Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Farah Stockman gives an up-close look at the profound role work plays in our sense of identity and belonging, as she follows three workers whose lives unravel when the factory they have dedicated so much to closes down.
... a gripping portrait of the human costs incurred when industries decline. [Stockman's] book is a stark warning to towns and countries facing similar trends, and a lesson in how much economists can miss ... These back stories are related with abundant dialogue — as if Stockman had been present. This bold step blurs the line between recounted history and firsthand reporting. Some may see this as a liability, but the result is a book with a unified tone, one that places the reader in the homes of the workers as they struggle to survive ... Workplace bonds run deep in manufacturing, and Stockman’s interviews capture this brilliantly ... At times, her book delves too deeply into the extended families of its central characters — lore relating to grandmothers and cousins slows the pace. This comes at the expense of developments at the factory, of which we get just a few glimpses ... Stories like this show that journalists have a vital role to play in helping us understand the complex economic forces that shape our societies. Rooting out the hidden networks and social capital that support our global economy is painstaking work. Stockman’s reporting reveals a fatal flaw in economics: Adjustment costs are not bumps in the road; they define lives. The task of 21st-century capitalism is to find a model that combines growth and innovation with ways to protect people from the painful shifts these forces so often bring. American Made is a reminder that this search continues.
Stockman not only tells [her subjects'] stories, from childhood to how they ended up at Rexnord to the years after the closure, but she becomes close enough to all three to get them to open up about their dreams, fears, disappointments and secrets. Their candor in the midst of upheaval and pain allows Stockman, and the reader, to see the world 'through the steelworkers' eyes ... its themes are far broader than one plant's closing, ranging from the union movement to the manufacturing economy to trade deals and globalization ... Stockman's insights into race, class and education include acknowledging her own privilege ... I won't reveal what happened to John, Wally and Shannon — you need to read this book to follow their journey. Suffice it to say you will find yourself anxiously hoping they land in a better place.
This richly detailed account focuses on just one factory in one city, but it still manages to capture the human impacts of outsourcing, automation, and the decline of factory trades ... A well-crafted nonpartisan study of the American working class that is a desirable addition to any nonfiction collection and will find a wide audience.