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Event Details

Michael Patrick F. Smith: The Good Hand (In Conversation with Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson)

The Ivy is thrilled to welcome Michael Patrick F. Smith for a reading and conversation about his new book The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown. Michael will be in conversation with Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, writer for The New YorkerThe New York TimesThe Southern Review, and McSweeney’s, among many others.

This event will be held in-person, on The Ivy's back patio.

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Like thousands of restless men left unmoored in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Michael Patrick Smith arrived in the fracking boomtown of Williston, North Dakota five years later homeless, unemployed, and desperate for a job. Renting a mattress on a dirty flophouse floor, he slept boot to beard with migrant men who came from all across America and as far away as Jamaica, Africa and the Philippines. They ate together, drank together, argued like crows and searched for jobs they couldn't get back home. Smith's goal was to find the hardest work he could do--to find out if he could do it. He hired on in the oil patch where he toiled fourteen hour shifts from summer's 100 degree dog days to deep into winter's bracing whiteouts, all the while wrestling with the demons of a turbulent past, his broken relationships with women, and the haunted memories of a family riven by violence.

The Good Hand is a saga of fear, danger, exhaustion, suffering, loneliness, and grit that explores the struggles of America's marginalized boomtown workers—the rough-hewn, castoff, seemingly disposable men who do an indispensable job that few would exalt: oil field hands who, in the age of climate change, put the gas in our tanks and the food in our homes. Smith, who had pursued theater and played guitar in New York, observes this world with a critical eye; yet he comes to love his coworkers, forming close bonds with Huck, a goofy giant of a young man whose lead foot and quick fists get him into trouble with the law, and The Wildebeest, a foul-mouthed, dip-spitting truck driver who torments him but also trains him up, and helps Smith "make a hand."

The Good Hand is ultimately a book about transformation--a classic American story of one man's attempt to burn himself clean through hard work, to reconcile himself to himself, to find community, and to become whole.

Michael Patrick F. Smith is a musician, playwright and author of The Good Hand (A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown),  a memoir about working the rigs during North Dakota's Bakken oil boom, currently out on Viking Press. As a musician, Smith has shared the stage with folk luminaries such as Ramblin' Jack Elliott. He has released one full album, The Great Away, as well as several EPs, including songs recorded specifically for the audiobook version of his memoir. Several plays he has written, including Woody Guthrie Dreams and Ain’t No Sin, have been staged in Baltimore and New York. Smith has worked as an actor, a bartender, junk hauler, furniture mover, book store clerk, contractor, guitar player, driver, stagehand, set carpenter, oil field hand, and now a writer.

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson’s articles, essays, and fiction have been published in The New Yorker.comThe New York TimesThe Southern Review, and McSweeney’s, among many others. She regularly contributes cover stories to The Washington Post Magazine, including the true crime saga of a pair of stolen ruby slippers from the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” and, closer to home, the quest by a local film crew to find an infamous 1920s rocket built for a journey to Venus. Elizabeth’s work has been recognized by Best American Essays, and supported with the Baker Artist Award, a Ruby’s artist grant, a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellowship.






Event Details

Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 7:00pm


The Ivy Bookshop
5928 Falls Rd
Baltimore, MD 21209

by Dr. Radut