Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Donna Matrazzo to Read Tonight

Donna Matrazzo was an unlikely candidate to become a grassroots environmentalist. She grew up in the steel town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, in a neighborhood choked by railroad tracks and the steel mill, with no connection to the natural world. Books became her only window into nature and the outdoors, and she embraced them with a passion.

She moved to Portland with her husband, living in the Laurelhurst neighborhood for five years. While living there, they began kayaking around the Sauvie Island area and decided that's where they wanted to live. Now they've lived on Sauvie Island for more than twenty years, in a house on an acre and a half, with a 75-acre state natural area across the road.

Donna is a writer by trade, writing and editing books, articles, film scripts, and other documents in the areas of science, health, history, and nature. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, on PBS and The Discovery Channel, and in national park visitor centers and museums around the country. She has also written a writing textbook and a feature film screenplay, The Evening Land.

When Donna first moved to Sauvie Island, she began keeping a journal, something she thought might someday become a book of serene nature observations. Four months after they moved to the island, they heard about a farmer who wanted to sell his land to a Japanese developer to build a tournament-level golf course, and Donna's career in environmental activism and stewardship of the land began and the journal evolved to incorporate discussions of conservation battles. After taking an essay-writing class from John Daniel -- one of Broadway Books' favorite authors -- the journal began to gel into the book she published last year: Wild Things: Adventures of a Grassroots Environmentalist. The book was a finalist for the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction in the 2009 Oregon Book Awards.

Typically when you write film scripts, Donna says, you have two or three stories woven together. And that's what happened in writing this book, as multiple stories wound around each other.

Barbara J. Scot, a neighbor on the island and an author herself, has this to say about the book: "Donna Matrazzo's writing reflects a rare sensitivity to the complexity of environmental activism and the special courage needed to stand up within one's immediate community. Wild Things is both poignant and practical, a personal journal through familiar land-use battles."

Bill McKibben, educator, environmentalist, and the author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy, among other books, says, "The planet needs more friends like Donna Matrazzo -- and it needs more books like this one, which remind us that we're all quite capable of making big and useful changes."

Sauvie Island, about ten miles north of downtown Portland, is an island that is about the same size and shape as Manhattan Island, yet it is home to only about 500-600 households, about 1000-1200 people, and more than 300 species of wildlife. The first inhabitants of the island were the Multnomah tribe of the Chinook Indians. Sadly their population was decimated in the fever epidemic in 1829. The island was named Wappatoe Island by Lewis and Clark when they explored the area in 1805-06. The island's modern name comes from Laurent Sauve, a French dairyman who was sent to the island by the Hudson Bay Company to raise cattle.

Donna is one of the founding members of the Sauvie Island Conservancy and of the Oregon Ocean Paddling Society (also known as "OOPS"). She serves on the advisory board for the Columbia River Water Trail, is a Certified Schoolyard Wildlife Steward, and has worked part-time for Audubon and as a sea kayak guide.

The majority of environmental activists are ordinary people, says Donna, like-minded people who come together to work intensely on an issue they feel passionate about, often leading to the development of strong and lasting friendships. She describes environmental activism as being to a great extent about "fun, friendship, and food," although one suspects it's more work than that description sounds. In the prologue to her book, Donna writes about the development of grassroots environmentalists: "First comes a deep passion of place. Then the courage to speak up when that place becomes threatened. Then change, and all that change enables."

We hope you will join us at Broadway Books tonight at 7 pm to hear Donna Matrazzo read from her book, Wild Things: Adventures of a Grassroots Environmentalist, and discuss her adventures.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.