6. During the disaster, 250 million people left their homes—a disapora about which Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath is written. But most residents stayed. What made them stay? Would it have been better to have left? Which choice would you have made?
7. What was the political fallout of the dust bowl? How did Washington eventually respond? What have been the lasting effects?
8. What lessons, if any, have we learned from the dust bowl castastrophe—about how human actions, well-intentioned or not, can lead to environmental damage? Is there anything comparable on the horizon today?
9. Are there any comparisons to be made between the Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 which freed up money to loan to farmers for tractors and land to the current mortgage crisis?
10. How does this nonfiction account of the dust bowl compare to Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath in their descriptions of the human tragedies—and bravery—in both accounts.
11. What examples does Egan give of community support during hard times and how did the disaster affect families and family values?
12. How did the Dust Bowl and the Depression affect Midwestern farm families?
13. What was life like for farm families who migrated to California?
14. How did the U.S. government try to help victims of the Dust Bowl and the Depression?
15. How does this book depict life in the 1930s and 1940s?
16. Are there parallels to the environmental impact of the Dust Bowl in relation to environmental concerns such as Global Warming.
17. How is this book relevant to read today?
18. How do you feel about Timothy Egan’s writing style?
19. What do you think the author Timothy Egan meant by calling the Dust Bowl “the great untold story of the Greatest Generation”?
20. The people who lived during the Dust Bowl era were from an agrarian culture and had the background knowledge to live off the land, to survive the extreme conditions. We don’t have that ability today. Are we more vulnerable?