Inventing Niagara by Ginger Strand
Beauty, Power, and Lies

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 5 Critic Reviews



Americans call Niagara Falls a natural wonder, but the Falls aren't very natural anymore. In fact, they are a study in artifice. Water diverted, riverbed reshaped, brink stabilized and landscape redesigned, the Falls are more a monument to man's meddling than to nature's strength. Held up as an example of something real, they are hemmed in with fakery -- waxworks, haunted houses, IMAX films and ersatz Indian tales. A symbol of American manifest destiny, they are shared politely with Canada. Emblem of nature's power, they are completely human-controlled. Archetype of natural beauty, they belie an ugly environmental legacy still bubbling up from below. On every level, Niagara Falls is a monument to how America falsifies nature, reshaping its contours and redirecting its force while claiming to submit to its will.

Combining history, reportage and personal narrative, Inventing Niagara traces Niagara's journey from sublime icon to engineering marvel to camp spectacle. Along the way, Ginger Strand uncovers the hidden history of America's waterfall: the Mohawk chief who wrested the Falls from his adopted tribe, the revered town father who secretly assisted slave catchers, the wartime workers who unknowingly helped build the Bomb and the building contractor who bought and sold a pharaoh. With an uncanny ability to zero in on the buried truth, Strand introduces us to underwater dams, freaks of nature, mythical maidens and 280,000 radioactive mice buried at Niagara.

From LaSalle to Lincoln to Los Alamos, Mohawks to Marilyn, Niagara's story is America's story, a tale of dreams founded on the mastery of nature. At a time of increasing environmental crisis, Inventing Niagara shows us how understanding the cultural history of nature might help us rethink our place in it today.

About Ginger Strand

See more books from this Author
Ginger Strand was raised in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Her fiction and essays have appeared in many places, including The Believer, The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review, and The Carolina Quarterly. She has been awarded fiction residencies by Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Sewanee Writers' Conference. She lives in New York City.
Published May 6, 2008 by Simon & Schuster. 352 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Travel, Professional & Technical, Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Inventing Niagara

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

A dive into the untold history of Niagara Falls.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Po...

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

With wit and passion, Strand (Flight: A Novel ) explores the history of Niagara Falls and shows that the famous natural wonder is in reality a prime example of ma

Mar 03 2008 | Read Full Review of Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Po...

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

A history of Niagara Falls, from adoration to exploitation and pollution.

Jun 01 2008 | Read Full Review of Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Po...

Deseret News

In a nutshell: Although most people think of Niagara Falls as the "eighth natural wonder of the world," Ginger Strand argues that the falls are not so natural any more.

May 25 2008 | Read Full Review of Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Po...


Through it all, she illustrates the various ways in which the image of Niagara Falls as a wild, natural Eden has been perpetuated—even as it was being harnessed, groomed, and tamed to generate money right from the first appearance of white men, who really began arriving in droves with the complet...

May 08 2008 | Read Full Review of Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Po...

Reader Rating for Inventing Niagara

An aggregated and normalized score based on 26 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review