Dispatches from the New American Shore

“Elegies like this one will play an important role as people continue to confront a transformed, perhaps unnatural world.” —NEW YORK TIMES
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Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction
Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award

Hailed as “deeply felt” (New York Times), “a revelation” (Pacific Standard), and “the book on climate change and sea levels that was missing” (Chicago Tribune), Rising is both a highly original work of lyric reportage and a haunting meditation on how to let go of the places we love.

With every passing day, and every record-breaking hurricane, it grows clearer that climate change is neither imagined nor distant—and that rising seas are transforming the coastline of the United States in irrevocable ways. In Rising, Elizabeth Rush guides readers through some of the places where this change has been most dramatic, from the Gulf Coast to Miami, and from New York City to the Bay Area. For many of the plants, animals, and humans in these places, the options are stark: retreat or perish in place.

Weaving firsthand testimonials from those facing this choice—a Staten Islander who lost her father during Sandy, the remaining holdouts of a Native American community on a drowning Isle de Jean Charles, a neighborhood in Pensacola settled by escaped slaves hundreds of years ago—with profiles of wildlife biologists, activists, and other members of these vulnerable communities, Rising privileges the voices of those too often kept at the margins.

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Elizabeth Rush

Elizabeth Rush is the author of The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth and Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Praise and Prizes

  • “Deeply felt … Rush captures nature with precise words that almost amount to poetry; the book is further enriched with illuminating detail from the lives of those people inhabiting today’s coasts… . Elegies like this one will play an important role as people continue to confront a transformed, perhaps unnatural world.”

    New York Times
  • “A rigorously reported story about American vulnerability to rising seas, particularly disenfranchised people with limited access to the tools of rebuilding.”

    Pulitzer Prize Jury Citation
    Jury members: Jane Mayer, Roxane Gay, Vijay Prashad, Vijay Seshardi
  • “Sea level rise is not some distant problem in a distant place. As Elizabeth Rush shows, it’s affecting real people right now. Rising is a compelling piece of reporting, by turns bleak and beautiful.”

    Elizabeth Kolbert
    author of The Sixth Extinction
  • Rising is a smart, lyrical testament to change and uncertainty. Elizabeth Rush listens to both the vulnerability and resiliency of communities facing the shifting shorelines of extreme weather. These are the stories we need to hear in order to survive and live more consciously with a sharp-edged determination to face our future with empathy and resolve. Rising illustrates how climate change is a relentless truth and how real people in real places know it by name, storm by flood by fire.”

    Terry Tempest Williams
    author of The Hour of Land
  • “The book on climate change and sea levels that was missing. Elizabeth Rush travels from vanishing shorelines in New England to hurting fishing communities to retracting islands and, with empathy and elegance, conveys what it means to lose a world in slow motion. Picture the working-class empathy of Studs Terkel paired with the heartbreak of a poet.”

    Chicago Tribune
    Best Ten Books of the Year
  • “A vivid and urgent piece of reportage about coastal change and denial.”

    Best Books of 2018
  • “A sobering, elegant look at rising waters, climate change, and how low-lying areas and the vulnerable people who live in those areas are at risk.”

    Roxane Gay
  • “With tasteful and dynamic didactic language, [Rush] informs the layperson about the imminent threat of climate change while grounding the massive scope of the problem on heartfelt human and interspecies connection.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Moving and urgent … Elizabeth Rush’s Rising: Dispatches From the New American Shore is a revelation… . The project of Rising, like the project of Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, is to draw attention to ongoing material crisis through the stories of the people who are surviving within it. Rising is a clarion call. The idea isn’t merely that climate change is here and scary. There’s a more important message: There are people out here who need help.”

    Pacific Standard
  • “Timely and urgent, this report on how climate change is affecting American shorelines provides critical evidence of the devastating changes already faced by some coastal dwellers. Elizabeth Rush masterfully presents firsthand accounts of these changes… In the midst of a highly politicized debate on climate change and how to deal with its far-reaching effects, this book deserves to be read by all.”

    Publishers Weekly
    *starred review*
  • “Elizabeth Rush traffics only sparingly in doomsday statistics. For Rush, the devastating impact of rising sea levels, especially on vulnerable communities, is more compellingly found in the details. From Louisiana to Staten Island to the Bay Area, Rush’s lyrical, deeply reported essays challenge us to accept the uncertainty of our present climate and to consider more just ways of dealing with the immense challenges ahead.”

    The Nation
  • “In this moving and memorable book, the voice of the author mingles with the voices of people in coastal communities all over the country—Maine, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Florida, New York, California—to offer testimony: The water is rising. Some have already lost their homes; some will soon; others are studying or watching or grieving. Though they haven’t met each other, their commonality forms a circle into which we are inexorably pulled by Elizabeth Rush’s powerful words.”

    Anne Fadiman
    author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
  • “[A book] that will stay long with me… . Elizabeth Rush’s innovative, brave Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore is about the changing coastlines of America in a time of climate breakdown, and part of a growing wave of what might be called Anthropocene nonfiction, seeking to find a form for the challenges of our epoch.”

    Robert Macfarlane
    The Big Issue
  • “This is narrative nonfiction at its best. Rush not only explains the science of sea level rise and the ways in which coastlines can be made more resistant to climate change. She also connects personally with people in flood zones, many of them economically or racially marginalized… . She also exposes the problems inherent in regulatory programs like the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), that ‘require [those with insurance] to rebuild in place, even when that place has been underwater repeatedly in the past.’”

    Literary Hub
  • “[Rush’s] work does something that other superb science writing on climate change does not: It brings a poetic feeling and personal narrative to the subject. Her warm and informed presence is felt throughout Rising — a reminder that now more than ever we need the storytelling skills of nature writers to engage people and change policies given these pressing environmental times.”

    Kathryn Aalto
    BuzzFeed, “11 Women Who Have Changed the Way We See the Natural World”
  • “The personal stories are compelling, the prose is exquisite… . If you read only one nonfiction book this year, make this The One: I guarantee you’ll never see the world the same way again.”

    Ten of the Best Books About Climate Change, Conservation and the Environment
  • “The strength of [Rising] lies not only in the pulse and momentum of her prose but in the relationships she built while writing it: relationships with scientists and with the many people whose homes are already underwater. Rush is an unusually courageous individual, and the book reverberates with heart. It helps us both to grapple with the mourning we must do as the holocene crumbles around us, and to do the radical work of imagining a way forward.”

    Michigan Quarterly Review