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Soul Full of Coal Dust by Chris Hamby
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Soul Full of Coal Dust

A Fight for Breath and Justice in Appalachia

$29.88 USD

Get for $14.99 with membership
Narrator Gary Tiedemann
Length 14 hours 1 minutes
Language English
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In a devastating and urgent work of investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hamby uncovers the tragic resurgence of black lung disease in Appalachia, its Big Coal cover-up, and the resilient mining communities who refuse to back down. Decades ago, a grassroots uprising forced Congress to enact long-overdue legislation designed to virtually eradicate black lung disease and provide fair compensation to coal miners stricken with the illness. Today, however, both promises remain unfulfilled. Levels of disease have surged, the old scourge has taken an aggressive new form, and ailing miners and widows have been left behind by a dizzying legal system, denied even modest payments and medical care.

In this urgent work of investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hamby traces the unforgettable story of how these trends converge in the lives of two men: Gary Fox, a black lung-stricken West Virginia coal miner determined to raise his family from poverty, and John Cline, an idealistic carpenter and rural medical clinic worker who becomes a lawyer in his fifties.  Opposing them are the lawyers at the coal industry’s go-to law firm; well-credentialed doctors who often weigh in for the defense, including an elite unit Johns Hopkins; and Gary’s former employer, Massey Energy, a regional powerhouse run by a cantankerous CEO often portrayed in the media as a dark lord of the coalfields. On the line in Gary and John’s longshot legal battle are fundamental principles of fairness and justice, with consequences for miners and their loved ones throughout the nation.

Taking readers inside courtrooms, hospitals, homes tucked in Appalachian hollows, and dusty mine tunnels, Hamby exposes how coal companies have not only continually flouted a law meant to protect miners from deadly amounts of dust but also enlisted well-credentialed doctors and lawyers to help systematically deny much-needed benefits to miners. The result is a legal and medical thriller that brilliantly illuminates how a band of laborers — aided by a small group of lawyers, doctors and lay advocates, often working out of their homes or in rural clinics and tiny offices – challenged one of the world's most powerful forces, Big Coal, and won.

“Harrowing and cinematic,” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), Soul Full of Coal Dust is a necessary and timely book about injustice and resistance.
 

Chris Hamby is an investigative reporter at The New York Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2014 and was a finalist for the prize in international reporting in 2017. He has covered a range of subjects, including labor, public health, the environment, criminal justice, politics and international trade. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, he lives and works in Washington, D.C.

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Reviews

"A devastating and essential indictment of corruption in coal country."—Laurence Leamer, author of The Price of Justice "There are two kinds of cruelty. One you see on a face, and in the actions of a particular person. The other you can't see unless, like Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Chris Hamby, you uncover a hidden system-in this case of corrupt West Virginia mine company officials, paid-off lawyers, and lying doctors who deny ill miners and widows recompense for unnecessary suffering and death from black lung. It's a riveting David and Goliath story, close up and personal, and illuminating the heroic tenacity it took two men to win a hugely important fight."—Arlie RussellHochschild, author of Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourningon the American Right, a National Book Award finalist "An important story told with care and eloquence, Soul Full of Coal Dust will have you rooting for its underdog heroes and shaking your head -- and maybe even your fist -- at the coal barons and their hired guns who for decades" manipulated a rigged system to deprive injured miners of simple justice."—DanFagin, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Toms River Expand reviews