September 17, 2020

Kerri Arsenault

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes writer and editor KERRI ARSENAULT for a discussion of her debut memoir, Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains. She will be joined in conversation by novelist and essayist LACY CRAWFORD. Her acclaimed memoir, Notes on a Silencing, is available for purchase here.


Kerri Arsenault grew up in the rural working class town of Mexico, Maine. For over 100 years the community orbited around a paper mill that employs most townspeople, including three generations of Arsenault’s own family. Years after she moved away, Arsenault realized the price she paid for her seemingly secure childhood. The mill, while providing livelihoods for nearly everyone, also contributed to the destruction of the environment and the decline of the town’s economic, physical, and emotional health in a slow-moving catastrophe, earning the area the nickname “Cancer Valley.”

Mill Town is a personal investigation, where Arsenault sifts through historical archives and scientific reports, talks to family and neighbors, and examines her own childhood to illuminate the rise and collapse of the working-class, the hazards of loving and leaving home, and the ambiguous nature of toxins and disease. Mill Town is a moral wake-up call that asks, Whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?

About Author(s)

Kerri Arsenault is a book critic, book editor at Orion magazine, and a contributing editor at The Literary Hub. She received her MFA from The New School and studied in the Master Programme in communication for development at Malmö University, Sweden. Her writing has appeared in the Boston GlobeThe Literary HubAir MailFreeman’s, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and OrionMill Town: Reckoning with What Remains is her first book.

Lacy Crawford is an author of fiction and nonfiction, including the satirical novel Early Decision. Her literary journalism includes profiles of Frank Conroy, Reynolds Price, and Shirley Hazzard. Lacy’s other jobs have included high school English teacher, human and environmental rights campaigner, co-convener of a high-level international conference on pandemic influenza, Girl Friday to an English Lord, and Director of the Burberry Foundation. Lacy lives in California with her husband and three children.