“Groundglass” is an “ill-defined small swell of cells,“ which points to Savage’s father’s cancer diagnosis and to the “mysterious” illnesses striking people in the industrial Midwest, where Savage grew up and still lives. In photography, however, it’s a device “useful for manual focusing,” a definition that applies to Savage’s restrained, haunting prose as she mourns her father and investigates the responsibility for his death. Suspecting it’s one more product of big business, Savage tours brownfields and Superfund sites—located mostly in communities of the Indigenous and people of color—showing us playgrounds built on toxic landfills, trucks and trains spilling heavy metal dust as they go, aquifers exhausted by fracking, and more. Tracing “our death cult of consumerism” back to the Europeans’ theft of native land, Savage examines her own complicity in the ongoing violence and gives voice to the testimony of activists as well as victims.
Groundglass, by Kathryn Savage