Join us as Bedford resident Gigi Georges, author of Downeast:five Maine girls and the unseen story of rural America, discusses her new book.
Nestled in Maine's far northeast corner, Washington County sits an hour's drive from the heart of famed and bustling Acadia National Park. Yet it's a world away. For Willow, Vivian, Mckenna, Audrey, and Josie - five teenage girls caught between tradition and transformation in this remote region - it is home. Downeast follows their journeys of heartbreak and hope in uncertain times, creating a nuanced and unique portrait of rural America with women at its center.
From Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2021:
Rural, impoverished Washington County, Maine, is not an easy place to grow up.Georges presents the stories of five young women on the cusp of adulthood in Maine’s furthest northeast county. She began chronicling her subjects, whose names she has changed due to privacy concerns, in their teens, conducting interviews and following them in their lives.
- Willow grew up with an “abusive, drug-addicted father, although moving in with her grandparents provided a bit of respite—until her grandmother was sent to prison for embezzling.
- Vivian, Willow’s best friend from early childhood, has a vastly different background. Her financially successful parents had deep roots in the county, but after they divorced, Vivian faced significant emotional challenges.
- A gifted softball pitcher, McKenna has been hauling lobsters with her father and brother since childhood. In her teens, she saved enough to buy her own boat. As she finished high school, she was torn between offers from two colleges and her passion: becoming one of the few females in the area running their own boats.
- Audrey is a basketball star and a dedicated member of her school’s civil rights team. Though she matriculated at prestigious Bates College, she found it to be a tough fit and transferred.
- Josie, the class valedictorian, was accepted at Yale, and she found herself questioning her parents’ conservative religious beliefs.
Each of these stories reflects the extreme challenges of life in poor, rural America, areas that are often awash with substance abuse, offer few opportunities for education, and lack decent-paying career opportunities. Georges interweaves the engaging personal tales with recent statistical information, extending the girls’ experiences to illuminate a vast government failure to serve America’s less-populated spaces. In mostly lyrical, always informative, only occasionally trite prose (“Fisherman here don’t care for idle talk”), the author shines an important light on the sobering challenges rural youth are facing.It’s almost impossible not to care about these fierce young women and cheer for their hard-won successes.
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