In 2001, journalist Jessica DuLong ditched her dot-com desk job for the diesel engines of a rusty antique fireboat, the John J. Harvey, and the storied waters of the Hudson. My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson tells the story of this mechanic's daughter and Stanford graduate who had left her blue-collar upbringing behind until the fireboat drew her back, offering a chance to become an engineer and a taste of home she hadn't realized she was missing.
The more time DuLong spent toiling in the engine room, running the boat's finely crafted machinery, the more she wondered what America is losing in our shift away from hands-on work. These questions crystallized in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, when the FDNY called the retired fireboat back into service, and DuLong and the rest of the boat's civilian crew pumped water to fight blazes at Ground Zero. As blue-collar workers clambered on the pile, DuLong was struck by the dignity of physical labor and the honor of having joined the world of skilled labor whose talents were useful at the site.
DuLong brings her two worlds vibrantly to life in this beautifully written memoir that evokes the vitality of New York City's bygone working waterfront and the Hudson River, a birthplace of American industry. Blending four centuries of Hudson River history with unforgettable present-day characters and events, DuLong offers a porthole-view narrative of the river and its social tapestry as a microcosm of postindustrial America. As she tracks changes along the shoreline, where industrial sites give way to recreational respites, a celebration of American labor and craftsmanship emerges. While searching along the river's edge for the meaning of work in America, DuLong pays homage to our industrial past and raises important questions about the future at this pivotal moment in our national story.
My River Chronicles is a journey with an extraordinary guide, a woman who bridges blue-collar and white-collar worlds and turns a phrase as deftly as she does a wrench. Soulful and illuminating, My River Chronicles is a deeply personal story of a unique woman's discovery of her own roots—and America's—as she runs the fireboat's diesels on the ever-changing river that flows both ways.