By Jewel Lansing & Fred Leeson
Oregon State University Press, $24.95, 336 pages
Although not the most fluidly written account, Multnomah: The Tumultuous Story of Oregon’s Most Populous County is a comprehensive collection of facts and anecdotes tracing Multnomah County from its late 18th century beginnings to 2012. The book is written primarily by Jewel Lansing, a Portland politician and writer who served as Multnomah County auditor from 1975 to 1982 and as Portland auditor from 1983 to 1986. Lansing forged the way for women in politics in the greater Portland area as one of the first women elected to both Multnomah County government and to Portland government. After several attempts at an initial manuscript of Multnomah, Lansing was asked to work with Fred Leeson, a former Oregonian political writer, journalism professor and author. With his help, the two were able to craft Lansing’s knowledge into a noteworthy historical account.
“Since its inception, Multnomah County … has functioned as the heart of our humane society, helping the least among us. Will it continue as that ‘provider of last resort?'”
While the book’s gathered information is undoubtedly useful to those interested in a more in-depth look at the history of Portland’s tumultuous county, the stiffness of the prose and the tepid look at what otherwise might be dramatic moments in Multnomah County could make a smooth read difficult for even the most avid Portland historian.
Reviewed by Jennie A. Harrop