In Plastic: An Autobiography, Cobb's obsession with a large plastic car part leads her to explore the violence of our consume-and-dispose culture, including her own life as a child of Los Alamos, where the first atomic bombs were made. The journey exposes the interconnections among plastic waste, climate change, nuclear technologies, and racism. Using a series of interwoven narratives – from ancient Phoenicia to Alabama – the book bears witness to our deepest entanglements and asks how humans continue on this planet.
Allison Cobb is the author of After We All Died, Plastic: An Autobiography, Born2, and Green-Wood. Cobb’s work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, and many other journals. She was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and National Poetry Series; has been a resident artist at Djerassi and Playa; and received fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Cobb works for the Environmental Defense Fund and lives in Portland, Oregon, where she co-hosts The Switch reading, art, and performance series and performs in the collaboration Suspended Moment.
"Cobb is acutely aware that systemic change is the planet's only hope. Tracking her carbon footprint when she flies or drives, the author bears striking witness to destruction: Birds and fish die from plastic detritus; decades after World War II, the stomach of an albatross was perforated by a plastic shard from a bombing raid."
"In this elegiac missive from the frontlines of our plastic-filled world, Cobb uses a variety of narrative forms to convey her deep despair over how plastic has overwhelmed our planet [...] There is elegance and power in Cobb's truly unique environmental memoir."
– Starred Review in Booklist by Colleen Mondor
"In Plastic, Cobb investigates the origins of our contemporary intertwining crises by constructing a circle of cross-linked lyrical essays about the eternal presence and persistence of plastic in our natural world, our bodies, and our communities. Into this circle of narratives, she weaves facts, remainders, curiosities, and griefs – 'the plastic will outlast the bones, the sand, this writing' – and like the shards of plastic she traces, her narrative structures are periodically broken by verse, lists, etymologies, and other voices, such as Samuel Coleridge, Claudia Rankine, and Karen Barad."
– Tracy Zeman, Kenyon Review
"Allison Cobb's Plastic: An Autobiography is the story of all of our lives. Gripping, informative, and moving, the book is both convicted and convicting, revealing the dirty and the brilliant underpinnings of our modern world. Once I picked it up, I didn't want to put this book down. And when I finished reading, I knew much more about all the things I didn't know I needed to know."
– Camille T. Dungy, author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History
"Plastic: An Autobiography is a spinning gyre of history, biology, poetry, and chemistry, gathering centripetal force through attention to such particulars as a shard of plastic from WWII found lodged in the belly of an albatross sixty years later. This is a fierce and brilliant work that perhaps could only have been written by a poet who grew up in the shadow of Los Alamos, aware that the most destructive of human inventions can seem salvific until it is almost too late. Let this book be a call to awareness and action."
– Carolyn Forché, author of What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance
"Allison Cobb's Plastic: An Autobiography gathers shards of story, history, and science, along with bits of plastic left orphaned in the world. She is a daughter of the nuclear age (her father a physicist at Los Alamos) and an environmentalist, giving her voice the authority of lived experience on the edge of our industrial nightmare."
– Alison Hawthorne Deming
"Allison Cobb is not only a dedicated environmentalist, but she is also one of America's most original environmental writers. The form of this book embodies narrative plasticity as each chapter is molded by history, science, memory, experience, and personal travels through the plasticsphere. After reading the final page, you will never see plastic the same way again, and you will see it everywhere."
– Craig Santos Perez
"Cobb carries us on a collective and at times personal journey through environment and time, juxtaposing the persistent nature of industry and convenience against the righteous indignation of the people impacted by it. I found Plastic to be just the reminder that we all need in the fight for climate and environmental justice today."
– Heather Toney