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American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears

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What happens when Americans lose their jobs? In this illuminating story of ruin and reinvention, 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. Shannon, Wally, and John What happens when Americans lose their jobs? In this illuminating story of ruin and reinvention, 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. Shannon, Wally, and John built their lives around their place of work. Shannon, a white single mother, became the first woman to run the dangerous furnaces at the Rexnord manufacturing plant in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was proud of producing one of the world’s top brands of steel bearings. Wally, a black man known for his initiative and kindness, was promoted to chairman of efficiency, one of the most coveted posts on the factory floor, and dreamed of starting his own barbecue business one day. John, a white machine operator, came from a multigenerational union family and clashed with a work environment that was increasingly hostile to organized labor. The Rexnord factory had served as one of the economic engines for the surrounding community. When it closed, hundreds of people lost their jobs. What had life been like for Shannon, Wally, and John, before the plant shut down? And what became of them after the jobs moved to Mexico and Texas? American Made is the story of a community struggling to reinvent itself. It is also a story about race, class, and American values, and how jobs serve as a bedrock of people’s lives and drive powerful social justice movements. This revealing book shines a light on this political moment, when joblessness and uncertainty about the future of work have made themselves heard at a national level. Most of all, it is a story about people: who we consider to be one of us and how the dignity of work lies at the heart of who we are.


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What happens when Americans lose their jobs? In this illuminating story of ruin and reinvention, 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. Shannon, Wally, and John What happens when Americans lose their jobs? In this illuminating story of ruin and reinvention, 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. Shannon, Wally, and John built their lives around their place of work. Shannon, a white single mother, became the first woman to run the dangerous furnaces at the Rexnord manufacturing plant in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was proud of producing one of the world’s top brands of steel bearings. Wally, a black man known for his initiative and kindness, was promoted to chairman of efficiency, one of the most coveted posts on the factory floor, and dreamed of starting his own barbecue business one day. John, a white machine operator, came from a multigenerational union family and clashed with a work environment that was increasingly hostile to organized labor. The Rexnord factory had served as one of the economic engines for the surrounding community. When it closed, hundreds of people lost their jobs. What had life been like for Shannon, Wally, and John, before the plant shut down? And what became of them after the jobs moved to Mexico and Texas? American Made is the story of a community struggling to reinvent itself. It is also a story about race, class, and American values, and how jobs serve as a bedrock of people’s lives and drive powerful social justice movements. This revealing book shines a light on this political moment, when joblessness and uncertainty about the future of work have made themselves heard at a national level. Most of all, it is a story about people: who we consider to be one of us and how the dignity of work lies at the heart of who we are.

30 review for American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    “American Made What Happens to People When Work Disappears” is, at its best, a story about factories closing in the Midwest and work disappearing to Mexico and China. It is the story about what happens to the proud people who work the heavy machines and are forced to train their foreign replacements as the factories in their hometown close and work disappears like water circling and then washing down the drain. Indianapolis, where the story takes place, was a center of manufacturing where people “American Made What Happens to People When Work Disappears” is, at its best, a story about factories closing in the Midwest and work disappearing to Mexico and China. It is the story about what happens to the proud people who work the heavy machines and are forced to train their foreign replacements as the factories in their hometown close and work disappears like water circling and then washing down the drain. Indianapolis, where the story takes place, was a center of manufacturing where people with a high school education could get a high-paying job and take care of their families. But, in a story all too familiar, those factories keep closing and the jobs keep going away. The story centers around three workers in a ball bearing plant, Rexnord, where Shannon, Wally, and John find themselves, each one of the three having faced struggles through life such as having children as teenagers, jail time, broken marriages, and domestic abuse. None of the three are priveleged and none have ever had it easy. Shannon, for instance, got a factory job in a male-dominated environment as a means of escaping a violent domestic abusive relationship. Wally and John similarly fought their way to be accepted at the factory and in the union (for John). The author is obviously talented and her craft is evident throughout these three interlaced stories that all end with the factory closing and no equivalent work available. However, unlike Mike Rowe, the author here does not simply let these three stories speak for themselves and that is where the narrative falters. The author, a Harvard-educated New York Times reporter, left the Upper Westside of Manhattan to journey to Indiana and find out why blue-collar Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016. It is evident from the start that the author looks down on these uneducated people as hillbillies and can’t fathom why unionized workers who have seen their jobs moved offshore for cheaper labor or find themselves now competing with illegal immigrants who are willing to undercut union wages to survive would vote for someone who seemed to understand their plight. Thus, at times, the book was more about the author’s political leanings than about the three people who were supposed to be at the center of the story. The other point where the book falters is that the author constantly refers to the three people by their races even when it is not necessary to the narrative. John is constantly referred to as a White man and Wally as a Black man rather than simply as individuals. Ultimately, the author argues in the final chapters that, no matter what these people struggles are dealing with poverty, job losses, domestic abuse, or raising a special needs child, those struggles are unimportant in comparison to their skin color and the lessons on critical race theory that the final chapters convey. What could have been a top-notch book about how tough life is when the factory closes and the jobs go away becomes nothing more than a New York Times editorial page that focuses on other issues, not on the difficulties that come with the loss of high-paying skilled factory jobs.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This book’s concept is not necessarily new: well-educated liberal from northeast goes to rust belt to try and understand why people there live and vote the way they do. However, there’s more to this book than meets the eye, and I think Stockman did an excellent job telling these three characters’ stories. First, I should say that I loved the format. It reminded me of “the warmth of other suns” in that, rather than just stating historical facts, it focused on the stories of three very different, This book’s concept is not necessarily new: well-educated liberal from northeast goes to rust belt to try and understand why people there live and vote the way they do. However, there’s more to this book than meets the eye, and I think Stockman did an excellent job telling these three characters’ stories. First, I should say that I loved the format. It reminded me of “the warmth of other suns” in that, rather than just stating historical facts, it focused on the stories of three very different, complex characters who were laid off from the factory. I also appreciated the tone. Despite any preexisting biases she may have had, the book felt like a genuine exploration. To me, it was less “let’s see why these folks could be fooled into voting for Trump”, and more “let’s try and understand, based on their unique backgrounds and experiences, why these folks see the world in the way that they do”. Clearly Stockman spent a lot of time building trust with the characters, and I didn’t sense condescension when she talked to or about them. Another key point from the book is that if you’re only viewing politics through the lens of a ‘left’<—>’right’ spectrum, you’re missing a lot. Instead, many in places like these view politicians along the spectrum of ‘fights for everyday Americans’<—>’fights for the wealthy elite’. This is why Sanders and Trump were both popular in the area, despite their apparent differences. I think Stockman raises a fair point around globalization: even if it makes the country better as a whole, we need to have an honest conversation around who it really benefits. With the US getting cheaper TVs and cars, it’s easy for lawyers and software engineers to extol the virtues of globalization, but they haven’t had to face diminishing job prospects in the same way that blue-collar Americans have. The easy response is to dismiss all of these claims as backwards and protectionist, but that is neither empathetic nor a wise political calculation in the long-run. Even if wealthy elites only have their own interests in mind, I’m not sure how much longer this broken system can continue before enough people bring out the pitchforks. One last thing this book pointed out to me is that many people get intrinsic value from working, not just because of the paycheck. Even some financially-stable factory employees who got laid off started slipping into depression afterwards. This was not because they couldn’t pay the bills, but more because they felt like their life was meaningless and lacked purpose. This is important to keep in mind when discussing different policy options to address these issues. If you like this format of books and are curious to learn about the past, present, and future of America’s working class, I definitely recommend reading this.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    Well, I have to hand it to Farah Stockman: she really succeeded. It's like she got up one day and said, “Hey, I think I will attempt to explain my nation to itself by devoting years of my life to writing a non-fiction book as a labor of love. I'll try to cross the American class divide and challenge all my preconceptions. I'll take time off my perfectly comfortable and prestigious job in the big city, leave my family and friends, spend hours in airports commuting half-way across the country to i Well, I have to hand it to Farah Stockman: she really succeeded. It's like she got up one day and said, “Hey, I think I will attempt to explain my nation to itself by devoting years of my life to writing a non-fiction book as a labor of love. I'll try to cross the American class divide and challenge all my preconceptions. I'll take time off my perfectly comfortable and prestigious job in the big city, leave my family and friends, spend hours in airports commuting half-way across the country to interview my subjects and research their histories, and spend more hours attending their parties, dinners, family funerals, days at work, court appearances, and so on. I'll read fat, serious, and angry books about the apparently insoluble problems afflicting my country. I'll try to integrate the reading and journalism into a seamless whole. While doing so, I'll criticize myself and expose the hypocrisy and comfortable self-deceptions that members of my own class have told themselves to ease their consciences. And then, when I'm done and the book is published, people with no other qualification than high self-regard will accuse me (without providing evidence) of looking down on and condescending to the subjects of my book, apparently because, as a Manhattan-residing, Harvard-educated mixed-race child of academics (oh, and also, a woman), I cannot possibly possess the imagination and empathy to understand the sufferings of others. As a bonus, they'll also accuse me of being an anti-white racist and a supporter of bogus historical theories! That'll be fun!” Life is hard these days. Although a great deal of rigorous research and observant reporting went into this book, it may be difficult to read about the unwarranted and unremedied misery visited on good people by apparently unstoppable forces of history and economics. If you can, then do it, because the people being left behind by the changes in the world are worth remembering, and even helping. I got an advance electronic review copy of this book for review from Penguin Random House via Netgalley. Thanks for the generosity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Strong Case Studies Marred By Author's Biases. Overall, this is a strong case study following three people the author somewhat randomly stumbled into when tasked with reporting on the closure of a particular factory and its implications on the 2016 and 2020 elections. The author openly admits in the very first chapter that she is a fairly typical New England Liberal Elite, and that flavors much of her commentary and several of her observations - but also provides for at least a few hints of pote Strong Case Studies Marred By Author's Biases. Overall, this is a strong case study following three people the author somewhat randomly stumbled into when tasked with reporting on the closure of a particular factory and its implications on the 2016 and 2020 elections. The author openly admits in the very first chapter that she is a fairly typical New England Liberal Elite, and that flavors much of her commentary and several of her observations - but also provides for at least a few hints of potential growth along the way. But once her own biases are accounted for, this truly is a strong look at a deep dive into the three people she chronicles and their histories and thoughts as they navigate both their personal situations over these few years and the national situations as they see and understand them. At times funny but far more often tragic, this is a very real look at what at least some go through when their factory job closes around them, to be moved elsewhere. (Full disclosure, my own father living through this *twice* in my teens in as Goodyear shut down their plants in Cartersville, GA has defined my own story almost as much as a few other situations not relevant to this book. So I have my own thoughts on the matter as someone whose family underwent similar situations a couple of decades before the events of this book, but who saw them as the child of the adult worker rather than as the adult workers chronicled here.) Ultimately, your mileage on this will vary based on whether you can at minimum accept the author's biases for what they are or even if you outright fully agree with them. But I *do* appreciate the flashes of growth she shows, particularly in later sections, as she learns just how fully human these people are, even as her prejudices early in the book somewhat openly show that she didn't fully appreciate just how fully human people like this could be before actually spending considerable time with them. Indeed, the one outright flaw here is that there is at least a hint of impropriety when the author begins engaging perhaps a bit too much with the lives of her subjects - but again, that ultimately comes down to just how sensitive your own ethical meter is. Overall a mostly strong book, and very much recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    AMERICAN MADE (2021) By Farah Stockman Random House, 432 pages. ★★★★ The subtitle of "American Made," Farah Stockman’s look at blue-collar work, is "What Happens to People When Work Disappears." Labor historians speak of “deindustrialization” to describe exporting factory work out of the United States. Alas, it’s an antiquated label given that far more than factory labor is outsourced. Capital flight is a more accurate term. It has long been linked to negative social indicators: drug and alcohol abu AMERICAN MADE (2021) By Farah Stockman Random House, 432 pages. ★★★★ The subtitle of "American Made," Farah Stockman’s look at blue-collar work, is "What Happens to People When Work Disappears." Labor historians speak of “deindustrialization” to describe exporting factory work out of the United States. Alas, it’s an antiquated label given that far more than factory labor is outsourced. Capital flight is a more accurate term. It has long been linked to negative social indicators: drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, divorce, suicide, medical woes, early death, homelessness, psychiatric problems, imprisonment…. In today’s service industry-driven economy, displaced workers seldom replace income lost to capital flight. Not many non-white-collar jobs pay $26/hour, the starting wage at Rexnord in Indianapolis, a shaft bearings manufacturer. Do the math. At $26/hour, a Rexnord worker made $54,000 per year—without overtime. If laid-off workers are lucky enough to find another job paying half of that, their annual income is $27,000—25 percent below the nation’s median individual income. Few who have studied worker displacement will be surprised by the data in Stockman’s book. Stockman instead puts human faces to capital flight. Many workers are given voice in "American Made," but she spotlights three: Wally Hall, an African American who dreams of operating his own barbecue business; Shannon Mulcahy, a white single mother and skilled machinist; and John Feltner, a white family man and union activist. By focusing on a factory in Indianapolis, Stockman highlights how the American Dream was battered in the American heartland. Blue-collar work has declined in such places to the point that those who punch time clocks have become out-of-sight/out-of-mind forgotten Americans. In 1972, sociologists Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb published The Hidden Injuries of Class. It was meant as a warning, but is now an unintended harbinger of what continues to happen to those falling behind in income and social clout. Because professional classes no longer “see” the working class, they are baffled by the 2016 election and the propensity of working-class voters to support politicians whose policies are antithetical to their best interests. Stockman provides uncomfortable explanations for the rise of Donald Trump: free trade and elitism. She traces how the Democratic Party shifted from the ideals of New Deal and Great Society to modified Reaganomics coupled with support for the social concerns and stock portfolios of educated bourgeois elites. In this sense, blue-collar anger toward the Clintons makes sense. Stockman writes, “The Democrats had gotten into bed with corporations when no one was looking.” Tim, a Rexnord worker, put it more graphically: “The dirty bastards sold us out. They allowed millions of jobs to leave the country … good jobs with benefits. They sat on their asses and did absolutely nothing.” Many of those whose jobs fled to Mexico—like Rexnord workers—turned their backs to a party tone deaf to job loss. Stockman observes, “The Republicans were no better about free trade. They were worse. But at least the Republicans had never pretended to be faithful to the working class.” Parse that and you get a vast segment of American workers that indeed feels sold out. Trump at least acknowledged that blue-collar labor exists, though his vow to stop outsourcing was unfulfilled. (For the record, 58 percent of American workers are non-salaried.) Thus, many Rexnord workers liked the fact that Trump, “didn’t talk like a college boy. He cursed. He bragged. He threatened…. Trump was a hillbilly in a suit. Trump had a chip on his shoulder, like the steelworkers did.” Such perspectives also explain why many wage earners express contradictory admiration for both Trump and Bernie Sanders. A unique twist in "American Made" lies with Stockman’s admission of her class privilege. This grabs our attention because Stockman identifies as African American. She has much to say about white privilege, but also incisively compares herself to Shannon. Stockman grew up in bourgeois comfort, graduated from Harvard, lives in tony Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has worked at the Boston Globe and the New York Times. Shannon overcame sexual abuse, an abusive husband, raised kids on her own, suffered workplace discrimination, and was ordered to train a Mexican to perform complex tasks on a machine that was about to be disassembled and shipped out of ther country. Is it any wonder Shannon hasn’t been an avid supporter of NAFTA, middle-class feminism, #MeToo, or Hillary Clinton? The kicker is that Shannon is not racist. She did not lash out at the Mexican man about to take her job. Shannon blames Wall Street for her dilemma, not Mexicans hoping to build a better life. "American Made" is filled with such insights. Another eye-opening observation is that people of color often cope better with job loss than whites. To put it starkly, they have fewer reasons to believe in the American Dream and aren’t shocked when its promise is betrayed. By contrast, Feltner was staggered when union solidarity disintegrated among workers given a choice between refusing to cooperate with plant relocation or collecting a few more paychecks from a company hell-bent on squeezing greater profits from lower-paid brown workers south of the border. Stockman is a lucid writer who knows how to personalize capital flight and make stories live. A review such as mine is by necessity formal and academic in tone. Stockman also culls labor history and sociological studies, but because she got close to her subjects, she writes from the heart. Read her words to see what happens to Rexnord workers, especially Wally, Shannon, and John. Warning: no fairy tales. Stockman references Sherry Lee Linkon, who compared economic “right-sizing,” restructuring,” and other such euphemisms to what really happens when a plant closes. It’s akin to a nuclear detonation that leaves misery and destruction in its wake. Robert E. Weir, Ph.D.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carianne Carleo-Evangelist

    Thank you, NetGalley, for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, I was very surprised at how much I liked this book, Stockman's attempt to understand the people behind the closing of the Rexnord/former LinkBelt factory outside Indy, one of the two (the other was Carrier) that drew president-elect Trump's ire. This was also a really solid, in -depth look at the current & diminishing role of the union, something I found interesting against the current IATSE negotiations, although whi Thank you, NetGalley, for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, I was very surprised at how much I liked this book, Stockman's attempt to understand the people behind the closing of the Rexnord/former LinkBelt factory outside Indy, one of the two (the other was Carrier) that drew president-elect Trump's ire. This was also a really solid, in -depth look at the current & diminishing role of the union, something I found interesting against the current IATSE negotiations, although white collar v. blue collar is in play there as well. After speaking with a number of people, Stockman focused on three: Raleigh (Wally) Hall, Shannon Mulcahy and John Feltner. These were not one-dimensional Trump voters who truly believed he'd directly prevent their jobs from moving to Mexico, but rather folks disillusioned by the failures of the past and willing to give him a try. Through Feltner, Stockman really explored what white privilege looks like to someone who has lost a home in bankruptcy, has ancestors who were coal miners and doesn't feel as if he's ever had an advantage. With Hall, she explored the impact of a felony conviction, as well as the lack of access to healthcare, which unfortunately lead to his premature death before the end of the book. And with Mulcahy, the layers of privilige even within poor white working class. As Stockman said, as different as these three were, they had way more in common with one another than she did with them, coming from Cambridge and becoming a mother at the time they were nearly all grandchildren and caretakers to more than just the nuclear family. A really layered look at working class middle America and how Trump was able to get more than a toehold. Good references to other books throughout, while reading as if a work of fiction.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    This is such an outstanding book that I really encourage everyone to read. It is riveting to follow the lives of three factory workers who really enjoy and work hard at their jobs, making good wages with excellent benefits and what happens to them when that factory moves to Mexico. The misguided and little understood ramifications of NAFTA and other trade deals that were supposed to help the average American worker who doesn't have a college education, instead tore their lives to shreds...and sti This is such an outstanding book that I really encourage everyone to read. It is riveting to follow the lives of three factory workers who really enjoy and work hard at their jobs, making good wages with excellent benefits and what happens to them when that factory moves to Mexico. The misguided and little understood ramifications of NAFTA and other trade deals that were supposed to help the average American worker who doesn't have a college education, instead tore their lives to shreds...and still they persevere. This book also delves into the change in expectations for CEOs. Employees were once considered stockholders in a company too, not because they actually owned company stock, but because they were considered so vital and were so invested in their jobs. A CEO'S responsibility included balancing these stockholders with those actually owning stock. Now, as we know, decisions are made only with these stockholders on mind, to the detriment of our country and its people. I could go on, but two takeaways for me are 1) only 1/3 of Americans have a college education and yet the approach to work and jobs in this country is geared towards that 33% rather than the 66% without; and, 2) it is that tone-deafness that caused so many of that 66% to vote in desperation for a life-time con man. Desperate people do some desperate things. There's more, but again, such a worthwhile book!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Penny Adrian

    The ending of her book undermined its value for me. She profiles three people, and because the one black man she profiles dies, she erases poverty as the primary axis of their oppression (even though the book is about the desperation created by job loss) again choosing to divide the poor by race so that they don't come together as a class and undermine the economic privilege of people like herself. Since "black" americans are disproportionately poor, her "woke" editorializing disproportionately ha The ending of her book undermined its value for me. She profiles three people, and because the one black man she profiles dies, she erases poverty as the primary axis of their oppression (even though the book is about the desperation created by job loss) again choosing to divide the poor by race so that they don't come together as a class and undermine the economic privilege of people like herself. Since "black" americans are disproportionately poor, her "woke" editorializing disproportionately harms black people. All poor people are suffering more than people of the professional class (like Ms. Stockman) regardless of their race. As long as we insist on pretending that poor "black" people have more in common with economically privileged "black" people than they do with poor "white" people, the economic status quo will never change (which is to the benefit of those who are privileged by it - like Ms.. Stockman). As a homeless rights advocate, and survivor of homelessness, I can introduce Ms. Stockman to plenty of "white" people who are not surviving, who will not survive, and who basically sleep in the pee of their homeless "black" compatriots. This book was written for economically privileged people who are more comfortable dealing with race than with class, because they do not want the economic status quo to change. Wanna help poor and working class "black" people? Give your gentrified neighborhood back to the poor and working class people that your greed has forced out.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    Expertly written, balanced, insightful look at a plant closing in the industrial midwest in the timeline of NAFTA, China trade deals and that goon who stole the White House. Stockman spins a lot of delicate plates on skinny sticks and keeps the storytelling aloft. I grew up in Detroit, had plenty of family who made a living working the line, working in tool and die shops, and whose children then worked for automotive/industrial wearing skirts and suits. Boomers were predicted to be the last gene Expertly written, balanced, insightful look at a plant closing in the industrial midwest in the timeline of NAFTA, China trade deals and that goon who stole the White House. Stockman spins a lot of delicate plates on skinny sticks and keeps the storytelling aloft. I grew up in Detroit, had plenty of family who made a living working the line, working in tool and die shops, and whose children then worked for automotive/industrial wearing skirts and suits. Boomers were predicted to be the last generation who could get a job, move quickly from one job to the other without a college degree. It didn't last for a completed career. Free trade took that ease of employment away, right at the time 50+ year olds were this close to being able to retire. Stockman shows us the people at Rexnord who packed up their machines, their tools, and wheeled their toolboxes off the floor unwillingly. I still have my Dad's toolbox. He raised 7 children with the tools he made inside that toolbox.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Mcduffie

    Probably the best nonfiction book I've read this year. Helps provide perspective on the 2016 election and class in America, among other things. Probably the best nonfiction book I've read this year. Helps provide perspective on the 2016 election and class in America, among other things.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I found this very well written, insightful, and a compelling read. I would highly recommend this- I listened to this as an audiobook and did not think the material suffered for it in any way.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    5 stars American Made What Happens to People When Work Disappears By Farah Stockman I had to sit and ponder on this book for a day or so just to process the realities of what I just finished reading. I am still not sure I can do American Made justice. Farah Stockman has written an inspiring, infuriating, and educational look at the mess left behind when a plant closes; as well as the limited options blue-collar workers have in the wake of losing their jobs. Wally, Shannon and John desperately search 5 stars American Made What Happens to People When Work Disappears By Farah Stockman I had to sit and ponder on this book for a day or so just to process the realities of what I just finished reading. I am still not sure I can do American Made justice. Farah Stockman has written an inspiring, infuriating, and educational look at the mess left behind when a plant closes; as well as the limited options blue-collar workers have in the wake of losing their jobs. Wally, Shannon and John desperately search for jobs that will pay as well as Rexnord while struggling to keep their families afloat. Stockman follows this trio for three years and has utterly managed to capture their personalities, their lives, and their struggles. American Made needs to be required reading in every economics class taught across the country as this is a book that has the ability to make a reader question their viewpoint on the realities of free trade and the world economy. I highly recommend this book! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katie Wood

    I very much enjoyed this book, especially the way the author focused in on the lives of three workers who had worked at the plant that closed. I was surprised when I read the New York Times review of this book, after I had completed reading it, that the critic took issue with Ms. Stockman for doing a deep dive into the family histories of these three workers. I disagree with that reviewer, because the portraits painted of these three people, and their friends and families, got me very invested i I very much enjoyed this book, especially the way the author focused in on the lives of three workers who had worked at the plant that closed. I was surprised when I read the New York Times review of this book, after I had completed reading it, that the critic took issue with Ms. Stockman for doing a deep dive into the family histories of these three workers. I disagree with that reviewer, because the portraits painted of these three people, and their friends and families, got me very invested in the book. Ms. Stockman turned it into a page turner for me, because I kept wondering what was going to happen next to these three as they worked through the closure, and forged ahead to new lives without the plant. Along the way, there is a lot of information about ball bearings and their manufacture, unions, globalization, economic trends, and politics that could have been dry as dust had it not been tied in with these compelling life stories.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jen Juenke

    I really enjoyed this book. The author weaves three people's stories about factory work in Indiana to her personal experience, to what is happening nationally and globably. The author wove this story with seamless effort. I enjoyed learning about Shannon, Wally, and John. I really liked learning about their likes, their dreams, their hopes and most importantly their struggles as they try to navigate where they fit into the post Industrial world. I finally learned just how the NAFTA agreement affect I really enjoyed this book. The author weaves three people's stories about factory work in Indiana to her personal experience, to what is happening nationally and globably. The author wove this story with seamless effort. I enjoyed learning about Shannon, Wally, and John. I really liked learning about their likes, their dreams, their hopes and most importantly their struggles as they try to navigate where they fit into the post Industrial world. I finally learned just how the NAFTA agreement affected the workers directly, the rise of Donald Trump in the working class, and how detailed and demanding their jobs were/are. The author was great at showing how all the workers were affected by ONE plant closure, the struggles they faced, and the bureaucracy that would keep some from being "retrained'. This is a great book that should be read by anyone wanting to know more about factory jobs/disappearing middle class/and the struggles of Americans everywhere. Get tissues at the ready for the conclusion of Wally's story. I bawled my eyes out. Thank you to Netgalley and to the publisher for allowing this ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bonnye Reed

    Could not read on Netgalley Shelf pub date October 12, 2021 Random House

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Meyers

    Most of us read or hear news stories about unemployment and plant closings and think something like "what a shame" or "to what country did they move this one." Stockman's book places the closing of one manufacturing plant in the context of the impacts on the human beings who lost their jobs, three people in particular. Her writing style, that of a journalist, is terse and clear. She was able to secure the trust of the three people to the extent that she shares intimate details of their lives bef Most of us read or hear news stories about unemployment and plant closings and think something like "what a shame" or "to what country did they move this one." Stockman's book places the closing of one manufacturing plant in the context of the impacts on the human beings who lost their jobs, three people in particular. Her writing style, that of a journalist, is terse and clear. She was able to secure the trust of the three people to the extent that she shares intimate details of their lives before their employment at the plant, and in the immediate days before and after the closing. Stockman puts a very human face on the rationale for the closing and its effects on blue collar workers who lost not only their jobs but their sense of community and camaraderie. The closing was to reduce costs and remain competitive in a global market in which firms offshore, with lower labor costs and government subsidies, can outcompete a U.S. union labor force. The downside of NAFTA and global competition, something that has only recently become a popular topic for politicians of both parties, is described by detailing the financial straits, job search efforts, frustrations and feelings of three individuals - one African American and two white, one woman and two men. That each of them were imperfect and made some poor decisions is apparent as Stockman traces their lives leading up to their employment at the plant and their efforts thereafter. Yet she tries very hard not to judge, letting the readers reach their own conclusions. The lives of these three people were filled with harshness, events that deeply affected their ability to survive. Yet they persevered in the face of feeling that the system was rigged against them. Stockman also uses the story line to address how each of the three main characters dealt with politics, their attitudes toward President Trump, and why many blue collar workers voted for Trump, thinking him to be a rich guy who talked liked many of them did and who had their backs. She also uses examples from the work and life experiences of the three to address racism and sexism. While these discussions were informative, I personally found them to detract from the main story line, one which has received far less attention and needs to be addressed to provide a future for the tens of millions of young Americans of today and tomorrow who are not interested in going to college and who long for a career that they can enjoy and from which they can get satisfaction and security. While Stockman provides many notes and did a considerable amount of research, the time spent on politics, racism and sexism, could have been more productively used to discuss possible solutions to the offshoring of jobs, efforts that have worked and failed and why. Perhaps that was not an area in which she felt comfortable given that the book was about a plant closing and its effects on workers. The book is a valuable contribution to the discussion of this issue, as it makes clear the value of work and fellowship provided on the job as well as the economic stability people need. Our politicians should vigorously revisit "free trade" as it is not free, not when millions of American jobs have been lost with little thought to the impacts on the unemployed workers and their families. Our economic system needs to about more than profits and lower prices.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    I did not know what to expect from this but it turned out to be fairly good. This is clearly a new entry to popular/trade accounts of the decline of traditional industrial jobs in the US and the precariousness of blue collar workers. This has been going on of course since the 1980s and is the stuff of Springsteen and Mellancamp songs. This work has produced a huge popular literature in light of the 2008 financial crisis and more recently the 2016 US elections and the rise of the Trump Administrat I did not know what to expect from this but it turned out to be fairly good. This is clearly a new entry to popular/trade accounts of the decline of traditional industrial jobs in the US and the precariousness of blue collar workers. This has been going on of course since the 1980s and is the stuff of Springsteen and Mellancamp songs. This work has produced a huge popular literature in light of the 2008 financial crisis and more recently the 2016 US elections and the rise of the Trump Administration. As part of this, there has been some significant social science research made more accessible to the public in the work of economists like Anne Case and Angus Deaton or sociologists like Arlie Hochschild. In its most common form this seems to “Trump anthropology” in which some efforts are made to understand the lives and concerns of people in the “other America” who voted against the established parties and put Trump into the Presidency. There have also been some works that are more directly comparable to “American Made”, for example Amy Goldstein’s 2017 case study if the closing of the GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin (Janesville). Farrah Stockman is an accomplished journalist who has written for the New York Times and the Boston Globe. Her new book is a series of three detailed case studies (a triple biography) of workers who were employed at a ball bearing factory in Indianapolis that closed after the 2016 election. She profiles a women and two men (one African-American and one White). This involves describing their connections to the plant, their life situation and history outside of work, and what happened to them after the plant closing. There is of course more to the story, but organizing the presentation around these three characters is a strong point of the book and Stockman does a fine job. These characters comes across as real and sympathetic. Everyone has their weaknesses, however, including the author, who several times acknowledges her position on the wrong side of the barriers in examining these residents of the “other America”. This is all reasonable - everyone has their biases. What is important is that the author is upfront and credible about them. “American Made” also gets to take account of the grand natural experiment for analyzing the social life of the working class - COVID-19. All of the characters were affected by it both directly and indirectly. How the virus affected different portions of the economy has been written about on a nearly continuous basis since March 2020. Stockman can provide examples from the life histories of her subjects, who are also working through the effects of the plant closing in real time. The story continues to develop at present but Stockman has a lot to write about beyond the wire service stories that all of us have followed during the pandemic and the associated lockdown. She even brings in the politics of the pandemic as she traces the evolution of some of her subjects from Trump supporters to critics of the Administration’s responses. The book is well written and engaging - a quick and rewarding read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    The story of what happens when a factory closes and the workers are left unemployed and unmoored is brilliantly told in this book. I strongly recommend it. The author spent significant time in Indianapolis, home of the Rexnord factory that made ball bearings, learning from the workers affected by the company’s decision to move the operations to Mexico in 2016. The story is told through the perspectives of three workers, who are not merely placeholders for their gender and race, but revealed with The story of what happens when a factory closes and the workers are left unemployed and unmoored is brilliantly told in this book. I strongly recommend it. The author spent significant time in Indianapolis, home of the Rexnord factory that made ball bearings, learning from the workers affected by the company’s decision to move the operations to Mexico in 2016. The story is told through the perspectives of three workers, who are not merely placeholders for their gender and race, but revealed with compassion and grace. Shannon is a 40-something White woman, an experienced furnace operator whose personal and working life has been one long struggle. From Shannon we learn more about gender inequality in the working class and the challenges of working moms. Wally is a compassionate Black man who has dreams of owning his own business, yet is firmly grounded in the realities and limitations of being Black. From Wally we learn more about how firmly racism exerts itself, but also how the working class crosses the racial divide. John is a White man who is newer to the company, yet is a union man to his core. Through John’s experiences, the author shows us more about the working class sees race and also shines a bright light on why Trump has strong support from the White working class. There is a lot to unpack in this book and by and large Stockman does an admirable job balancing detail and background with the human sides of the story, all while explaining the complex economic forces of the global economy in an easy to understand style.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Pratley

    It is easy for us who live in the UK or on coasts of the USA to dismiss the people of "flyover country" so many "Moaning Minnie's". Life in Indiana which is a manufacturing state used to be good. It is was also much more secure than it is today. The factories which employed huge numbers & supported many more are now increasingly closing. This book is about one of those factories. Its well paid jobs are going South to Mexico thanks in part to NAFTA & globalization. They are also going South becau It is easy for us who live in the UK or on coasts of the USA to dismiss the people of "flyover country" so many "Moaning Minnie's". Life in Indiana which is a manufacturing state used to be good. It is was also much more secure than it is today. The factories which employed huge numbers & supported many more are now increasingly closing. This book is about one of those factories. Its well paid jobs are going South to Mexico thanks in part to NAFTA & globalization. They are also going South because employers can see the opportunity to make bigger profits at best & survival of their enterprises in an increasingly competitive world at worst. Farah Stockman grew up in Cambridge Massachusetts. She is the daughter of two academics & works at the New York Times. She knew when she started this writing project & the stories that center on the lives of three people that she had little clue how her subjects lead their lives. She didn't understand also their perspectives, but she wanted to find out. This is a very human book in that it focuses at a very human level. I came away from it, understanding why many in the community portrayed in this book voted for Trump. If you read it you will also understand.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Robinson

    Overall, a really compelling and insightful book. I think Stockman did an excellent job reporting in a sympathetic manner that let the three interviewees speak for themselves. However, I did have a major issue with her credibility in the chapter about NAFTA: "Every economist I had ever interviewed on the subject of free trade had assured me that it was a boon for the country." Had she sought out any economists with counterpoints for those articles? They existed. I find it scary that a journalist Overall, a really compelling and insightful book. I think Stockman did an excellent job reporting in a sympathetic manner that let the three interviewees speak for themselves. However, I did have a major issue with her credibility in the chapter about NAFTA: "Every economist I had ever interviewed on the subject of free trade had assured me that it was a boon for the country." Had she sought out any economists with counterpoints for those articles? They existed. I find it scary that a journalist of her caliber could not even question the potential of NAFTA having negative impacts prior to circa 2015/2016 when she was doing her interviews and reporting for this book, or without traveling to Indiana from the East Coast. Or was this a case of--as a beneficiary and member of the elite class, as she admits and outlines in the book--ignorance being just too blissful? I'm glad she goes on to show statistically how little NAFTA has improved circumstances for people in the US (and Mexico). And truly this is less a criticism of Stockman, and more the media in general, particularly lamenting the loss of high-quality regional newspapers in places exactly like Indianapolis.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "American Made" by Farah Stockman follows the story of several people in Indiana as the deal with the blow of pending and eventual unemployment due to factory closings. Stockman spends a lot of time immersed in the lives of the people featured in this book and their families. Stockman uses the stories of people like Wally, Shannon, and John to illustrate the upheaval caused in towns where it is no longer possible to live a comfortable, secure middle class life as factories shutter and other loca "American Made" by Farah Stockman follows the story of several people in Indiana as the deal with the blow of pending and eventual unemployment due to factory closings. Stockman spends a lot of time immersed in the lives of the people featured in this book and their families. Stockman uses the stories of people like Wally, Shannon, and John to illustrate the upheaval caused in towns where it is no longer possible to live a comfortable, secure middle class life as factories shutter and other local jobs offer significantly lower wages. The author also uses her research to understand and explain how people, especially white people, in once booming factory towns found an ally in the 45th president of the United States. It is also interesting to see how opinions changes as the former president's platform conflict with how policy plays out for those most affected by factory closures. Stockman also dives a bit into labor history and how unions were, but still can be, one of our workforce's true strengths. This is a really excellent book!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    American Made is the story of what happens to employees when the factory they've been working at is closed down and moved out of the country. Stockman chose three people to follow closely and we get a very good picture of their lives, beliefs, dreams and realities. We also get a very good picture of what the factory means to these workers and the pride they have in their jobs. We can also see the sense of community that is fostered in the factory and the kind of ties that are made amongst worker American Made is the story of what happens to employees when the factory they've been working at is closed down and moved out of the country. Stockman chose three people to follow closely and we get a very good picture of their lives, beliefs, dreams and realities. We also get a very good picture of what the factory means to these workers and the pride they have in their jobs. We can also see the sense of community that is fostered in the factory and the kind of ties that are made amongst workers--often entirely regardless of color. Stockman addresses racial issues and compares and contrasts politics and economic issues between blue class and liberal wealthier folks. Class issues are addressed in both Stockman's words and the words of her three interview subjects. This book does a good job of busing stereotypes and giving us liberals a better idea of why trump succeeded, at least initially. I hope a lot of people will read this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I never thought I was part of the so called liberal elites until I read this book, and I think it's a very important book for people like me to read. I think I have a little better understanding about why so many working class people voted for Donald Trump and how devastating it is when a factory closes and moves to someplace where labor is cheaper. How sad that we have lost so many decent paying factory jobs, leaving the workers adrift and without a means to provide for themselves and their fam I never thought I was part of the so called liberal elites until I read this book, and I think it's a very important book for people like me to read. I think I have a little better understanding about why so many working class people voted for Donald Trump and how devastating it is when a factory closes and moves to someplace where labor is cheaper. How sad that we have lost so many decent paying factory jobs, leaving the workers adrift and without a means to provide for themselves and their families. The value of work cannot be overestimated. I disagree with one reviewer who felt the author looked down on the people she wrote about because I think she simply didn't understand them until she got to know them. I think she learned a lot while she was gathering the material for her book, and I think in the end she loved and appreciated them.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

    Stockman follows three people who work for a plant in Indianapolis that is shut down and moved to Mexico in the last few years. She does an excellent job of documenting what work really means to people and shines a light on the divide between college educated and non-college educated Americans. Trump looms large here but not as much as might be expected. The real issue is globalization and the endless search for profit. From a macro level, globalization (and automation) have large benefits. From Stockman follows three people who work for a plant in Indianapolis that is shut down and moved to Mexico in the last few years. She does an excellent job of documenting what work really means to people and shines a light on the divide between college educated and non-college educated Americans. Trump looms large here but not as much as might be expected. The real issue is globalization and the endless search for profit. From a macro level, globalization (and automation) have large benefits. From a personal level, it is hell for those who are chewed up by these large forces. Our nation does nothing for these folks, even though they are resilient, try to stay positive and simply want to work: for meaning, for purpose, for income.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Cory

    This is a fantastic book, both in research commitment level and storytelling. This book addresses the problems in this country today and is the best of its kind, surpassing the previous best Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. My absolute highest recommendation. A strong contender for the coveted Matthew Cory Book of the Year Award. This is a fantastic book, both in research commitment level and storytelling. This book addresses the problems in this country today and is the best of its kind, surpassing the previous best Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. My absolute highest recommendation. A strong contender for the coveted Matthew Cory Book of the Year Award.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is a book that is hard to put down, the author has done a fabulous job focusing on the impact of factories leaving the US. At turns saddening, eye roll producing, and maddening, she follows 3 workers from the Rexnord plant including the histories of the people and the factory. In the end it really comes down to corporate greed driving the decisions, not simply one side of the aisle or the other, both are fully culpable in the debacle. They are also unwilling and unable to fix the policy err This is a book that is hard to put down, the author has done a fabulous job focusing on the impact of factories leaving the US. At turns saddening, eye roll producing, and maddening, she follows 3 workers from the Rexnord plant including the histories of the people and the factory. In the end it really comes down to corporate greed driving the decisions, not simply one side of the aisle or the other, both are fully culpable in the debacle. They are also unwilling and unable to fix the policy errors and court rulings that upended the old ways. Though, to be fair, the US manufacturing might was string because the bulk of the world had no manufacturing at all after WW2, leaving us at the top.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    Many writers have tried to pinpoint the reason that a vast segment of the U.S. population chose to back an authoritarian populist for president, but I think Stockman comes closest to cutting to the truth. But this is not a book about politics - of course politics plays a main role in the story, but it's relegated to the background. Ultimately, this is a story about people: blue-collar factory workers whose lives have been upended by societal changes out of their control, and the hardships they a Many writers have tried to pinpoint the reason that a vast segment of the U.S. population chose to back an authoritarian populist for president, but I think Stockman comes closest to cutting to the truth. But this is not a book about politics - of course politics plays a main role in the story, but it's relegated to the background. Ultimately, this is a story about people: blue-collar factory workers whose lives have been upended by societal changes out of their control, and the hardships they and their families faced (and probably continue facing) as a result. And it broke my heart. This was an incredible piece of journalism and I recommend it highly.

  28. 5 out of 5

    KAREN A.

    Enlightening and thought-provoking This book begins on the machine floor of one factory of an American ball bearing manufacturer, and continues through exploration of the lives of several of the people who operate the machines to paint a remarkable picture of what drives these people, how they are sold out and disillusioned, and yet resilient and still inspired by the American dream. It weaves together intimate details of their lives with sophisticated yet accessible understanding of the roles of Enlightening and thought-provoking This book begins on the machine floor of one factory of an American ball bearing manufacturer, and continues through exploration of the lives of several of the people who operate the machines to paint a remarkable picture of what drives these people, how they are sold out and disillusioned, and yet resilient and still inspired by the American dream. It weaves together intimate details of their lives with sophisticated yet accessible understanding of the roles of work, race, class, economics and politics. Presented as objectively as such charged topics could be. A superb work.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Hansen

    EXCEPTIONAL!!!!! Living in rural Illinois, I understand some of what those losing jobs to out of country relocation face. However, this opened my eyes in a whole new way. For everyone--whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, for high school students, college students, teachers, those with no degree at all, for white, black, hispanic, or any other race, for men and women. Take this book to heart, read it with a willingness to see what you have never seen before. It cannot be stated enough--E EXCEPTIONAL!!!!! Living in rural Illinois, I understand some of what those losing jobs to out of country relocation face. However, this opened my eyes in a whole new way. For everyone--whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, for high school students, college students, teachers, those with no degree at all, for white, black, hispanic, or any other race, for men and women. Take this book to heart, read it with a willingness to see what you have never seen before. It cannot be stated enough--EXCEPTIONAL!!!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bryce Warwick

    This book is excellent. Stockman brings an outsider perspective to the plight of blue-collar workers in middle America and rather than assuming she knows the answers to her questions, she listens. The curiosity, empathy and openness she brings to her reporting leads to an account that will be massively helpful to other outsiders who want to understand the effects of globalization, the merits of work, and puzzles of Trumpism. An ambitious topic like this can lead to a slog of a read, but the quali This book is excellent. Stockman brings an outsider perspective to the plight of blue-collar workers in middle America and rather than assuming she knows the answers to her questions, she listens. The curiosity, empathy and openness she brings to her reporting leads to an account that will be massively helpful to other outsiders who want to understand the effects of globalization, the merits of work, and puzzles of Trumpism. An ambitious topic like this can lead to a slog of a read, but the quality of writing kept this moving at a brisk pace. I would certainly recommend American Made.

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