Curious Iguana and New Spire Arts will present an evening of music, storytelling and readings with author Michael Patrick F. Smith on April 5.
The event will celebrate the paperback release of his book “The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown” (Penguin), as well as the streaming release of songs recorded for the book’s audio edition , his album “Dakota”.
Smith, a singer and playwright, grew up on a farm in Frederick County and graduated from Linganore High School in 1994. “The Good Hand” is about his time working on oil rigs in North Dakota during the oil boom by Bakken, but also weaves into his upbringing and includes a chapter about his high school drama teacher, Carl Freundel, who led him to a life in the arts.
His early memoirs tell the story of the working class, the “American Dream” and the dark side of American prosperity and shine a light on a culture of migrant workers in America, who go to oil boom towns in the goal of building a better life. and their families. It’s an intensely personal story that unfolds in a deep story that explores people’s lives in intimate ways while exposing the societal frameworks that put them in certain situations.
Like thousands of restless men left moorless in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Smith arrived in the fracking boom town of Williston, North Dakota five years later – homeless, in unemployed and desperately looking for a job. Renting a mattress on the dirty floor of a flophouse, he slept head to toe with migrant men from all over America and as far away as Jamaica, Africa and the Philippines. They ate together, drank together, argued like crows, and looked for jobs they couldn’t find at home.
Smith’s goal was to find the hardest job he could do – to find out if he could do it. He was hired in the oil field, where he worked hard for 14-hour shifts, from the scorching 100-degree summer days to the whiteouts of winter, while battling demons of a turbulent past, his broken relationships with women and the haunting memories of a family torn apart by violence.
“The Good Hand” is a saga of fear, danger, exhaustion, suffering, loneliness and courage that explores the struggles of marginalized American boomtown workers.
The memoir, first published in hardcover in February 2021, has received widespread acclaim. Kirkus says, “This is the book ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ should have been.” Publishers Weekly says Smith’s prose “shines as he recounts how his experience on the oil rig shaped his idea of what it means to live a meaningful life.”
Smith is currently based in central Kentucky. His plays, including “Woody Guthrie Dreams” and “Ain’t No Sin,” have been staged in Baltimore and New York.
At Frederick’s show, Smith will be joined by J. Tom Hnatow, who engineered and performed on the record.
The event runs from 7-9 p.m. on April 5 at the New Spire Arts Stages, 15 W. Patrick St., Frederick. Tickets are $10. Smith will be available to sign copies of his book.