Out Here on Our Own


Out Here on Our Own

An Oral History of an American Boomtown

J.J. Anselmi
Photographs by Jordan Utley

192 pages
18 photographs


October 2022


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

October 2022


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

October 2022


$21.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

J.J. Anselmi’s Out Here on Our Own tells the story of Rock Springs, Wyoming, a mining boomtown with a history of brutal racial violence, widespread addiction, prostitution, and a staggeringly high per-capita suicide rate—yet a place that has proved remarkably resilient. Anselmi stitches together an array of original interviews with people who’ve seen those things firsthand, tracing the boom-bust trajectory of a town known for its corruption, vice, and violence. Amid such horrors as the massacre of Chinese miners in 1885 and the ongoing methamphetamine and opioid epidemics, the town has fought hard to keep its identity of rugged individualism intact.

In 2022 Rock Springs is slipping into yet another bust. Anselmi’s narrative offers searing personal accounts of a community in crisis, whose problems are fanned by severely limited mental health resources, dying industries, and Wyoming’s still-pervasive idea that people should deal with their troubles alone. In a community’s own words, Out Here on Our Own depicts a place that’s as tough and weathered as the sagebrush and sandstone surrounding it.

Author Bio

J.J. Anselmi is the author of Doomed to Fail: The Incredibly Loud History of Doom, Sludge, and Post-Metal and Heavy: A Memoir of Wyoming, BMX, Drugs, and Heavy Fucking Music. An active metal musician, he lives in Long Beach, California, with his family. Jordan Utley is a photographer and filmmaker based in Salt Lake City. His photography may be viewed at jordanutley.com.


"Journalist and musician Anselmi (Doomed to Fail) presents an evocative portrait of Rock Springs, Wyo., the 'wind-worn mining town' where he grew up. . . . By turns affectionate, mournful, embittered, and proud, this is an exceptional account of life in a boomtown."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“J.J. Anselmi gives the microphone to the people most affected by the extraction of oil and coal: those who live and work in boomtowns. Out Here on Our Own shimmers with the poetry, wit, and grit of the plain spoken. Like Studs Terkel before him, Anselmi compels his interview subjects—in this case the residents of Rock Springs, Wyoming—to tell it to us straight.”—Michael Patrick, author of The Good Hand: A Memoir of Work, Brotherhood, and Transformation in an American Boomtown

“About fallout as much as the possibility of redemption, sadness as much as badassery, hurt as much as resilience, Out Here on Our Own chimes with urgency.”—Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Flight of the Diamond Smugglers

“There’s a howling wind blowing through these pages and, too, the beating heart of a community that has suffered and celebrated, loved and lost together.”—Chelsea Biondolillo, author of The Skinned Bird

“In this exquisitely culled collection of oral histories—illustrated with Jordan Utley’s starkly powerful black-and-white photography—native son J.J. Anselmi captures the troubled yet compelling spirit of this hardscrabble place buffeted by cycles of economic boom and bust.”—Rone Tempest, journalist and author of The Last Western: The Unjustified Killing of Michael Rosa by Ed Cantrell

“A tender book about a tough place, Out Here on Our Own chronicles the brutality of Rock Springs, Wyoming’s industry of boom and bust. . . . Anselmi curates a chorus of voices otherwise forgotten, laying bare the bones of a place and people who have endured crushing hardship, relentless extremes, and physical and psychological suffering. This is a vital American history of debauchery and dwindling industry, loneliness and legacy, and how a culture of rugged individualism must turn to community in order to survive.”—Sarah Fawn Montgomery, author of Halfway from Home and Quite Mad

“There are few reading experiences as visceral as oral history—the primal sound of people talking. The story of how Rock Springs went wrong is the story of how America went wrong, and whether anyone can turn around the personal and environmental destruction wrought by unfettered capitalism. J.J. Anselmi’s oral history of his hometown doesn’t need to argue any case. It lets locals’ stories do that far more convincingly. Sometimes the best thing a writer can do is to set the stage and get out of peoples’ way.”—Aaron Gilbreath, essayist, music writer, author of The Heart of California: Exploring the San Joaquin Valley

Table of Contents

1. Stolen Land, upon Beds of Coal
2. Our Animosity
3. With Blackened Lungs
4. Where We’re From
5. Rocket City
6. At Least We Have Each Other
7. Rock Bottom
8. Home of 56 Nationalities
9. On Fractured Ground
10. Out Here on Our Own
11. Phantom Future
12. What We’ve Learned from the Sagebrush

Also of Interest