A Red Cross volunteer reflects on an intense experience.
In February 2016, Hardin, a poet, artist, and newly certified Red Cross Disaster Relief volunteer, was deployed to deliver water in Flint, Michigan. “A week or two of online training, classroom CPR certification, day-long conference room seminar, and a road test around downtown Flint in a gleaming, late-model ERV, and I’m ready for my first day,” he recalls. The author was motivated to volunteer not only by the “human tragedy unfolding in Flint” because of its polluted water supply, but also by feelings of “longing, shame, and regret” that overwhelmed him after his mother’s death. Hardin interweaves recollections of his childhood, his mother’s declining health, and their long estrangement with a recounting of his service in Flint, two threads that, while affecting, do not fully cohere. He testifies to an unhappy childhood, when he was “unwitting partner” to his mother, who could be “self-centered, manipulative,” and childish, while he stood “in awed fealty” to his father, “an embittered man haunted by ghosts he chose to keep to himself.” He bears witness, as well, to the “economic and environmental racism, human error, public indifference, and political hubris” that led to Flint’s emergency and the degradation of the once-thriving city, now “decimated by a spectacular loss of manufacturing jobs, opportunity and hope….Most of means left long ago.” He is amazed, he writes, “as the long, hot summer progresses, that Flint’s residents don’t resort to acts of civil disobedience or defiantly take to the streets to express their frustration and rage.” Most residents, instead, wait patiently for the donated bottled water and Brita filters that Hardin lugs into driveways sometimes patrolled by a dog or up rotting stairs. His Flint experience was transformative, he writes, perhaps politically, and most likely emotionally, as he considered his own past.
A heartfelt portrait of a city, and a man, grieving.
Pub Date: today
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Belt Publishing
Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021