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

Overview -

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


  • Retail Price: $28.99
  • $24.35
    (Save 16%)
Add to Cart
+ Add to Wishlist
In Stock.

FREE Shipping for Club Members
> Check In-Store Availability

In-Store pricing may vary

New & Used Marketplace 36 copies from $14.36

This item is available only to U.S. billing addresses.

More About Chesapeake Requiem by Earl Swift

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

"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 - "WONDERFUL, POETIC, STIRRING." -- Callum Roberts - "A MASTERFUL NARRATIVE." -- Christian Science Monitor

A Washington Post and an Indie bestseller - An Indie Next List selection - An Amazon and Christian Science Monitor "Best Book of the Month" - One of Esquire's "Best Nonfiction Books of 2018 (So Far)" and Outside's "Best New Adventure Books for Fall" - An NPR All Things Considered "Summer Reading List" 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.

  • ISBN-13: 9780062661395
  • ISBN-10: 0062661396
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books
  • Publish Date: August 2018
  • Page Count: 448
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

Related Categories

Books > History > United States - State & Local - Middle Atlantic (DC, DE, MD,
Books > Technology & Engineering > Fisheries & Aquaculture
Books > Nature > Ecosystems & Habitats - Coastal Regions & Shorelines

BookPage Reviews

An island teetering on the brink of destruction

Scientists are finding that climate change has many ramifications, including stronger storms, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels. It is this last factor that is directly impacting tiny Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia. Predicted to succumb to rising tides within 50 years, the island will likely become America’s first climate change victim, forcing its longtime residents to abandon their beloved home.

In Chesapeake Requiem, journalist Earl Swift recounts his experiences living on Tangier for a year, tracing its history, getting a firsthand look at the environmental impact on the island and discovering what makes the islanders tick. Tangier is just 1.3 square miles, and an area in the northernmost tip of the island has already largely disappeared. As Swift notes, “the lower Chesapeake’s relative sea level rise—the one-two punch of water coming up and land going down—is among the highest on earth.” As a result, “the island is slumping, actually subsiding into the earth’s crust.”

With a history that dates back to the 17th century, Tangier’s residents are a tight-knit community of hardworking, resilient individuals, most of them devout Christians. Their main source of income is crabbing, an expertise that has evolved over the past two centuries. So there is much at stake for them if the island disappears—not only their homes but their lifestyles and livelihoods, too.

Swift details both the joys and difficulties of life on Tangier, coming to the realization that its sinking situation makes it “an island both literal and metaphorical.” Tangier will ultimately become a model of how the U.S. handles rising sea levels for cities and communities up and down the Eastern Seaboard.


This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews