Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America
In Downeast, Gigi Georges follows five girls as they come of age in one of the most challenging and geographically isolated regions on the Eastern seaboard. Their stories reveal surprising truths about rural America and offer hope for its future. "It's almost impossible not to care about these fierce young women and cheer for their hard-won successes" (Kirkus) in this "heartfelt portrait" and "worthy tribute" (Publishers Weekly).
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.
Willow lives in the shadow of an abusive, drug-addicted father and searches for stability through photography and love. Vivian, a gifted writer, feels stifled by her church and town, and struggles to break free without severing family ties. Mckenna is a softball pitching phenom whose passion is the lobster-fishing she learned at her father's knee. Audrey is a beloved high school basketball star who earns a coveted college scholarship but questions her chosen path. Josie, a Yale-bound valedictorian, is determined to take the world by storm.
All five girls know the pain and joy of life in a region whose rugged beauty and stoicism mask dwindling populations, vanishing job opportunities, and pervasive opioid addiction. As the girls reach adulthood, they discover that despite significant challenges, there is much to celebrate in "the valley of the overlooked." Their stories remind us of the value of timeless ideals: strength of family and community, reverence for nature's rule, dignity in cracked hands and muddied shoes, and the enduring power of home.
Revealed through the eyes of Willow, Vivian, Mckenna, Audrey, and Josie, Downeast is based on four years of intimate reporting. The result is a beautifully rendered, emotionally startling, and vital book. Downeast will break readers' hearts yet offer them hope, providing answers to what the future may hold for rural America.
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About the Author
Gigi Georges, Ph.D., has had an extensive career in politics, public service, and academia. A former White House Special Assistant to the President and Communications Director for the New York City Department of Education, she has taught political science at Boston College, served as Program Director for the Harvard Kennedy School's Innovation Strategies Initiative, and been a Managing Director of The Glover Park Group--a leading national strategic communications firm. She and her family live part-time in Downeast Maine.
"A heartfelt portrait of five teenage girls growing up in Maine's remote and economically depressed Washington County . . . . Enriched by the author's love of the area and deep admiration for her subjects, this is a worthy tribute to a group of stalwart young women committed to forging their own paths."--Publishers Weekly
"An empathetic, observant account of five young women trying to chart their path in rural Maine, and a moving exploration of individuals who want to both transcend and honor their roots in an economy and culture that often overlook girls and women. Georges does the opposite by rigorously adhering to their perspectives, so that we see their world, their choices, and their strength, through their own eyes."--Amy Waldman, author of A Door in the Earth and The Submission
Each of these stories reflects the extreme challenges of life in poor, rural America . . . . It's almost impossible not to care about these fierce young women and cheer for their hard-won successes.--Kirkus Reviews
Georges respects the region's families and way of life that instill generational grit and a self-sufficient work ethic, even as she explores tragedies and dark spots in its community soul. Her characterization of Downeast is thus nostalgic without being sentimental, empathetic without being patronizing . . . Georges' lovely book will appeal to readers seeking memoirs, understanding of rural worlds, feminist values, or even travel writing.--Booklist