Anyone who wonders what happens to communities when a factory closes nowadays can look no further than Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein’s excellent look at several families whose lives were touched by the General Motors plant closing in 2008. Capturing both the financial strains and the emotional trauma, these laid off workers commute great distances to remaining operations or chase lower paying jobs, and often that’s after periods of no job at all. Compounding this is the emotional trauma of downsizing and the shame of getting help, whether from strangers or family. The story is enriched further by Goldstein’s profiles of the folks attempting to help the downsized. Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from Janesville is the lack of proven success and the numerous risks from job retraining, the one strategy for coping with blue collar job loss that has bipartisan support. A great match of public policy and personal stories, I highly recommend for your what-to-read-after-Evicted checklist.
— Daniel Goldin
"Moving and magnificently well-researched...Janesville joins a growing family of books about the evisceration of the working class in the United States. What sets it apart is the sophistication of its storytelling and analysis." --The New York Times A Washington Post reporter's intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors' assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin--Paul Ryan's hometown--and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class. This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its factory stills--but it's not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next, when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up. Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin where the nation's oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008. Now, with intelligence, sympathy, and insight into what connects and divides people in an era of economic upheaval, she makes one of America's biggest political issues human. Her reporting takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job re-trainers to show why it's so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a healthy, prosperous working class. For this is not just a Janesville story or a Midwestern story. It's an American story.