The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of Half the Sky now issue a plea, told through the lives of real Americans, to address the crisis in working-class America while focusing on solutions to mend a half-century of governmental failure.
Moving from the micro to the macro, [the authors] tell the stories of their Yamhill friends and others they’ve met across the country, sharing their photos as well as studies and figures that deepen readers’ understanding. While they cover policy failures of the last half-century, they also affirm that we’re no longer dealing in Republican or Democratic issues, but issues of Americans’ very survival. Highlighting successful small-scale programs like Tulsa’s rehabilitative Women in Recovery program, they emphasize that there are potentially nationwide solutions. Both researched and personal, this will be hard for readers to stop thinking about.
The authors’ affection for Yamhill is the heartbeat of the book ... Tightrope avoids a problem common among books about places authors have 'escaped.' Yamhill is not reflected through a rearview mirror, distorted by a removed author’s guilt, resentment or nostalgia. Rather, it is conveyed up close by way of detailed reporting on living people — intimate access achieved because the authors, while outliers with respect to their professional status and home on the opposite coast, are also of the place ... Together, their first-person 'we' has the refreshing effect of fogging the authorial 'I' and keeping the spotlight on those they’ve interviewed or memorialized ... These stories are so numerous that we rarely get to know one person deeply. But their number conveys the breadth of financial struggle, the exploration of which took the authors to all 50 states ... reads as lived understanding ... catches what many analyses miss about struggling communities across color lines: an undercurrent of self-hatred, in which people blame themselves for bad outcomes and are loath to ask for a 'handout' ... 'Tightrope'’s greatest strength is its exaltation of the common person’s voice, bearing expert witness to troubles that selfish power has wrought.
The stories they present are mostly depressing ones ... When they let themselves express the anger they feel over the failures of the government, their writing stands out ... The book ends, helpfully, with an appendix listing suggestions for how people can make a difference in their own communities ... Tightrope is a convincing argument that it's not too late to change the course of the nation ... It's difficult to read, and it was surely difficult to write, but it feels — now more than ever — deeply necessary.