by Nick Reding
"Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the small towns of America's heartland. In Methland, journalist Nick Reding introduces us to one such small town: Oelwein, Iowa, population 6,126. Like thousands of other rural communities across the country, Oelwein has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people. Now in incredibly cheap, long-lasting, and highly effective drug has taken its hold." (From the jacket flap of the Bloomsbury edition.)
I thought the most captivating part of Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town was that it didn't just talk about the meth problem as a single issue. The stories of the addicts were heartbreaking, no doubt. But the book is equally if not more about the economic and legal environments that lie beneath. The story is meth addiction as the symptom, not the problem. The author goes into detail regarding the consolidation of the food industry and how it affected so many small towns. He talks about how Big Pharma lobbyists help pass laws in Washington, D.C., that ultimately help drug traffikers. He talks about national and local politics, both the official and unofficial kind, that exacerbate the problems while claiming to be solving them. And he explains it all in manner that I can actually follow and understand.
Reding has been accused of shoddy journalistic practices with regard to some details in Methland. The accusations may be true, I don't know. There is also a feeling of sensationalism every now and then. But then again, I don't have any clue what it's like to be in the situation these towns and people are in. How would I know if it's realistic or not? I hope I never find out. All that aside, I feel like my sheltered, middle-class, suburban eyes have been opened to some issues that I never really knew existed. Even if some of the details are wrong, awareness going forward can't be a bad thing.
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!