What happened when a poor African-American community went up against the biggest meatpacking company in the world?
We spend the hour with Corban Addison talking about his spell-binding legal thriller, WASTELANDS: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial.
Writers Voice— in depth conversation with writers of all genres, on the air since 2004.
Find us on Facebook at Writers Voice with Francesca Rheannon, on Instagram and Threads @WritersVoicePodcast or find us on X/Twitter @WritersVoice.
Read transcripts and subscribe at the Writer’s Voice Substack.
Key words: writer’s voice, podcast, book recommendations, author interview, book podcast, book show, book excerpt, creative nonfiction, Corban Addison, Smithfield Foods.
The Stench Permeates Everything
In eastern North Carolina’s hog country, pigs outnumber people 30 to 1. The stench of hog waste permeates everything. There’s no getting away from it, outside or inside the house.
It’s not just about the smell. Disease pathogens from waste lagoons pollute the air and water, making it unhealthy to breathe or wash, or drink from the faucet. People living near the hog farms are plagued with headaches, coughing and nausea.
It’s a classic case of environmental racism: The residential communities bordering the hog farms are largely poor and Black, Latino or Indigenous. Many were established long before hog-raising went industrial, cramming thousands of pigs into barns so tightly, they can’t even turn around.
The hog farmers themselves are little better than sharecroppers to Big Hog, in thrall to companies like Smithfield Foods that cut farmers profit margins to the bone. Workers in Smithfield plants, overwhelmingly workers of color, endure horrifically dangerous conditions.
A David and Goliath Story
Corban Addison’s powerful new book Wastelands — his first nonfiction book — is a David and Goliath story that pits some of the most powerless people in North Carolina against the state’s business and political establishment.
As vivid and fast-paced as a thriller, Wastelands takes us into the heart of a legal battle over the future of America’s farmland and into the lives of the people who found the courage to fight.
From the small group of intrepid neighbors to their legal allies, like Mona Lisa Wallace, who took on their case, Wastelands features a cast of characters as compelling as any in fiction — in fact, more compelling, because they are real people.
About The Author
Corban Addison is the best-selling author of four novels, including A Harvest of Thorns, which we spoke to him about in 2017.
Next Week on Writer’s Voice
We talk with Adam Goodheart about his book about the most elusive tribe on Earth. His book is The Last Island. Also, we learn all about the real Populists, not the fake ones like Donald Trump. We talk with Steve Babson about his book The Forgotten Populists: When Farmers Turned Left to Save Democracy. Don’t miss it!