FACTORY MAN by Beth Macy
Kirkus Star

FACTORY MAN

How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local--and Helped Save an American Town

KIRKUS REVIEW

The story of one man’s fight to save American furniture manufacturing jobs in the face of a deluge of cheap Chinese imports.

In this welcome debut, winner of the 2013 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, Roanoke Times reporter Macy brings to life the rise of family-owned Bassett Furniture Company as the world’s largest producer of wooden furniture and John Bassett III’s epic struggle to keep his company in business amid unfair overseas business practices that forced many U.S. manufacturers to move their factories abroad. A brash, patriotic charmer fond of quoting George Patton (“When in doubt, ATTACK”), Bassett came from a long line of wealthy Virginians with “sawdust” in their veins. “The ‘fucking Chi-Comms’ were not going to tell him how to make furniture!” remarked one retailer. Drawing on prodigious research and interviews with a wide range of subjects, including babysitters, retired workers and Chinese executives, Macy recounts how Bassett, now in his mid-70s, mobilized the majority of American furniture manufacturers to join him in seeking U.S. government redress for unfair Chinese trade practices. The author’s brightly written, richly detailed narrative not only illuminates globalization and the issue of offshoring, but succeeds brilliantly in conveying the human costs borne by low-income people displaced from a way of life—i.e., factory jobs that their Appalachian families had worked for generations. Writing with much empathy, Macy gives voice to former workers who must now scrape by on odd jobs, disability payments and, in some cases, thievery of copper wire from closed factories. Her book is also a revealing account of the paternalistic Bassett dynasty, whose infighting was a constant diversion for everyone living in the company town. Ultimately, Bassett’s efforts saved some 700 jobs and his Vaughan-Bassett company, the nation’s largest wood bedroom furniture maker.

A masterly feat of reporting.

Pub Date: July 15th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-316-23143-5
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2014




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Kirkus Interview
Beth Macy
author of FACTORY MAN
December 9, 2014

The Bassett Furniture Company was once the world's biggest wood furniture manufacturer. Run by the same powerful Virginia family for generations, it was also the center of life in Bassett, Virginia. But beginning in the 1980s, the first waves of Asian competition hit, and ultimately Bassett was forced to send its production overseas. In Factory Man, Beth Macy details John Bassett’s epic struggle to keep his company in business amid unfair overseas business practices that forced many U.S. manufacturers to move their factories abroad. A brash, patriotic charmer fond of quoting George Patton. The author’s brightly written, richly detailed narrative not only illuminates globalization and the issue of offshoring, but succeeds brilliantly in conveying the human costs borne by low-income people displaced from a way of life. We like Factory Man so much, we named it to our list of Best Nonfiction Books of 2014. We talk to Macy this week on Kirkus TV. View video >

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