|Downeast Lobster fishermen|
Gerry Boyle kindly included a review of my new book, How to Catch a Lobster in Down East Maine
, in the summer edition of Colby Magazine. Below is a reprint of the review!
The Life of the Maine Lobster Fisherman
A firsthand account by Christina Lemieux Oragano ’99
How did a London advertising strategist come to write a book about
lobstering in Down East, Maine? In Christina Lemieux Oragano’s case,
it’s in her blood.
Oragano ’99 grew up in Cutler, Maine, a tiny town and harbor just
west of Eastport. Her father is a lobsterman, as was his father. Oragano
was her dad’s sternman when she was younger, working 12-hour days,
filling bait bags, banding lobsters, cleaning the decks of the the
family’s boat, Christina Marie. After graduation the Colby English major
moved to San Francisco to begin her advertising career, later settling
and marrying in London.
But even in London, Oragano wouldn’t—or couldn’t—shed her lobstering
lineage. “I’m the granddaughter, daughter, and sister of lobster
fishermen,” she said. “It’s part of my DNA.”
Her blog about lobstering was noticed by a book publisher, and her
first book is a comprehensive, authentic, and honest insider’s look at
the life of a Maine lobsterman.
There are autobiographical elements—a determined 10-year-old Oragano
declaring she’d wanted to be a sternman like her older brother, painting
pot buoys and hanging them on a clothesline to dry, even the
happenstance meeting that jumpstarted her advertising career. (A yacht
limped into Cutler Harbor and Oragano’s father, after fixing the ailing
engine, mentioned that his just-out-of-Colby and hard-working daughter
was in San Francisco looking for an advertising job. She had one with
the man’s advertising firm within a week.)
But this is more comprehensive primer than memoir. Oragano backs up
her firsthand experience with research, including perusing of the
records kept by state marine-resources officials and a survey she sent
to 200 lobster fishermen. “I wanted the fishermen to be as involved as
they wanted to be,” she said. “I wanted them to help me tell the story.”
The book covers the strategy involved (they don’t just plunk those
traps anywhere), the complexities of the market, the perils of the
profession, the finer points of lobster-boat design, and even the
unwritten rules that lobstermen use to police their waters (they are
strictly, if unofficially, enforced).
Oragano doesn’t overly romanticize the lobstering life, but she does
acknowledge that her survey showed that the vast majority of Maine
lobstermen love their jobs—despite long hours, rugged weather, no small
danger, and financial uncertainty. “These men aren’t just the masters of
their ships;” Oragano writes, “they are the captains of their souls.”
Her book tells us how and why.