On Tuesday, January 8 Bella Books, located at 135 High Street in Belfast, Maine held a book launch for Unity College Professor Kathryn Miles’ latest book, ALL STANDING: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, The Legendary Irish Famine Ship.

ALL STANDING follows the life of Nicholas Reilly, the baby boy born on the ship’s maiden voyage during the Irish Potato Famine, his fellow passengers, and the heroic crewmembers who transported them to safety. The Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852 claimed over a million lives, and another million attempted to flee by boarding one of the five thousand aptly named “coffin ships.”  More than 100,000 people died aboard these coffin ships, and yet the Jeanie Johnston was the one humble vessel – and only one – that never lost a passenger.

Using newspaper accounts, rare archival documents, and her own experience sailing as an apprentice aboard the recently recreated Jeanie Johnston, Miles tells the story of these remarkable people and the revolutionary milieu in which they set sail. The tale of each individual is extraordinary in and of itself; read collectively, however, their stories paint a unique portrait of bravery in the face of a new world order. Against the backdrop of one of history’s greatest atrocities, Miles weaves a thrilling, intimate narrative of the immigrant experience, while chronicling how one Irish family found a place for itself in the United States.

When asked what she hopes readers will take away from ALL STANDING, Miles says, “We are a nation of immigrants, and we all come here with our own narratives of perseverance and a quest for the American Dream. ALL STANDING pays homage to that fact, and the stories therein are a testament to courage in the face of insurmountable odds.  I think the book serves as a powerful reminder about our collective history and the power of a few individuals have to effect meaningful change.  That’s the kind of story we all need to hear.”

Kathryn Miles is a professor of environmental writing and editor-in-chief of Hawk & Handsaw at Unity College. Her courses include narrative nonfiction, creative writing, environmental journalism, and writing for publication. Miles is the author of Adventures With Ari and dozens of articles that have appeared in publications including Alimentum, Best American Essays, Ecotone, Flyway, Meatpaper, and Terrain. She lives – and sails – in Belfast, Maine.

Unity College is a small private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education that emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

Friday, January 04, 2013