Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains

Please note: in case of rain, this performance will be held in the Historic Theater with socially distanced seating.

Evening’s Moderator: Tina Sawtelle

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?

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.

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