LOCAL>> Kerri Arsenault and John Freeman – Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains
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Crowdcast conversation – Kerri Arsenault and John Freeman discuss Arsenault’s debut book
Kerri Arsenault joins us via Crowdcast to discuss her debut book, Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains (St. Martin’s Press), with poet, editor, and writer John Freeman.
The pair will discuss slow violence, the need to live together, the difficulty of doing so, and why even when we find ourselves within an idyllic setting – a park or a small town — the gremlins of humanity are already inside the keep.
Co-sponsored by Orion Magazine
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 employs 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 an 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 toxics and disease. Mill Town is a moral wake-up call that asks, Whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?
Kerri Arsenault is the Book Review Editor at Orion magazine and Contributing Editor at Lithub. Arsenault received her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School and studied in Malmö University’s Communication for Development master’s programme. Her writing has appeared in Freeman’s, Lithub, Oprah.com, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other publications. She lives in New England. Mill Town is her first book.
John Freeman is the editor of Freeman’s, a literary annual which features new writing by Louise Erdrich, Olga Tokarczuk, Robin Coste Lewis and Haruki Murakami, among others. He has written three books of nonfiction, The Tyranny of Email, How to Read a Novelist and Dictionary of the Undoing, as well as two collections of poems, Maps and The Park, both published by Copper Canyon. A child of California public schools, he lives today in New York City, where he is artist-in-residence at NYU and executive editor of The Literary Hub. Between 2014 and 2020, he edited a series of anthologies on inequality, concluding this year Tales of Two Planets, which focuses on the collision of the climate crisis and global inequality. Freeman’s work has been translated into more than 20 languages.