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Coming Alive

9781888160505, 60 pgs
A Standing By Words Essay
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In Coming Alive Taylor Brorby overcomes his trepidations and embraces the most powerful action of all—standing by his words. He commits to what he values most—family, home, the arts, the earth—and becomes a role-model for how we can all learn to take a stand.

With an introduction by Bill McKibben, an afterword by Kathleen Dean Moore, and photography by Paul Anderson, Coming Alive is an intimate account of place and community: flares in North Dakota, pipeline protests, and the value of local action. Coming Alive explores the wisdom in the phrase: A thousand mile journey starts with the first step. Taylor Brorby reveals a way to hope during uncertain times.

Honorable Praises for Coming Alive

“Environmental writing is often beautiful and moral, but rarely is it as honest as this. Kentucky farmers have Wendell Berry; North Dakota roustabouts have Taylor Brorby.” —Jeffrey Lockwood, author of Behind the Carbon Curtain: The Energy Industry, Political Censorship and Free Speech

“Taylor Brorby has been as tireless as anyone I know in his fight to protect the planet in general, and his beloved high plains of North Dakota in particular. This account of his visits to the Bakken oil fields and to Standing Rock, his acts of resistance and subsequent arrest, is a powerful call to action, a primal scream of anguish and love for the original mother we must now link arms to protect.”—Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

“Taylor Brorby’s love for his North Dakota homeland resonates in this report from the field of the Standing Rock resistance to the DAPL. As a native son of the land, he speaks with the authority of the heart about protecting the land, the water and the very notion of a sustainable future. He is an important voice in the rising of a new generation dedicated to justice and sustainability.”—Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Stairway to Heaven

“Civil disobedience is both an effective tool of social change and, in its demand that we screw our courage to the sticking point, an act of personal transformation. The oil fields of North Dakota are Taylor Brorby’s sticking point. They are also his childhood home. Here are flare stacks and handcuffs. Bodies and pipelines. Prairie horizons and the jail house drain hole for urination. Here is a voice and a story we need to hear right now.”—Sandra Steingraber, biologist and author,     Living Downstream

“A well-told story of courageous resistance from the front-lines of the oil wars and the struggle for long-denied justice on the Northern Plains.”—David Orr, author of Earth in Mind

“In taking a stand on behalf of his home ground, the North Dakota badlands, Taylor Brorby grapples with what it means to become an activist. But without planning to, he’s also becoming a leader in our fight for a sane and moral relationship with our planet.  Stories and solidarity are his weapons.  He is a model for us all.”—Stephen Trimble, author of Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America

“As an activist, essayist, and visionary, Taylor Brorby does his place—the great rolling grasslands of North Dakota—proud, as he does his people. And by his people, I mean all of us. I mean it’s time to get to work, time, as Brorby writes, to ‘come alive.’” Joe Wilkins, author of The Mountain and the Fathers and When We Were Birds

“Coming Alive is a moving testimonial to how the industrial invasion of our home landscape can energize a positive ethical and aesthetic response. As he engages in peaceful civil disobedience to protest the environmental and cultural devastation wrought by the Dakota Access Pipeline, Taylor Brorby models the tenacious yet open-hearted resistance that our shared future will require. His thoughtful, personal story of how fracking has devastated his North Dakota homeland is a
powerful form of witnessing that we need now more than ever.”—Michael P. Branch, author of Raising Wild and Rants from the Hill

“Taylor Brorby’s unfiltered meditations about his arrest over the North Dakota Access pipeline lay bare very personal tensions around origins, generations and personal integrity. These play out externally as environmental and social concerns, yet illustrate to the fortunate eavesdropping reader the strength and principle it takes to give in to the demand for an artist to become an activist while learning give up anger—inspired by a “child.” Powerful and moving, his thoughts and internal reconciliations are sobering and moving.”—Ricardo J. Salvador, Director and Senior Scientist, Food & Environment Program, Union of Concerned   Scientists

“Taylor Brorby thought he could escape the Bakken oil boom in his native North Dakota by going away to graduate school in Iowa, but there’s no escaping America’s hunger for extraction or the pipelines criss-crossing the country. So when the Dakota Access Pipeline began construction across Iowa, a literal link back to the Bakken, Brorby went from writer and self-professed homebody to activist—a role and a label he had long resisted. In Coming Alive, he reclaims the word for us all, restoring it to its original meaning: to act, to do—and to do our damnedest to save what’s left of our threatened world, one small piece at a time. His vision is broad enough to see the big picture but wise enough to know that lasting battles are only won when we are called to defend the places we live in and love. May Brorby’s words inspire each of us ‘to do our best work in and for that place.’”—Ted Genoways, author of The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food

“Weaving the history of family and prairie, sage grouse and clear water, fury and love, Taylor Brorby’s concise manifesto urges us to rededicate ourselves to this insightful truth: when we become thoughtful about emotional lives—our own and others’—we unleash a new and increasingly necessary power.”—Barbara Hurd, author of Listening to the Savage: River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies

“Taylor Brorby returns to his native North Dakota to protest the very thing that has in the past sustained him—Big Oil. This first hand account of Standing Rock and fracking takes the reader on a journey across the plains and their environmental devastation. Brorby goes beyond the news clips and sound bites to show us the human story of a young activist caught up in the calamity of a place he calls home. Photos by prize-winning photographer Paul Anderson create the perfect accompaniment to Brorby’s stellar prose.”—Mary Swander, author of Farmscape: The Changing Rural Environment

“In Coming Alive Taylor Brorby documents the specifics of his participation in the Standing Rock pipeline protests in his homeland, North Dakota. For me personally, Taylor embodies the chemical reaction caused when attention combines with place and future and results in action, giving off great quantities of both heat and light. What happened to Taylor Brorby can happen to any of us and the planet will thank us for following his lead.”—Brooke Williams, author of Open Midnight

Taylor Brorby is an award-winning essayist, and a poet. A fellow at the Black Earth Institute, Taylor’s work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including Orion, High Country News, The Huffington Post,, and has received numerous recognitions through grants and artist residencies. Taylor travels around the country regularly to speak about hydraulic fracking, is a co-editor of the country’s first anthology of creative writing about fracking, Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America, and is Reviews Editor at Orion Magazine. His poetry collection, Crude, is coming out in the spring of 2017.

Paul Anderson is an environmental, documentary, landscape and editorial photographer from Northwest Washington. His photos have been published around the world. Clients include National Geographic, the New York Times, USA Today, The Nation, The Economist, Sierra Club and many more. He has been an avid photographer, climber, hiker, rugby player, sailor, kayaker for much of his life. Born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, he now lives in Bellingham, Washington, close to the Salish Sea, North Cascades, and the San Juan Archipelago. FMI: check out his website