Nobody Particular: One Woman's Fight to Save the Bays
First published in 2000
About the Story
Now that I have some distance from it, what a royally stupid title for a book. It should have been called Outrageous Warrior or Crazy Woman Warrior or even Passionate Shrimper Fights Chemical Plant Polluters, a headline to match the comic strips. But I chose Nobody Particular, since this is how Diane Wilson regards herself. And as totally wrong as she is, she is also right.
Diane Wilson is a former shrimper, the only woman along the Gulf of Texas who fished for shrimp alone. In 1989 she read an article in the local paper that said that her flat, sea-swept Calhoun county, where most people live just hanging on, had the worst ground pollution of any in the whole United States. There are five huge chemical plants in the county, owned by five of the richest corporations in the world.
Reading this article changed Diane Wilson's life, turned her from a high school-educated mother of five who had rarely been away from home into a fierce and effective environmental activist who travels the world to learn from, work with, and inspire others in similar situations. She is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, and now a close friend.
I wrote the book to tell the world about her story. Maybe it's too big and far too complicated a story to tell in so small a space, but I don't think that's it. I think it's more that I needed to pare everything down to a single, powerful message. Instead, I told the story of Diane's struggle and eventual triumph as a comic book, in dramatic black and white pictures, but I embedded the drama in wide, colorful borders that show the surrounding in which the story takes place. A good idea if I had simplified, simplified and integrated the two, but I did not. Some of the pictures are powerful and really work well together, but overall, confusion reigns. A good critic who read the book after it was all done said that I should have made very sure right at the beginning to have the reader FIRST fall in love with Diane, and then tell her story, and I believe she was also correct.
So this is a flawed book about an extraordinary woman living in a part of our country that continues to be a dumping ground for some of our worst poisons, where the estuaries and baybeds that were once some of the richest in the world have been polluted, dredged, over fished and trashed. It's a story about one woman with no money, no fancy education and no clout who is doing all she can to heal the bays she loves.
Diane has also written her own story. It turns out she is not only a remarkable person, she is also a superb writer, soul-daughter of Faulkner and Melville. Her voice is the voice of the Matagorda bays and bayous, the voice of grit and struggle and powerful beauty. It is an adult book, far, far better than mine. Her book, An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, And the Fight for Seadrift, Texas, was published in 2005 by Chelsea Green.
copyright 2016 by Molly Bang