An American Story

Book - 2017
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A Washington Post reporter's intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, Paul Ryan'shometown, and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2017.
ISBN: 9781501102233
Characteristics: xiii, 351 pages : 24 cm.
Summary: A Washington Post reporter's intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, Paul Ryan'shometown, and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class.


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Apr 21, 2019


A storybook American factory town suddenly loses its factory— the lifeblood and livelihood of the community. Janesville, Wisconsin is a quintessential American industrial city with a proud 90+ year history as an auto manufacturing center. The city of 63,000 had a renowned auto plant, an enviously capable workforce, a thriving middle class, and a well-earned sense of community pride.

Then in 2008, a confluence of shifting economic tides led General Motors to shutdown the massive Janesville auto plant. In an instant, the future of the city’s economy— and thousands of families whose livelihoods depended on the plant— were thrown into turmoil.

It’s one thing to say that people can retrain for new jobs, or relocate to a new place. But in practice, it’s never that easy. This astonishing book masterfully depicts the lived experiences of Janesville families as they navigate through a sea change in their lives. Through their stories, Washington Post journalist and author Amy Goldstein assembles a nuanced tale of American ingenuity, loss, grit, and reinvention.


Dec 29, 2018

On Barack Obama's Top Books of 2017

Sep 07, 2018

Outstanding book, well researched, well written. The wealthy come across as clueless and self-interested but I suppose they can't help being the way they are. My heart goes out to those families who had the rug of their reality ripped out from under them. Kudos to the young people who have become stronger from watching the struggles of their community and families. I read this book the same week I read "Evicted", another wrenching story of poverty in America. I'm so sorry for the inequity that exists in the world. Thank you, Ms. Goldstein, for showing me a side of life in America that I would never have seen, living on the west coast in a tech bubble town.

May 26, 2018

With great freedom comes great responsibility for ourselves. Janesville describes the proud and hard working people of the Wisconsin town by the same name as they deal with dramatic changes that impact their ability to take care of themselves and their families - the biggest change being the closing of a GM plant where several generations worked. The author does a excellent job of letting the people tell their stories. I was struck by the twin themes of resilience and community. Worthwhile read.

ArapahoeHollyR Sep 25, 2017

What happens when a town loses its primary employer? Goldstein's book is a careful, often difficult portrait of a town stripped of its economic base. A challenging look at the devastating reality of the unemployed working class.

ArapahoeKati Jul 24, 2017

An insightful look into what impact big corporations and a recession can have on small town middle America. Recommend!

Jun 26, 2017

The book could have used a little more insight into the role of dark money in Wisconsin politics and of greedy money in the demise of old-line manufacturing, but it is thoughtful look at what it is like to be kicked out of the manufacturing middle class.

Apr 20, 2017

Major apologies, was I ever wrong on my guess about this book - - after 30 years as a staff writer at the Washington Post and this is the best she can do?!?!?
What in bloody creation was she doing the past thirty years? Certainly not improving her abysmal lack of reporting skills? Yes, being laid off and without money is rough, but if that's ALL she can write about . . .
OK, she did include the fact that retraining was a waste of time - - but it wasn't COUNTERINTUITIVE, as this author claims, but apparently it was to her since she evidently hasn't read any studies on this subject covering the last thirty years!!!!!
My god, what a complete waste of time this book was. Zero content.
Word up and FYI, Amy Goldstein, the Fake News non-reporter --- retraining in a jobs-offshoring economy, where in-country workers can easily be replaced by foreign visa [scab] replacement workers is useless! Can you dig it?????
There is ABSOLUTELY NO COMPARISON between the book, Glass House, by Brian Alexander, an outstanding book and achievement, and this godawful pile of wasted paper by Amy Goldstein, staff writer for thirty years on the Washington Post - - all hail Fake News! ! ! [Some day you should go back and review all the fake news they published surrounding the assassinations of President Kennedy, Rev. King and Bobby Kennedy - - wonder if Goldstein's byline appeared on any of those // stories \\????]
Goldstein ends the book with a false narrative: that the 2016 presidential election was one of the most astonishing upsets in U.S. history when Trump defeated Clinton. Negative - - the American electorate was presented with the two worst imaginable candidates: the crooked billionaire versus the crooked rich woman stooge who represents the crooked billionaires of Wall Street - - major choice!
Clearly, the consistently accurate polls showed that in a Trump v. Sanders match, Bernie wins; in a Trump v. Clinton match, Trump wins: i.e., the candidate espousing the most populist memes was the winner! (Although obviously a rightwinger cannot be a true populist, but then a real progressive and real union member should have realized the folly, long ago, of supporting a democratic party which sells them out at every opportunity!

Apr 20, 2017

"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.

Readers will finish "Janesville" with an extremely sobering takeaway: There's scant evidence that job retraining, possibly the sole item on the menu of policy options upon which Democrats and Republicans can agree, is at all effective.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of "Janesville" is its simple chronological structure, which allows Goldstein to show the chain reaction that something so calamitous as a plant closing can effect.

It's not without shortcomings. It can be overwhelming at first, with many characters raining down on the reader at once -- it's a bit like getting caught in a hailstorm of pick-up-sticks.

-- from the New York Times review by Jennifer Senior


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