An Unreasonable Woman

Let’s say, for example, that you read in the newspaper one day that the Environmental Protection Agency (DC’s EPA – you know, the federal agency that is supposed to help keep our water clean and our air breathable?) has declared the county in which you live to be the single most polluted county in the entire country.

Let’s say, to go one step further, that, when you read this article in the newspaper, you know WHY this is the case. It has to do with plastics. And chemicals. And emissions. And the political power of one very large trans-national corporation with which you share the neighborhood.

If you are like most of us, you probably nod knowingly, sigh, and go about your business. After all, there ain’t nothing you can do to fix things, right?

But let’s say you are "nobody particular" who decides to DO something about the situation. Now we’ve got a heroine’s tale on our hands.

In this true life story called "An Unreasonable Woman" (which represents yet another publishing coup by Vermont independent Chelsea Green Press) Diane Wilson – working class shrimp boat captain and mother of five – recounts the often-harrowing account of her five year fight to hold corporate polluter Formosa Plastics to a "zero emissions" policy for their insidious (but all too typical) waste disposal methods in Wilson’s town of Sea Drift, Texas.

And get this.

Wilson won.

How she defeated the machinations of one of the world’ largest and most powerful industrial polluters is the subject of the book, which also offers honest insights into life in a southern seaside working class community from a woman’s point of view, a community that I never knew existed.

And who out there knows women can captain shrimp boats? Or understands that women actually can play characters other than vamps or victims? All my life, I’ve read books populated with women, but until this real life story, I’ve never met a woman like Diane Wilson. In a pop culture world dripping with testosterone, car chases, and gun play, Wilson is no shrinking violet, no damsel in distress.

Exactly the opposite. She intuits her way through what becomes one of the most courageous struggles for justice I’ve read in a long while, challenging corporate control over our economic and political life (and her bayside community) with grit, good humor, and vernacular insights that, while uneven in some places, made me laugh and cry and cheer and buy copies of this book for friends and family.

She also, in the most wry and self-deprecating way imaginable, makes most of the men in her life look like pantywaists by comparison.

Books like an "Unreasonable Woman" come along only rarely. Diane Wilson is a working class heroine with heart, an activist with the guts to do something about the problems confronting her (and all of us, really). The world is a better place for having her and her story in it. If you are not moved after reading this book, it might be time to forgo reading altogether.

Reasonably speaking, "Unreasonable Woman" is the most inspiring and inspired book I’ve read all year.


Mad River Valley historian, media educator, and musician Dr. Rob Williams can be reached at