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Jon Mooallem / This Is Chance!: The Shaking of an All-American City, a Voice That Held It Together
March 30, 2020 @ 7:00 pm PDTFree
In 1964, Anchorage, Alaska, was a modern-day frontier town yearning to be a metropolis — the largest, proudest city in a state that was still brand-new. But just before sundown on Good Friday, the community was jolted by the most powerful earthquake in American history, a catastrophic 9.2 on the Richter Scale. For four and a half minutes, the ground lurched and rolled. Streets cracked open and swallowed buildings whole. And once the shaking stopped, night fell and Anchorage went dark. The city was in disarray and sealed off from the outside world.
Slowly, people switched on their transistor radios and heard a woman’s familiar voice explaining what had just happened and what to do next. Genie Chance was a part-time radio reporter and working mother who’d play an unlikely role in the wake of the disaster, helping to put her fractured community back together. Genie’s tireless broadcasts over the next three days would transform her into a legendary figure in Alaska and bring her fame worldwide — but only briefly, before her story faded away as quickly as it had surfaced after the quake. That Easter weekend in Anchorage, Genie and an entire cast of endearingly eccentric characters — from a mountaineering psychologist to the local community theater group staging Our Town — were thrown into a jumbled world they could not recognize. Together, they would make a home in it again.
Drawing on thousands of pages of unpublished documents, interviews with survivors, and original broadcast recordings, This Is Chance! is the hopeful, gorgeously told story of a single catastrophic weekend and proof of our collective strength in a turbulent world. There are moments when reality instantly changes — when the life we assume is stable gets upended by pure happenstance. This Is Chance! is an electrifying and lavishly empathetic portrayal of one community rising above the randomness, a real-life fable of human connection withstanding chaos.
“Jon Mooallem is one of the most intelligent, compassionate, and curious authors writing today. I would go on any adventure that his mind embarks upon, knowing that I was being led by the ablest of guides. In This is Chance!, he draws us into the depths of a disaster only to unearth an intimate, moving story about our capacity to care for one another when things fall apart — and, just maybe, on all the ordinary days, too.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
“This Is Chance is the riveting story of a town on the brink of its own existence, broken and held together by an unbelievable natural disaster. With grace and command, Jon Mooallem illuminates the near-divine existential interchange between wonder and horror, fate and self-determination. I teared up reading it, getting to know Genie Chance, a perfectly-named hero — grateful to brush up against the extraordinary and unforgotten.” – Jia Tolentino, bestselling author of Trick Mirror
“Jon Mooallem is one of the most delightful nonfiction writers working today. This is Chance! is funny, poignant and surprising: It takes an all-too-familiar story of a woman whose work is fundamental but long forgotten and turns it on its head. With his signature wit, depth, and gift for storytelling, Mooallem brings to life a strong, fascinating character who played a crucial role in the aftermath of a disaster — and whose story shows not just how deeply women’s voices matter, but how often they have been silenced by history.” — Rebecca Skloot, bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Jon Mooallem is a longtime writer at large for The New York Times Magazine and a contributor to numerous radio shows and other magazines, including This American Life and Wired. His first book, Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America was chosen as a notable book of the year by The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, NPR’s Science Friday, and Canada’s National Post, among others. He lives on Bainbridge Island, outside Seattle, with his family. Photo by Meghann Riepenhoff.
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