FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 24, 2008
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Lisa L. Rollins, 615-898-2919, or email@example.com
AWARD-WINNING ACTIVIST/AUTHOR DIANE WILSON VISITS MTSU IN MARCH
Free & Open Lecture Outlines Shrimp-boat Captain’s Battle for the Environment
(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.)—Activist Diane Wilson, author of An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas (Chelsea Green, 2006), will visit the MTSU campus March 12-13 to speak with classes and deliver a free public lecture.
Sponsored by the American Democracy Project (ADP), the Distinguished Lectures Committee and National Women’s History Month, Wilson’s upcoming talk titled "Diane versus Goliath: Taking on Politicians and Corporations to Protect Family and the Environment" will get under way at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, in the State Farm Lecture Hall of MTSU’s Business Aerospace Building, with a book signing to follow.
A native of Seadrift, Texas, Wilson is a fourth-generation shrimp-boat captain and mother of five who learned that she lived in the most polluted county in the U.S., and then decided to fight back by launching a campaign against a multibillion-dollar corporation that reportedly covered up spills, silenced workers and dumped lethal ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride into the bays along the Gulf Coast.
Cited as an epic tale of bravery, An Unreasonable Woman chronicles Wilson’s fight at the chemical plant’s doors and through the court system. Diligent in her efforts to stop the pollution and its cover-up, Wilson encountered scorn, bribery and death threats before realizing she had to break the law to achieve justice.
Wilson’s story of her battle to stop the industrial pollution and its resulting contamination to both water and people has been characterized by authors such as Jim Hightower and Rick Bass as “a mind-bending story of corporate intrigue, government shenanigans and all-around political dirty tricks” that also resonates as “one of this nation’s greatest works of nonfiction.”
Dr. Jim Williams, ADP coordinator and MTSU history professor, said he first heard Wilson speak in June 2006 in Philadelphia at an ADP annual meeting.
“She was introduced as a somewhat shy person who would need prompting to tell her story of being transformed from a working-class mother of five scraping out a living as a shrimper on the gulf coast of Texas to a political activist and environmental crusader,” he said. “Once she got rolling, however, I knew I was in the presence of a great storyteller in the tradition of common folk from the South.
“I was on the edge of my seat as she revealed each detail of her story, with all its triumphs and heartbreak,” Williams continued. “She reminds me of the late Molly Ivins and Ann Richards, both kick-butt-and-take-no-prisoners Texas women, too.”
Although her upcoming visits marks the first time she’s been to MTSU, it’s a stop Wilson said she’s looking forward to.
“I’ve briefly been through the state of Tennessee and was totally taken with its beauty,” she remarked. ”It was very lush when I visited, and all the trees were just starting to turn different colors. Also, the mountainous area where I visited was very different from the flat Gulf Coast.”
In addition to her March 12 public lecture, the activist/author—whose “South Texas dialogue resides somewhere between Alice Walker and William Faulkner”—will be available to speak to MTSU classes 2-4 p.m. March 12 and in the early morning or early afternoon on March 13, Williams said.
“I'm excited for Wilson to visit MTSU so that our students and faculty and the Middle Tennessee community can be inspired by her story and awed by her persistence in the face of huge political and economic forces that allied against her efforts to stop more pollution of the gulf shrimp areas,” he noted.
“She literally risked her life and family's livelihood for the greater good. She went from 'an ordinary mom' to a highly charged political activist, yet she retains her 'aw-shucks' attitude about it all.”
The discussion topics Wilson generally tackles, she said, include “a citizen's progression into civil disobedience, the differences in working
inside and outside the box, community involvement or lack of it, media indifference, forming allies with unexpected forces, the art of misbehaving, corporations' lack of accountability, and the status quo.”
Moreover, the award-winning writer’s talks innately include “more than the students will ever want to know about the psychology of shrimpers,” she added, wryly.
Following her March 12 public lecture, Wilson will be available to sign copies of An Unreasonable Woman, which became available in paperback in October. Copies of the title, $18 each, also will be available for purchase following the lecture, said Allison Lennox, author events coordinator for the Vermont-based Chelsea Green Publishers.
“In an election year, Wilson reminds us that citizens can and must do more than vote every two or four years,” Williams observed. “They need to engage in the daily workings of their communities if they really wish to keep American democracy vibrant and vital in our lives.
“That's the message we are trying to teach our students here so that after they graduate they will do into their communities as educated, engaged citizens."
As for Wilson, “I have been around the USA visiting college campuses and am always curious about campuses (that) take on issues,” she said. “Frankly, I’m probably more interested in the questions (students) might have (because) … that is the best part!”
MTSU faculty and staff interested in scheduling Wilson for a classroom visit during her campus stopover, or to learn more about her free and open March 12 presentation, please e-mail Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Wilson, read reviews or excerpts from her book or to order An Unreasonable Woman online, please access http://www.chelseagreen.com/2006/items/unreasonablewomanpa.
• ATTENTION, MEDIA—To request an advance interview or jpeg of Wilson for editorial use, please e-mail your inquiry to Lisa L. Rollins in the Office of News and Public Affairs at MTSU at email@example.com.