A worthy but at times stilted portrait of the lasting effects of job losses on factory workers.

AMERICAN MADE

WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHEN WORK DISAPPEARS

A Pulitzer Prize winner’s first book tallies the social, emotional, and financial costs of a company’s decision to shut down an Indiana factory.

Stockman shows the shattering effects of globalization on the unskilled workers sometimes called “the precariat” for the precariousness of their jobs. In this immersive account, she follows three former employees of the Rexnord bearings plant in Indianapolis after the company’s 2016 announcement that it was moving its operations to Mexico and Texas. Each worker’s life was upended by the shutdown and, the author argues in mostly persuasive fashion, represents a larger cause. Shannon Mulcahy, one of the first female steelworkers at the plant, embodies the women’s movement; Wally Hall, a descendant of slaves, the struggle for civil rights; and John Feltner, a vice president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, organized labor. Stockman examines the steep price the workers paid for the closure, which included having to train their Mexican replacements in order to get a severance package. Behind their stories lay the stark realities of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has led to a loss of 700,000 U.S. factory jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and of Trump’s failed promise to bring jobs back. The author notes that her research altered her view of free trade: “Supporters of free trade say it generates enough wealth to compensate losers. But we don’t.” Throughout, Stockman “re-created” scenes in ways some readers may sometimes find confusing or cringeworthy, as when she writes that one woman had “skin the color of a freshly unwrapped Hershey’s kiss” and another “had silky skin the color of salted caramel gelato.” She appears to be trying to capture a subject’s point of view, but she doesn’t enclose them in quotation marks, and it’s hard to be sure whose thoughts they reflect. The stylistic awkwardness aside, this book gives a valuable account of the many things work means to Americans.

A worthy but at times stilted portrait of the lasting effects of job losses on factory workers.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984801-15-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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