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.
...[a] moving and magnificently well-researched ethnography of a small Wisconsin factory city on economic life support ... [Goldstein] opts for complexity over facile explanations and easy polemics. (Neither Obama nor Ryan comes off looking particularly good; and no, she does not conclude that these layoffs put Donald J. Trump in the White House) ... 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 characters are especially memorable. This may be the first time since I began this job that I’ve wanted to send notes of admiration to three people in a work of nonfiction ... Janesville is eye-opening, important, a diligent work of reportage. I am sure Paul Ryan will read it. I wonder what he will say.
[Goldstein] offers us a poignant, fugue-like account of the gradual absorption of this shock ... Goldstein gives the reader a gripping account of the GM layoff, the real loss it caused and the victims’ heroic resilience in adapting to that loss. By the end of this moving book, I wanted her to write a sequel on what might have been done to prevent the damage in the first place ... The subtitle of this important and rarely told tale reads: 'an American story.' And so it is: Between 2004 and 2009, more than 7 million workers were hurt in 40,000 mass layoffs.
She deftly introduces and follows a cross-section of affected autoworkers and their families, community members and leaders through the years, writing in present tense to heighten the immediacy of their challenges and responses ... Like Matthew Desmond's Evicted, Goldstein's Janesville offers many reminders that many working Americans are only one or two bad breaks and decisions away from disaster.