HUDDLE FEVER: Living in the Immigrant City by Jeanne Sehinto

HUDDLE FEVER: Living in the Immigrant City

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A combination guidebook, history, and personal account of life in Lawrence, Mass. In 1911, Lawrence was celebrated as the clothmaking capital of the world, boasting dozens of mills, including the world's largest, employing 10,000 men, women, and children. By 1984, when essayist and novelist Schinto (Children of Men, 1991, etc.) moved to this working-class city outside Boston, the mills were long gone and the town's decay had earned it a new reputation as a capital of crime and urban blight. Schinto writes about her ten years in Lawrence with the avowed purpose of describing ""a paradigm for the rise and fall of industrial cities all over America."" She mixes stories about the town's history with personal experiences and interviews with aged former millworkers and new immigrants from Latin America and Southeast Asia. The author offers strong opinions about the industrialists who built Lawrence and, she claims, sowed the seeds of its downfall. Schinto knows a lot about the town, past and present, and her observations ring true. They do not, however, ring with particular originality. The story of industrial rise and fall, and of the pain this cycle inflicts on America's blue-collar workers, has been told many times. There is nothing in Schinto's account that sheds important new light on these issues, or that is likely to move the reader to consider the plight of America's working class in radically different ways. Her conclusion, ""that the real trouble with . . . Lawrences everywhere is not that the middle class has moved out but that the working class is becoming extinct,"" is heartfelt but mundane. This is clearly a labor of love for the author. It will be a less rewarding labor for most of its readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1995
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Knopf