New Jersey's Passaic River rises in a pristine wetland and ends in a federal Superfund site. In An American River, author and New Jersey native Mary Bruno kayaks its length in an effort to discover what happened to her hometown river. The Passaic's wildly convoluted course invites detours into the river's flood-prone natural history, New Jersey's unique geology, the corrupt practices of the Newark chemical plant that produced Agent Orange and poisoned the river with dioxin, and into the lives of an unforgettable cast of characters who have lived and worked along the Passaic and who are trying, even now, to save it.
Part natural history, part personal history, part rollicking adventure, An American River is a narrative meditation on the wonder of nature, the enduring ties of family, and the power of water and loss. "My great grandmother liked to say, 'Don't shit in the nest,'" writes Bruno. "The Passaic River is an object lesson in what can happen when we ignore that simple, salty advice."
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Mary Bruno is an American writer and editor. After earning a master's degree in aquatic ecology she worked as a staff writer, contributing editor or editorial director for a variety of print and online publications, including Newsweek and New York Woman magazines, ABCNEWS.com and Seattle Weekly. Her essays and fiction have appeared in the collections A Road of Her Own: Women's Journeys in the West (2002) and Green Time (2003). Bruno grew up in North Arlington, New Jersey. She lives on Vashon Island in Washington State.