Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island

Written by:
Earl Swift
Narrated by:
Tom Parks

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
August 2018
12 hours 52 minutes
A brilliant, soulful, and timely portrait of a two-hundred-year-old crabbing community in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay as it faces extinction.

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: Washington Post, NPR, Outside, Smithsonian, Popular Science, Bloomberg, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Review of Books, Science Friday, and Kirkus 

''BEAUTIFUL, HAUNTING AND TRUE.'' — Hampton Sides •  “GORGEOUS. A TRULY REMARKABLE BOOK.” — Beth Macy • ''GRIPPING. FANTASTIC.'' — Outside • ''CAPTIVATING.'' — Washington Post • ''POWERFUL.'' — Bill McKibben • ''VIVID. HARROWING AND MOVING.'' — Science • ''A MASTERFUL NARRATIVE.'' — Christian Science Monitor • ''THE BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR.''  — Stephen L. Carter/Bloomberg

A Washington Post bestseller • An Indie Next List selection •An NPR All Things Considered and Axios ''Book Club'' pick

Tangier Island, Virginia, is a community unique on the American landscape. Mapped by John Smith in 1608, settled during the American Revolution, the tiny sliver of mud is home to 470 hardy people who live an isolated and challenging existence, with one foot in the 21st century and another in times long passed. They are separated from their countrymen by the nation’s largest estuary, and a twelve-mile boat trip across often tempestuous water—the same water that for generations has made Tangier’s fleet of small fishing boats a chief source for the rightly prized Chesapeake Bay blue crab, and has lent the island its claim to fame as the softshell crab capital of the world.

Yet for all of its long history, and despite its tenacity, Tangier is disappearing. The very water that has long sustained it is erasing the island day by day, wave by wave. It has lost two-thirds of its land since 1850, and still its shoreline retreats by fifteen feet a year—meaning this storied place will likely succumb first among U.S. towns to the effects of climate change. Experts reckon that, barring heroic intervention by the federal government, islanders could be forced to abandon their home within twenty-five years. Meanwhile, the graves of their forebears are being sprung open by encroaching tides, and the conservative and deeply religious Tangiermen ponder the end times.   

Chesapeake Requiem is an intimate look at the island’s past, present and tenuous future, by an acclaimed journalist who spent much of the past two years living among Tangier’s people, crabbing and oystering with its watermen, and observing its long traditions and odd ways. What emerges is the poignant tale of a world that has, quite nearly, gone by—and a leading-edge report on the coming fate of countless coastal communities.
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Gail R.

This book is very detailed and listening to the detail was a lot more enjoyable than reading it. Having visited Tangier Island several times, and as a consumer of both hard shell and soft crabs, the book allowed me to appreciate these visits and the wonder of how these delicacies arrive on “the mainland” all the more! Perhaps my enjoyment of this book is situational —-It helps that I live in Virginia ... these citizens are our neighbors...and the loss of Tangier would be a terrible loss not only to Virginia, but especially sad for Virginia.

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Debra B.

This was a very detailed history of Tangier Island...very. At times it felt I was listening to the same thing I already heard. Interesting to hear about the crabbing and the island, just too detailed.

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