Set in the ruins of his family's strip-mined homestead in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, award-winning journalist and historian Jeff Biggers delivers a deeply personal portrait of the overlooked human and environmental costs of our nation's dirty energy policy. Beginning with the policies of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, chronicling the removal of Native Americans and the hidden story of legally sanctioned black slavery in the land of Lincoln, Reckoning at Eagle Creek vividly describes the mining wars for union recognition and workplace safety, and the devastating consequences of industrial strip-mining. At the heart of our national debate over climate change and the crucial transition toward clean energy, Biggers exposes the fallacy of "clean coal" and shatters the marketing myth that southern Illinois represents the "Saudi Arabia of coal."
Reckoning at Eagle Creek is ultimately an exposé of "historicide," one that traces coal's harrowing legacy through the great American family saga of sacrifice and resiliency and the extraordinary process of recovering our nation's memory.
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"This is a world-shaking, belief-rattling, immensely important book. If you're an American, it is almost a patriotic duty to read it."
– Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
"Part historical narrative, part family memoir, part pastoral paean, and part jeremiad against the abuse of the land and of the men who gave and continue to give their lives to (and often for) the mines, [Reckoning at Eagle Creek] puts a human face on the industry that supplies nearly half of America's energy [...] it offers a rare historical perspective on the vital yet little considered industry, along with a devastating critique of the myth of 'clean coal.'"
– Publishers Weekly
"[An] enriching history and an important look at the staggering human and environmental costs of mining."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Biggers offers much that's new, especially concerning events in the coalfields of southern Illinois, where his grandfather worked in the pits, where strip mining began, where Mother Jones organized workers, and where some of our nation's fiercest labor battles were fought."
– Scott Russell Sanders, Orion Magazine
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Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning author of The United States of Appalachia, In the Sierra Madre, and State Out of the Union. His award-winning stories have appeared on National Public Radio and Public Radio International, and in numerous magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Nation, and Salon, among others.