My River Chronicles

Elegantly written, My River Chronicles brings the past of the Hudson River into the vivid present and carries forward the craft of literary non-fiction with grace and energy.
— Gay Talese,
author of A Writer’s Life

My River Chronicles Book Cover

Deeply original, riveting to read …a love letter to a nation
Trevor Corson,
author of The Secret Life of Lobsters

Rediscovering the Work that Built America

A celebration of labor from a woman who straddles blue-collar and white-collar worlds and turns a phrase as deftly as she does a wrench.

2010 ASJA Outstanding Book Award


When journalist Jessica DuLong ditched her dotcom desk job to ply the waters of the Hudson River as engineer of a rusty antique fireboat, she found a taste of home in a maritime community that was quickly disappearing.

My River Chronicles is a journey with an extraordinary guide. Once Jessica DuLong started toiling in the engine room of Fireboat John J. Harvey, she never looked back. The more time she spent with the boat’s finely crafted machinery, the more she wondered what America is losing in our shift away from hands-on work.

Her service pumping water to fight blazes at Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001 attacks reinforced in her mind the importance of blue-collar skills. Masterfully grounding her own experiences with narratives from the river’s rich history, she introduces us to 17th-century explorers, 19th-century canal builders, and a cast of present-day characters—including a salvage diver hunting sunken tugboats, a foundryman who casts iron in the old way, and a distiller who crafts bourbon from local corn—that reminds us how colorful and dynamic the Hudson continues to be.

Vivid and immediate, My River Chronicles is a journey with an extraordinary guide—a mechanic’s daughter and Stanford graduate who bridges blue-collar and white-collar worlds, turning a phrase as deftly as she does a wrench. As she searches for the meaning of work in America, DuLong shares her own experiences of learning to navigate a traditionally male world, masterfully interweaving unforgettable present-day characters and events with four centuries of Hudson River history.

A celebration of craftsmanship, My River Chronicles is a deeply personal story of a unique woman’s discovery of her own roots—and America’s—that raises important questions about our nation’s future.

American skills need to be cumulative. It’s not about going back to the old ways, it’s about making sure we’re integrating our high-tech capabilities with the principles of craftsmanship, hard work, and innovation that brought us where we are today.

— Jessica DuLong

2021 is John J. Harvey’s 90th Anniversary.

Launched in Brooklyn in 1931, she was the largest, fastest fire fighting machine of her time and innovations of her design influenced all subsequent fireboats. Click here to donate and learn more.


“In rich and captivating prose, Jessica DuLong kindly invites the rest of us on the journey of her lifetime…This is an unusual and fascinating book.”
Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and former EIC of Newsweek

“A finely written story about a lost American way of life“
Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic

“You can practically feel the throb of the diesels…My River Chronicles explores the dignity of work, offering an account of what made this country thrive, and might yet again“
Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

“In a world where we are growing increasingly disconnected from anything real, what a delight to enter the engine room with Jessica DuLong, a real person doing a real thing in a real place“
Douglas Rushkoff, author of Life Inc: How the world became a corporation and how to take it back

“DuLong’s soulful narrative will make you crave a journey on the river. The author’s vivid portrayals of her fireboat’s inner workings are rendered with such precise tenderness, that as reader I sat mesmerized by descriptions of motors and magnetism. [A] heartfelt ode to the increasingly lost art of expert craftsmanship and understanding the beauty of the mechanical world around us.“
Gwendolyn Bounds, author of Little Chapel on the River: A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most

“Jessica DuLong has captured the essential energy, grace, and beauty of the Hudson. …DuLong’s is a personal journey that resonates with all of us.”
Tom Lewis, author of The Hudson: A History

“[V]ery engaging and fresh narrative of her own life and river experiences. …DuLong is a good writer, a good researcher, a good observer, and a good engineer.”
Frances F. Dunwell, river conservationist and author of The Hudson: America’s River




“The engine room is, in DuLong’s opinion, a tribute to an era of craftsmanship that is very nearly extinct.“
Starred Review

Starred Review

“An unexpected portrayal of America in the decline of industry, delivered from the unique vantage point of the Hudson River…Powerful reading.”
New York Times Bookshelf – Paperback Review

New York Times Bookshelf – Paperback Review

“She delivers an engaging narrative of maritime history and her own hands-on perceptions“
Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review

“Smart, captivating prose … [Readers] will love this unusual mix of history, adventure, feminism and blue-collar know-how. Highly recommended.”


Reading Group Guide

Includes discussion questions suitable for reading groups and classrooms, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author.