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Book Review :: Out Here on Our Own by J.J. Anselmi

Out Here on Our Own: An Oral History of an American Boomtown by J.J. Anselmi with photography by Jordan Utley published by Bison Books book cover image

Guest Post by Raymond Jenkins

The spirited voices of Rock Springs, Wyoming come to life in J.J. Anselmi’s retelling of an American boomtown’s prosperous but turbulent history. Out Here on Our Own: An Oral History of an American Boomtown captures the history of Rock Springs by chronicling the town’s boom and bust cycles through personal narratives from locals alongside his own personal account of the coal-mining town.

Shining a light on the amoral history of Rock Springs, Anselmi reflects on the way of life of the residents impacted by the oil drilling industry that seized their community. The toils from the laborious coal-mining operation are gathered candidly from the voices of residents who shared witness to the troubles that plagued the area, such as widespread alcoholism and a disturbing increase of mental and physical health illnesses.

Out Here on Our Own offers a candid view of Rock Springs through honest words from people who call the boomtown home and are accompanied by Jordan Utley’s fascinating photographs. Words capture the stark truth and pain of living in Rocksprings during booms and recessions. The photos provide a glimpse of their reality, showing the bleak lifestyle of Rock Springs without denying the sheer beauty of the region’s landscape. Although Anselmi admits after moving away, “I may never be a resident of the town again . . . ” the fascinating stories from the residents of Rock Springs show that the value of the town is not from the coal-mining industry, but rather the reverence that persists in the people who choose to stay and tell their stories.

Out Here on Our Own: An Oral History of an American Boomtown by J.J. Anselmi; Photographs by Jordan Utley. Bison Books, October 2022.

Reviewer bio: Raymond Jenkins is a student at Bridgewater State University, in the English MA program with a concentration in Creative Writing. Raymond is an emerging writer residing in the Boston area. He enjoys long hikes with friends, binge watching tv shows and drinking tea during sunset.