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HIDDEN AMERICA by Jeanne Marie Laskas

HIDDEN AMERICA

From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work

By Jeanne Marie Laskas

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15900-8
Publisher: Putnam

A glimpse inside the lives of the unsung people who do the work that keeps America ticking.

Laskas, an intrepid reporter and great storyteller, spent weeks underground in a coal mine and lived with blueberry pickers in a migrant-worker camp in Maine and with roughnecks on a drilling rig off Alaska’s North Slope. Her accounts of these and other ventures, most of which first appeared in GQ, introduce people doing jobs that most Americans never think about. She learned about what really goes on at a cattle ranch in Texas and at a huge landfill in California, and she shared a ride with a female long-haul trucker and exposed the strains of air traffic controllers at La Guardia Airport. Although these pieces are character-driven, Laskas has done her research, and she inserts some provocative facts and figures. In Washington County, Maine, which has the state’s highest unemployment rate, and where a good blueberry raker can earn $1,350 a week, there are no white applicants for the job; in Puente Hills, Calif., methane from the trash dump produces enough electricity to power about 70,000 homes. Two pieces that do not quite fit into the theme of revealing a hidden but necessary world are the one on the cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals—visible on TV and hardly essential—and the one on buying guns at a sporting goods store in Yuma, Ariz. Both of these pieces are enjoyable, however, and the author succeeds in capturing the attitudes, concerns, experiences and sometimes the private lives of workers that most readers are unlikely to come into contact with.

Highly informative and thoroughly entertaining.