Janesville: Book summary and reviews of Janesville by Amy Goldstein

Janesville

An American Story

by Amy Goldstein

Janesville by Amy Goldstein X
Janesville by Amy Goldstein
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Book 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's hometown - and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class.

This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its factory stills - but it's not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next, when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up.

Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin where the nation's oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008. Now, with intelligence, sympathy, and insight into what connects and divides people in an era of economic upheaval, she makes one of America's biggest political issues human. Her reporting takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job re-trainers to show why it's so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a healthy, prosperous working class.

For this is not just a Janesville story or a Midwestern story. It's an American story.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Reviews. A simultaneously enlightening and disturbing look at working-class lives in America's heartland." - Kirkus

"Her vivid portrait of a quintessential American town in distress affirms Eudora Welty's claim that 'one place understood helps us understand all places better.'" - Diane McWhorter, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Carry Me Home

"Reflecting on the state of the white working class, J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy focuses on cultural decay and the individual, whereas Amy Goldstein's Janesville emphasizes economic collapse and the community. To understand how we have gotten to America's current malaise, both are essential reading." - Robert D. Putnam, New York Times bestselling author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids

"Amy Goldstein was in the right place at the right time to help us understand why we no longer 'just get along.' Having immersed herself in Paul Ryan's idyllic hometown after its GM plant closed forever, she illuminates disrupted lives, marriages, and childhoods as the manufacturing and strong unions that built our modern middle class fade - fracturing the community and breeding the political polarization that helped give rise to Donald Trump." - Sheldon Danziger, President of the Russell Sage Foundation and coauthor of America Unequal

"Janesville is as relevant to the moment as a breaking news bulletin. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand how the Great Recession and deindustrialization have disrupted social, economic and political life in the American heartland. If you want to know why 2016 happened, read this book." - E.J. Dionne, New York Times bestselling author of Why the Right Went Wrong

This information about Janesville was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Dpfaef

An honest look at job loss in the Midwest.....
Janesville was devastated by the closing of the General Motors plant in December 2008. Amy Goldstein’s book takes us through the five years following the plant closure. Janesville survived the loss of the plant and all of the supporting industries but it never finally recovered.

It was refreshing to get an honest appraisal of what happen in Janesville. Millions of dollars flowed into Janesville for job retraining which proved to be a dismal failure. None of the jobs that Janeville residents retrained for ever returned them to where they were financially before the plant closing. Many of the folks were ill-equipped for retraining as they had no computer skills. As the residents struggled, the city and county attempted to respond by developing identifying possible job skills for retraining it citizens. Various forces worked against some of the folks that were retrained. Even after re-training wages were never equal to what they were paid working for General Motors. Going back you school after being in the work-force for 15 to 20 years is hard. Training a new trade is hard, but learning a new trade in a community where the economic base has been destroyed is near impossible.

Today Janesville, has an underemployment rate of just over 4 but the area has not recovered to where it was prior to the plant closing. There are still residents that are commuting to other GM plants rather than take a cut in wages. I don’t see the current administration doing anything substantial to return Janesville to prior economic status. Although Janesville is the home of Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, Goldstein makes it clear that Ryan did not involve himself in the in the community as one thought that he should. Janesville is just another example of how we are losing our manufacturing base in this country, while our corporate and civic leaders are doing nothing to find new avenues of meaningful and well-paying employment for its middle class.

I would highly recommend this book, it is honest and forthright.

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Author Information

Amy Goldstein

Amy Goldstein has been a staff writer for thirty years at The Washington Post, where much of her work has focused on social policy. Among her awards, she shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She has been a fellow at Harvard University at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Janesville: An American Story is her first book. She lives in Washington, DC.

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