As announced on March 17, Sam Quinones’ book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” which features the city of Portsmouth, won the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction.
Long-time residents of Portsmouth will recognize the origins of the book’s title, Dreamland, as the pool that acted as the center of life in Portsmouth. The pool inspired Quinones as he thought of it as a symbol of the town’s economic prosperity. As factories closed and business failed, Dreamland too began to decline until it closed in the early 90s. In his book Quinones uses Dreamland’s rise and fall as an example of the all-American, middle-class community.
Part of Dreamland’s story centers around the Xalisco boys, a group of Mexican immigrants selling black tar heroine in the Unites States.
Unlike the standard drug cartel, the Xalisco boys dealt drugs like a small business, taking calls from buyers, making deliveries, and following up with customers about the quality of their runners’ service. Slowly they infiltrated small towns across the U.S., eventually setting up shop in Columbus, Ohio.
The other half of Dreamland describes how Portsmouth’s community came under siege, pills mills opening throughout the Scioto county area and the clinic’s doctors prescribing opiate-related drugs which they said were non-addictive.
Of course the doctor’s claims proved untrue, and prescription drug addiction quickly spread throughout the community. Once cash ran out, addicts found the black tar heroine, often from the Xalisco boys, cheaper and easier to obtain.
Now the last pill mill has closed its doors, and Portsmouth has begun its long road to recovery. Quinones describes the changes the town has made to its infrastructure and how it has invested in a quality counseling center for addicts. “Addicts need a promise of a future,” says Quinones. “It [Portsmouth] is not perfect. It has a long way to go… . [But] it ought to be a symbol for the country, some place people ought to take notice of. Other places aren’t nearly as far along in this [recovery].”
In addition to the National Book Critics Circles award for nonfiction, Dreamland has received several other honors and awards, including Amazon.com’s Best Books of the Year 2015, Entertainment Weekly’s 10 Best Books of 2015, the Boston Globe’s Best Books of 2015, and the Seattle Times’ Best Books of 2015. Dreamland is also a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize, the winner of which will be announced April 9 at their annual book festival.
Quinones will present Dreamland at Shawnee University at 7pm on April 21st in the Flohr Lecture Hall of the Clark Memorial Library. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury) comes out in paperback April 5th and is available wherever books are sold.