Live Under the Arch presents: Kerri Arsenault with Mill Town
LIVE UNDER THE ARCH presents
with her investigative memoir
Thursday, September 9 at 6pm
“A powerful, blistering, devastating book. Kerri Arsenault is both a graceful writer and a grieving daughter in search of answers and ultimately, justice.”
Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance
“Arsenault pays loving homage to her family’s tight-knit Maine town even as she examines the cancers that have stricken so many residents.”
The New York Times Book Review
[July 19, 2021] – On Thursday, September 9 at 6pm, investigative journalist and author Kerri Arsenault comes to The Music Hall as part of the Live Under the Arch outdoor series. Arsenault will discuss her book, Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains, which explores her native town of Mexico, Maine, and “Cancer Valley.” In her galvanizing and powerful book, Arsenault presents an environmental and moral reckoning of three generations in a Maine paper mill town, asking whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?
“As a Mainer with family roots in the Rumford area, I’m looking forward to speaking with author Kerri Arsenault about her compelling research into Cancer Valley and the mills’ impact on Maine communities,” says Tina Sawtelle, Executive Director of The Music Hall and the evening’s moderator, “This is a riveting investigation that you won’t want to put down.”
The 6pm event includes a reserved table and signed books; an author discussion, moderated by Tina Sawtelle, Executive Director of The Music Hall; followed by an audience Q&A. It will be held in front of The Music Hall at 28 Chestnut St., in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Kerri Arsenault grew up in the rural, working-class town of Mexico, Maine. For over 100 years, the community orbited around a paper mill that employed most townspeople, including three generations of Arsenault’s own family. Years after she moved away, Arsenault realized the price she paid for her seemingly secure childhood. The mill, while providing livelihoods for nearly everyone, also contributed to the destruction of the environment and the decline of the town’s economic, physical, and emotional health in a slow-moving catastrophe, earning the area the nickname “Cancer Valley.”
Mill Town is a personal investigation, where Arsenault sifts through historical archives and scientific reports, talks to family and neighbors, and examines her own childhood to illuminate the rise and collapse of the working-class, the hazards of loving and leaving home, and the ambiguous nature of toxins and disease. Mill Town is a moral wake-up call that asks, Whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?
ABOUT KERRI ARSENAULT
Kerri Arsenault is a book critic, book editor at Orion magazine, contributing editor at The Literary Hub, and author of Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains. Her work has appeared in Freeman’s, Boston Globe, Down East, Paris Review Daily, the New York Review of Books, Air Mail, and Washington Post.
ABOUT THE MODERATOR
Tina Sawtelle was appointed to be the Executive Director of The Music Hall in 2020 and prior to that served as the CFO for five years. Sawtelle spent the large part of her career working at her beloved alma mater, the University of New Hampshire (‘96, ‘01G). In her current role, she has found an opportunity to tap into her passion for music and the arts while continuously refining her financial and leadership skills. Tina has lived in the NH Seacoast community since 1992.
The ticket package for Live Under the Arch: Kerri Arsenault with Mill Town on Thursday, September 9, at 6pm is $60 for a small table (with 2 books), $120 for a medium table (with 4 books), $180 for a large table (with 6 books). In case of rain, this performance will be held in the Historic Theater with socially-distanced seating. In addition to a reserved table, the package includes copies of MILL TOWN ($18, paperback), author discussion, and Q+A. Packages can be purchased online at TheMusicHall.org or over the phone at 603.436.2400.
For further information, or to request an author interview, please contact: Brittany Wason, Literary Producer, at email@example.com.
For images, please see: https://goo.gl/photos/UENT8hSiMjZnrTWt5
Presenting Sponsor: Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
Series Sponsors: Piscataqua Landscaping & Tree Service; Tuscan Kitchen
Media Partner: Yankee Magazine
Interconnections Sponsor: Kennebunk Savings
Evening Sponsors: Harbour Women’s Health; Mad*Pow
Season Sponsors: The Labrie Group; Carey & Giampa Realtors; Portwalk Place
Contributing Partner: The University of New Hampshire
Box Office Sponsor: B2W Software
Praise for MILL TOWN
A 2021 New England Society Book Award Finalist
One of O Magazine's Best Books of Fall 2020
Finalist for the 2020 National Book Critics John Leonard Prize for Best First Book
"[Mill Town] is about the better, more prosperous American life those industries afforded us before we fell ill, as well as the Devil's bargain that made all this possible, maybe even inevitable. Mill Town is for anyone who's ever wondered about the Calvinistic calculus whereby the elect become truly wealthy while the damned (read: poor, dark-skinned, newly arrived) find early graves." —Richard Russo, author of Chances Are... and Empire Falls
“Arsenault probes deeply, searchingly, into webs of family and community, history and science, power and commerce and the price of loyalty to create what could be called an Our Town for the 21st century.” —Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
“This profoundly important book reports on the way so many parts of America are killing the people who love them. Tender, angry, full of respect and bewilderment, it is a complex love letter to a hometown.” —John Freeman, LitHub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
“In Mill Town, Kerri Arsenault has managed a literary hat trick, combining humanity, science, and capitalism, and the price paid not only by her own family in a single state, but across generations, industries, and geographies. She has laid out, in elegant prose and harrowing reportage, the price we may all pay, and in this, she has managed to create at once both a cautionary tale and a literary treasure.” —-Rachel Louise Snyder, author of No Visible Bruises: What We Don't Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us
“Part beautiful memoir and regional history, part investigative journalism, part environmental diatribe countered by a poetic ode to place. In short, it’s a fraught love letter to that fragile American entity, the small, rural, working-class town….Arsenault’s prose shines…She has done immense and important research and delivered an engaging tale that deserves a close read.”?Stephanie Hunt, The Post and Courier
“Trenchant and aching…What Arsenault has provided is a model of persistence, thoughtful reflection and vividly human personal narrative in uncovering a heartbreaking story that could be told in countless American towns, along countless American rivers.”?Steve Paul, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Though you assume another hand-wringing over environmental deregulation, what unspools is much richer and more affecting. Using her father’s death as catalyst, [Arsenault] digs into state history, the town’s decline and the mill’s legacy. She brings the outrage of a furious native, tearing down years of “Vacationland” tourism, yet deeply homesick for the place she once knew. What gave her hometown its meaning once?industry, deregulation, community?is precisely what devoured it.”?Christopher Borrelli, The Chicago Tribune
“Mill Town is preoccupied with a poisonous irony: Rumford’s citizens live and work in a place that makes them unwell… The scale of the problem and of the potential malfeasance could not be grander or more terrifying.”?Emily Cooke, The New York Times Book Review
“With affection and concern, Mill Town recounts ‘Maine’s constant conundrum, an American story, a human predicament.' In rural, working-class towns, the presence of industry amounts to pollution, but its absence gives way to poverty. Within fence-line communities like Arsenault’s Mexico, prosperity and affliction are wholly intertwined.”?Andru Okun, The Boston Globe
“Mill Town poses hard questions that challenge the tacit acceptance of ecological destruction as the price of economic health.”?Los Angeles Times
“Lyrical and compelling prose... What Arsenault presents, with mesmerizing lyricism and endearing honesty, is the story of a dying town wedded to a paper mill that once anchored the local economy while also bringing pollution and cancer. Mill Town puts forth larger questions of the human relationship to the environment; of the violence done to the land that eventually translates into the devastation of the people that live on it. Arsenault’s loyalty is not simply to a limited idea of health that would be typified by paying the ailing damages but on the injustice done to the land on a larger scale.”?Rafia Zakaria, The Baffler
“A valuable addition to the literature of New England’s industrial legacy, something many residents have either forgotten or choose to ignore, to the region’s detriment.”?Alex Hanson, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Reportage, memoir, and the refusal to seek easy answers clasp hands to bring us a searing, compassionate story of people rooted in and committed to a place that keeps breaking their bodies and hearts…With love and sorrow, wed by eloquent prose that moves with keen pacing, Arsenault traces the story of her family and the many families who have been battered along with their despoiled environment. This book is an essential answer to the urgent question: “At what cost comes progress?”?Garnette Cadogan, LitHub
“Mill Town is a rich, rewarding read that defies easy categorization. Despite the gravity of its subject, Mill Town is, at its heart, a love letter to the people and places of Arsenault’s childhood and a plea for a cleaner, brighter future.”?Jessica Lahey, Air Mail
“A powerful, blistering, devastating book. Kerri Arsenault is both a graceful writer and a grieving daughter in search of answers and ultimately, justice.” — Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance
“Arsenault pays loving homage to her family’s tight-knit Maine town even as she examines the cancers that have stricken so many residents.” — The New York Times Book Review
“In this masterful debut, the author creates a crisp, eloquent hybrid of atmospheric memoir and searing exposé... Bittersweet memories and a long-buried atrocity combine for a heartfelt, unflinching, striking narrative combination.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“[A] powerful, investigative memoir....Arsenault paints a soul-crushing portrait of a place that's suffered 'the smell of death and suffering' almost since its creation. This moving and insightful memoir reminds readers that returning home--the heart of human identity--is capable of causing great joy and profound disappointment.” —Publisher's Weekly (starred)
“Arsenault's compelling debut asks readers to consider how relationships between humans and nature impact our bodies and environment....[A] powerful memoir.” —Library Journal
“An imposing work of narrative nonfiction...Arsenault's account is enlivened by vivid prose, often coolly analytical and yet deeply lyrical. Mexico's melancholy story—one that's mirrored today in thousands of struggling small towns across the U.S.—comes to life in Arsenault's sympathetic, but unfailingly clear-eyed, telling.” —Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
About The Music Hall
The Music Hall is an active and vital cultural center in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, dedicated to the advancement of the tri-state region’s cultural life through the performing arts, literature, and education. A community-supported 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, it presents entertainment from around the world and around the corner—the greatest musicians, writers, and performers of the time, extraordinary films, and award-winning documentaries. Its 600 yearly events delight an annual audience of 130,000 (including 20,000 children) in two theaters—an 1878 Victorian-era Historic Theater and the modern and intimate Loft space. The Music Hall was recently named Editors’ Choice “Best All-Around Entertainment” by Yankee Magazine and is a designated “American Treasure for the Arts.” Through innovative community partnerships, it subsidizes thousands of tickets each year to make the arts accessible to all. The Music Hall is community-oriented and committed to helping the Seacoast region flourish.
“The crown jewel of Portsmouth’s cultural scene” - Yankee Magazine
“The beating cultural heart of New Hampshire's seacoast” - Boston Globe