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THE POISONING OF AN AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL
(original HARDCOVER title: PARTS PER MILLION: The Poisoning of Beverly Hills High School)

     Not many people outside Los Angeles know that there are active oil wells and a power plant mere yards from the campus of the famous Beverly Hills High School. When Joy Horowitz attended the school in the 1970s, she didnít pay much mind to the oil derricks pumping up and down just past the athletic fields. The sprawling city of L.A. was built up over a rich and expansive oil field, containing more petroleum per acre of land than anywhere else in the world including Saudi Arabia, and for decades the school board and Beverly Hills residents considered an oil well on school property a boon for the royalty money it generated. No one imagined it would drag the tony community into an environmental toxicity scandal Ė until a staggering number of Beverly alumni and faculty fell terminally ill, and whistleblowers began suggesting that toxic chemicals from the sites were the cause of the alleged cancer cluster in the area.

Industrial pollution, historically a problem only in poor, marginalized communities, seems incompatible with daily life in one of the wealthiest towns in America. Yet in 2003, a landmark toxic tort suit was filed in Los Angeles, with over 1,000 plaintiffs claiming their illnesses could be traced to exposures from the oil and energy companies at the high school.. PARTS PER MILLION is the product of Joy Horowitzís four years researching and investigating the story. Horowitz goes behind the scenes to find out if the connection between the pollution and the cancers could, in fact, be real. What she discovered was bigger and uglier than a single court case could attest to.

A feat of reportage that makes lucid the tangled issues of public health, regulation, and the political power of industry, this book is astounding. Itís the story of a community divided between sick people who believe their cancers were avoidable, and skeptics who think the plaintiffs, with the sensational Erin Brockovich as their champion, are just looking for a payday in court. Itís about PTA mothers terrified and angry that theyíve exposed their children to hidden dangers, and a school board that could face bankruptcy should it be held liable for damages. And of course, itís about toxic environmental pollution, large-scale corporate arrogance, and the manipulation of science. But underneath it all (quite literally) itís about oil. As trial preparations continue, mired in courtroom bureaucracy, Horowitz questions whether this iconic community was blinded to real dangers by the prospect of economic gain, and could have been poisoning itself for decades. PARTS PER MILLION is a seminal book that zeroes in on the human story of a community divided, and presents in gripping detail the environmental, legal, and ethical issues that make this case so important. After all, if it can happen in Beverly Hills, it can happen anywhere.

Also available in hardcover as PARTS PER MILLION: THE POISONING OF AN AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL

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Tessie and Pearlie: A Granddaughter's Story

From Publishers Weekly
In this powerful memoir overflowing with warmth and humor, Horowitz, a freelance journalist, illuminates the lives of her two bubbes (Yiddish for "grandmothers"). Over the course of 18 months, she interviewed Pearlie, her mother's 93-year-old mother, in Santa Monica, Calif., and 94-year-old Tessie, her father's mother, in Queens, N.Y. Both women live alone and share an immigrant past and the physical impairments of old age; their personalities are very different. An orthodox Jew, Tessie boycotted Horowitz's wedding to a gentile, does not fear death, advocates a pragmatic approach to life and is a dynamite gin player. The more emotional Pearlie loves to dance, is still a great cook, wants to go on living and believes that religion is in the heart. Horowitz intersperses her grandmothers' accounts of their childhood poverty and reminiscences of love, sex and childbirth and her own struggle to come to terms with her dying father's lung cancer and her yearning for a spiritual comfort that she receives, in part, from talking to Tessie and Pearlie, "the smartest women I know."

From Booklist
Horowitz chronicles a dying breed. Through narratives, letters, photographs, and recipes, she looks at the lives of her two Jewish grandmothers, each 93 years old. Stereotypes are based on something, and Tessie and Pearlie are quintessential Jewish mothers, worried about their children, pushing food as cure-alls, looking for threats against family and religion under every bed. But that's not all these women are. They are also stoic, wise, able to roll with the punches, and most of all, still involved with life. In telling her grandmothers' stories, Horowitz, a magazine writer, documents an era in which women stifled their own ambitions for the good of their families, learned about menstruation, sex, and menopause from their own experiences, and tried to reconcile strict religious beliefs with living in a modern society. Sociology aside, however, the stars are definitely Tessie and Pearlie themselves. Adorable, annoying, their conversations peppered with witticisms and Yiddish phrases, these two may be convinced that death is final, but on these pages, they've attained a bit of immortality after all. Ilene Cooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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