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PRINT & WEB COVERAGE OF MY RIVER CHRONICLES

THE NEW YORKER | By Robert Sullivan, September 14, 2009 Super-Soaker Nautically speaking, the difference between John J. Harvey, a seventy-eight-year-old engine-room-operated fireboat, and Jessica DuLong, the boat’s thirty-six-year-old chief engineer, is that the John J. Harvey has spent a lot more time on the water—putting out the five-alarm fire that burned the Cunard pier in 1932, for instance. Except for a whale-watching trip when she was a child, DuLong has been on the water only since February, 2001. She had just been laid off from her job at a wellness Web site and, after a couple of volunteer events, found herself on the Harvey’s crew. On September 11th of that year, the John J. Harvey—after being auctioned for scrap in 1999 and salvaged by preservationists—helped evacuate some of the three hundred thousand people fleeing the World Trade Center. It then used its water pumps to pump millions of gallons of water into downtown. “For the first time I see the boat pumping water with a purpose, doing the important work for which she was built,” DuLong writes in her new book, “My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson.” [READ MORE]

 

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USA TODAY | by Bob Minzesheimer, September 14, 2009 “‘My River Chronicles’ author DuLong engineers a life change” ABOARD THE JOHN J. HARVEY IN NEW YORK HARBOR — Up on deck, a group of inner-city kids — most have never before been on the Hudson River — squeal in delight, getting drenched by water. It’s not raining. But for a few moments aboard this antique New York City fireboat, it feels as if it is — if rain were salty. Down in the engine room, Jessica DuLong, a former dot-com executive, is at the controls. … [READ MORE]

 

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The Journal News | by USA TODAY’s Bob Minzesheimer, October 22, 2009 “Dot.com exec charting a new course” (an expanded version of Minzesheimer’s 9/14/09 USA Today story) ABOARD THE JOHN J. HARVEY IN NEW YORK HARBOR — Up on deck, a group of inner-city kids — most have never before been on the Hudson River — squeal in delight, getting drenched by water. It’s not raining. But for a few moments aboard this antique New York City fireboat, it feels as if it is — if rain were salty. Down in the engine room, Jessica DuLong, a former dot-com executive, is at the controls. … [READ MORE]

 

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Yahoo’s Shine | by Marci Alboher, October 20, 2009 “White Collar/Blue Collar: A Perfect Career Match” In a black silk blouse with skinny jeans and stylish black boots, Jessica DuLong doesn’t look like she spends her days in the bowels of a 78-year-old fireboat. That’s because I met her on a day when she was inhabiting her other job, that of the author of a newly released book. A former dotcom executive and freelance journalist, DuLong had an accidental career change after spending some time volunteering on The the John J. Harvey, a retired 1931 New York City fireboat that has become a living museum. Now one of few female fireboat engineers in the world, DuLong’s newly published book, “My River Chronicles,” is both a tale of career transformation and a compelling narrative about a time when working boats and industry played a large role in America’s economic and civic life. [READ MORE]

 

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Hudson Valley Magazine | by Valerie Havas, October 9, 2009 A Hands-on Life on the Hudson From skyscraper to wheelhouse: one woman’s new career as a Hudson River boat pilot Nine years ago, Jessica DuLong could usually be found behind a desk, working long hours on a wellness Web site. These days, the 36-year-old Stanford graduate is often on the Hudson, happily ensconced in the engine room of a retired fireboat or in the wheelhouse of a former army tug. [READ MORE] ——-

 

The Journal News, October 23, 2009 Girls take their cue from women of achievement Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES today is hosting a series of workshops wherein female students from 11 area school districts are hearing from and working with women who work in a variety of professions. The keynote speaker for the “Women Helping Girls With Choices” was Jessica DuLong, a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed merchant marine officer who is the engineer aboard the John J. Harvey fireboat on the Hudson River. “My path was definitely not a straight line,” the Massachusetts native said. “But I made small choices that took me to this point.” DuLong, who is also a freelance writer with a new book about her maritime experiences, told a morning assembly that she was the dorky, smart girl in school who found her way to a hands-on yet technically oriented career despite not always getting the right message about what a girl’s true potential is. “What we always heard, and I think we still hear it today, is that some jobs are for boys and some jobs are for girls,” DuLong said, “and that is not true.” The 108 girls who attended the day’s sessions gave oral presentations, book reports and met with local role models in fields from law and banking to theater and the culinary arts. Past speakers include news anchor Roz Abrams and educator Jaimie Cloud.

REVIEWS OF MY RIVER CHRONICLES

The New York Times | By Sam Roberts, August 15, 2010 “As American society continues to become more virtual, less hands-on,” Jessica DuLong writes, “I’m a salmon swimming upstream.” Ms. DuLong did her figurative swimming as a licensed engineer on a decommissioned 130-foot-long fireboat on the Hudson and as part of the crew that served at ground zero. She delivers an engaging narrative of maritime history and her own hands-on perceptions in “My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the Work That Built America: A Personal and Historical Journey” (Trade paperback, $16).

 

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The New York Times—ArtsBeat Blog | By Dwight Garner, October 30, 2009 The Reading Life: Little Yelps of Glee Is American culture pushing its young people “toward the most ghostly kinds of work”? That was one of the contentions in Matthew B. Crawford’s recent best seller, “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work,” and it resonated with a lot of people. Jessica DuLong, the author of a new book called My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson (Free Press, $26), was working a ghostly job herself—at a bubble-era dot.com company—until she decided to leave it early in 2001 to become a fireboat engineer on the Hudson River. She’s never looked back, and she details her often exhilarating experiences in her very fine and gutsy book. Ms. DuLong is a confident and sensual writer, as perceptive about small matters on a boat as was Anthony Bourdain, in “Kitchen Confidential,” about everyday events in a professional kitchen. Here’s Ms. DuLong, for example, using her nostrils: “The familiar huff of diesel scrapes at the back of my throat. By now I can tease apart the smell the way some people discern hints of oak, cherry, or chocolate in a fine wine—an exhaust-fume bouquet wedded with a richer base note of lube oil and a trace of bilge bacteria.” And after managing a difficult tugboat docking, an ecstatic Ms. DuLong writes: “My fingers click the running-light switches into the Off position. My thighs thrum with leftover electricity, soaked in their adrenaline bath. The ink I scratch into the logbook, “20:30, lines secure Brooklyn Navy Yard,” gets lost in the dusk. But my heart gives a little yelp of glee as my head pauses in the sheer joy of a lesson learned, a goal accomplished, an intention satisfied.” Readers will feel their own little yelps of glee all over My River Chronicles.

 

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Kirkus Review (starred) July 15, 2009 An unexpected portrayal of America in the decline of industry, delivered from the unique vantage point of the Hudson River. Fireboat engineer and journalist DuLong first laid eyes on the Hudson through the windows of the Empire State Building while working at her cushy dot-com job. After volunteering aboard the John J. Harvey in 2001, she entered into an intoxicating love affair with workboats, industry and labor that would drastically change her life. Her fascination with the fireboat’s history escalated into an obsession with the Hudson River, whose industries were a significant factor in the early development of America. After getting laid off from her job, DuLong gave her life to physical work on the water, and over time she became one of the only female fireboat engineers in the world. As her personal adventure on the Hudson unfolds, she paints an eye-opening picture of what America has been—a country of bootstrap entrepreneurs and hands-on laborers—and what it is becoming, awash in the decay of industry, a faltering economy and the regression of human innovation. Through stories of those who still toil with their hands and who preserve and share the past, the author illustrates how a nation always on the cutting edge of technology may actually be moving backward, losing the facilities and knowledge to produce everyday goods and increasingly relying on foreign exports. Powerful reading for the quadricentennial of Hudson’s legendary voyage.”

 

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Publishers Weekly, January 2010 DuLong shares her inspirational story of quitting her dot-com job to become the engine operator for an old fireboat on the Hudson River, going from working with bits and bytes to working with her hands in physically challenging environment. In recounting her transition, she reflects on the people who encouraged or blocked her way and how her newfound love for machinery has made her re-evaluate her entire being. … Moving.

 

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Story Circle Book Reviews | By Sharon Wildwind, January 3, 2010 Review of My River Chronicles I fell in love with a river, a fireboat, a sturdy little tug, and the woman in the engine room. This book is a conversation, the kind you’d have with a good friend, sitting on a boat deck at the end of the day, feet on the railings, and a cold beer in your hand. As with all good conversations, one topic leads to another: how she left her computer job to become a fireboat engineer; what it was like to be at Ground Zero; her first-hand experience with stereotype vulnerability when she prepared to take the Coast Guard engineering license; and always, always circling back to the Hudson River and boats. Ditch the image that the two of you are wearing perky white shorts and tank tops while having this conversation, or that your hair sports a disheveled, yet appealing wind-blown look, and your lips a fresh coat of pink lip gloss. My River Chronicles is about grease under your fingernails, needle-scaling rust, rebuilding engines, and raising sunken tug boats from freezing water. It’s also a history of the Hudson River, the 315-mile waterway that begins in the Adirondack Mountains and empties into Upper New York Bay. Arguably, without the river there would have never been a New York City. Most of all, this book is about passion. About falling in love with something, finding you are good at it, and ultimately realizing that most people neither share that passion nor care about the fact that you have it. There is a marvelous thread running through the book about the value of hands-on work and what we’ve lost because the apprenticeship system had broken down. What I wanted to do most after finishing the book was fix something complicated and seemingly irretrievable with my own two hands.

 

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Bookslut.com | by Eryn Loeb, September, 2009 Going with the Flow Jessica DuLong is one of the world’s only female fireboat engineers—certainly a nice hook for her excellent memoir-cum-social history, My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson, but hardly the most interesting thing about it. The book is really a love story, the product of a passion that arrived with sudden fierceness, prompting a major lifestyle change and shift in priorities, and triggering DuLong’s devotion not only to a new craft, but to a sprawling tradition that she believes forms the neglected heartbeat of American culture. DuLong was a dot-com workaholic when she started a casual flirtation with the John J. Harvey, a fireboat—built in 1931—docked in the Hudson on a Manhattan pier. Retired from active duty and in need of constant repairs, the boat’s crew was running it as something of a floating museum. It was also an ongoing restoration project, supported by a bare bones non-profit that depended on donations, and volunteers wooed by the romance of a rusting boat. After impulsively volunteering to cut through old heating pipes one afternoon, DuLong was besotted. Soon she was spending most of her time on the boat, soaking up wisdom from the boat’s small crew. And she was increasingly captivated by the histories of anything that even glanced the edges of her new preoccupation: maritime trade and industry, apprenticeship, the emergence of “planned obsolescence,” the New York City waterfront, and the overlooked story of the Hudson River itself. Much of the joy of reading My River Chronicles comes from witnessing DuLong’s enthusiasm unfold, watching as she begins to understand what she’s getting herself into, and then recognizes that when she set foot in the Harvey’s engine room, she crossed a point of no return. [READ MORE]

 

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Chronogram | By Anne Pyburn , November 25, 2009 Review of My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the America on the Hudson by Jessica DuLong The Hudson River Valley is breathtaking in many places, and one thing she’s not is a virgin. From roadways originally designed for horse and foot traffic to the oily gravel of a small city’s waterfront, the layers of time and experience run deep hereabouts. Our river has taken a hearty share of star turns on the stage of American history, and seen all manner of greatness and treachery. But who is she, really? Anyone seeking to understand this sophisticated, complex beauty needs to read Jessica DuLong’s My River Chronicles—and I speak as a lifelong Hudson Valley resident whose comprehension and love of her home were significantly deepened by this book. The river reached out and pulled DuLong from a Manhattan dot-com job to the engine room of fireboat John J. Harvey. Her longing to take part in something hands-on and tangible is probably present, either consciously or as a psychic toothache of sorts, in every human being whose work world is ruled by technology. Too few, perhaps, heed that yen to get their hands dirty and their backs tired, but DuLong runs with that yearning, all the way to what feels less like a radical change of career than a blossoming of her true self. [READ MORE]

 

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Library Journal | By Nancy R. Ives, February 15, 2010 Audiobook Review of My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the America on the Hudson by Jessica DuLong Blending Hudson River lore with an account of her personal journey from dot-com desk job to a career in fireboat engineering, DuLong tells of her initiation into the world of engines, mechanics, and work aboard the antique fireboat John J. Harvey. In smart, captivating prose, she delves into early New York State history as well as into the role Harvey played post-9/11, taking listeners to the Manhattan waterfront and poking into forgotten areas of the Hudson. DuLong herself reads in a cogent and pleasant manner that lends clarity to her material. Listeners will love this unusual mix of history, adventure, feminism, and blue-collar know-how. Highly recommended for large public libraries.

 

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Old Salt Blog | By Rick Spilman, November 3, 2009 My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the America on the Hudson by Jessica DuLong: A Review My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the America on the Hudson, is a fascinating voyage in the life of a young woman, who finds herself oddly quite at home in a most unlikely new job. It is also a journey through the history of America itself as it moves from an industrial past into an uncertain future. While working for a dot-com startup, Jessica DuLong started volunteering on a retired fireboat, the John J. Harvey. She was the first woman ever to run the engines. When her day job disappeared, she was offered a position on the fireboat where she spent so many hours as a volunteer. Over time, she became a licensed engineer on the historic fireboat, as well as the pilot on another tug. My River Chronicles is a deft mix of DuLong’s personal memoir, mixed with the history of the mighty Hudson and the towns that line the shore, with a judicious dose of commentary thrown in for spice. The writing is graceful and engaging and she balances the various elements of her account with remarkable skill. The book begins and ends with the tragic fire and explosions on the passenger liner Muenchen on February 11, 1930 at the Hudson docks. New York City fireboat pilot John J. Harvey died that day when the ship exploded. He was memorialized a year later when the John J. Harvey, the first New York City fireboat with an internal combustion engine was built and put into service. Jessica DuLong is refreshingly straightforward as she describes the challenges of being the first woman engineer on the John J. Harvey. You feel for her as she struggles with the levers at the engine controls. Built for a taller engineer, she needs to stand on her tip toes and use both hands to push the engine order telegraph all the way up to Full Ahead. You also share her amused victory as she carries in the wooden box on which she will stand to solve the problem. We follow the fireboat with DuLong at the engines on trips up river and down. The John J. Harvey is also the first fireboat on scene on 9/11, pumping river water around the clock to the firefighters at Ground Zero. The collapse of the towers cut all the water mains and the old “obsolete” fireboat proves herself invaluable once again…. [READ MORE]

 

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AudioFile | By J.A.S., February 2010 Review of My River Chronicles, the audiobook The elimination of her dot-com job in New York City was the start of a new life for Jessica DuLong, who found herself working as an engineer on a Hudson River fireboat. DuLong characterizes herself as small but strong, and that would be a good way to describe her voice as she tells about her participation in World Trade Center rescue efforts and her quest to rehabilitate a tugboat. DuLong gradually pulls listeners into her life on the water as she shares the history of the Hudson and makes a pitch for a return to a hands-on life. Thoughtful and fascinating, this is a unique story of New York.

 

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Book Bargains and Previews | By Erin K., October, 2009 Review of My River Chronicles My River Chronicles is a beautifully written love letter to the Hudson River and good honest work, the kind we (largely) have forgotten how to do in America. A unique protagonist and uniquely sensitive observer, Jessica DuLong shares her journey from dotcom office worker to fireboat engineer—an unlikely and compelling career path driven by nothing more than a willingness to follow her heart towards meaningful work. In an era when her fellow Gen-Xers don’t know how to make anything that doesn’t require a laptop, DuLong dives head first into a kind of work that is hands-on, physical and anything but virtual. Along the way, she discovers the history of American industry and forges a deeper connection with her own family. This memoir is a meaty, satisfying read, and in light of the recent economic crisis, a powerful reminder of the kind of labor and laborers—men, and now, women—who built this country by hand.