Praise for Loose of Earth:

“Kathleen Dorothy Blackburn rolls out of Texas like a tornado of rainbows. You think her voice is tender as a hymn, then she uses it to kick in your back door and steal your bourbon. The song she’s singing is as melancholy and rocking as your favorite Joe Ely record. It’s that good.”

—Luis Alberto Urrea

Loose of Earth is a profoundly soulful quest for sacred truth across a vast sea of loss. Kathleen Blackburn’s tender intelligence and rock-solid compassion are ballast through storms of illness, religion, family, girlhood, and the unthinking desecration of this earth, ultimately offering harbor on a new shore, where we arrive transformed.”

—Claire Vaye Watkins

“Fierce yet compassionate, poetic yet clearly spoken, Loose of Earth draws us into a world made strange by disease, fear, and faith. Riotous with magic and mayhem, a sublime juxtaposition between the ordinary and the surreal, Blackburn’s debut memoir evokes innocence, anger, honor, and redemption and speaks to the lengths one family will go to keep hold of its own, no matter the cost. Loose of Earth is a coming-of-age story that will lift your heart and sail it out on a sea of love, loss, and endurance.”

—Kim Barnes

Loose of Earth

Forthcoming from the University of Texas Press April 16, 2024

Kathleen Dorothy Blackburn was the oldest of five children, a 12-year-old from Lubbock, Texas, whose evangelical family eschewed publ­ic education for homeschooling and wove improbable scientific theories into literal interpretations of the bible. Then her father, a former air force pilot, was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at the age of thirty-eight, and, as Kathleen writes in this searing memoir, “it was like pouring gasoline on the Holy Spirit.” Stirred by her mother, the family committed to an extreme diet and sought deliverance from equally extreme sources: a traveling tent preacher, a Malaysian holy man, a local faith-healer who led services called “Miracles on 34th Street.” What they didn’t know at the time was that their lives were entangled with a larger, less visible environmental catastrophe. Fire-fighting foams containing carcinogenic compounds had contaminated the drinking water of every military site where her father worked. Commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” the presence of PFAS in West Texas besieged a landscape already burdened with vanishing water, taking up residence in wells and bloodstreams of people who lived there.

An arresting portrait of the pernicious creep of decline, and a powerful cry for environmental justice, Loose of Earth captures the desperate futility and unbending religious faith that devastated a family, leaving them waiting for a miracle that would never come.

Reviews for Loose of Earth:

“[A] blazing debut…[Blackburn’s] sentence-level excellence & gift for subtle characterization help this take flight. It’s a formidable portrait of the thin line between faith & delusion.”

Publisher’s Weekly

Loose of Earth is a poignant memoir—at once a family story and a bold exposé of the lasting effects of “forever chemicals.”

Forward Reviews

“In this gimlet-eyed debut…Blackburn surveys an oft-overlooked region of America: West Texas…[T]he book contains plenty of memorable, poignant scenes, including a moment when a dying grandmother sees “the Air Force insignia spread like wings above her.” A thoughtful coming-of-age memoir from an American hinterland.”

Kirkus Reviews