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Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press (May 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608195295
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608195299
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

To a steelworker, autobuilder, or shop rat, blue skies unclouded by smog spell unemployment and economic disaster. In this elegy for the bustling industrial cities of the Midwest, McClelland not only examines what was once the Arsenal of Democracy and is now the Rust Belt, but also profiles the people caught in the decline, from regular Joes to such high-profile figures as Dennis Kucinich and Michael Moore. Focusing on personal tales of woe with sympathy and verve, McClelland brings home the impact of the titanic shift in industry in the last half of the twentieth century. That history is also largely the history of labor unions, whose battles are displayed in full force. Along the way, McClelland provides snapshots of his own journey, which started in a Michigan school next to an auto plant. The result provides an answer for anyone who has ever looked at a shuttered factory and asked, Why? --Bridget Thoreson

Review

“Engagingly written….McClelland's book reminds us of what has transpired in the heart of the country over the past 30 years and of the battering endured by hundreds of thousands of working-class families as global corporatism and federal trade policies gutted the American middle class.”
—Los Angeles Times
 
“McClelland is a terrific reporter, smoothly blending facts from the historical record with the bitter, often profane, conversation of the displaced and desperate men and women he meets and his own reflections. These last are often as witty as they are shrewd.”—The Washington Post
 
“Focusing on personal tales of woe with sympathy and verve, McClelland brings home the impact of the titanic shift in industry in the last half of the twentieth century…. The result provides an answer for anyone who has ever looked at a shuttered factory and asked, Why?”—Booklist
 
“McClelland’s knack for turning a phrase (‘My last two full-time jobs no longer exist. For a Generation-Xer, tales from the 1960s are employment porn.’) allows him to tie together these auto and steel towns and capture touching, personal tales so as to bring these dying municipalities back to life, if only on the page…. A reservoir of information about American manufacturing, labor unions, and social movements, McClelland’s book, ironically, stands as a testament to the simple truth that one steel worker told him: ‘You can’t grow an economy without making things, producing stuff.’”—Publishers Weekly
 
“McClelland helps to make the old feel new by drawing on a combination of personal contacts, extensive interviewing and acute observation based on showing up and hanging out. Little-known details emerge throughout…. his book is admirably long on explanation and empathy.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“McClelland, a former newspaper reporter, is an engaging writer with an ear for local voices. He has a knack for the memorable phrase and often lends a poetic touch to urban affairs….by memorializing the best days of American labor, he reminds us of just how much we had. And, of course, how much we lost.”—Robert Smith, Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
“Edward McClelland, who knows the territory, has produced a dazzling and heart-breaking piece of front-line reporting on the glory days and collapse of the industrial heartland, and on the pain and resilience of the people left in its wreckage. From Syracuse and Buffalo to Flint and Chicago, we meet the workers who wonder what has happened to their lives. Raw and vibrant, Nothin’ But Blue Skies sings the Rust Belt blues.”—Richard C. Longworth, author of Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism
 
“In Nothin' But Blue Skies, Edward McClelland assembles old-school reporting, memoir, history and wit into a brilliant story about the workers and robber barons who created booming economies, the strikes, politics and global changes that rendered them depressed, and the people from Decatur to Syracuse trying to figure out what’s next. Neither starry-eyed nor despairing, Nothin' But Blue Skies is the book to read on the past, present, and future of the Rust Belt.”—Anne Trubek, author of A Skeptic’s Guide to Writer’s Houses and co-editor of Rust Belt Chic

More About the Author

Edward McClelland was born in Lansing, Mich., in 1967. Like so many Michiganders of his generation, he now lives in Chicago, Ill. His upcoming book, "Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland," which will be released in May 2013 by Bloomsbury Press, was inspired by seeing the Fisher Body plant across the street from his old high school torn down. After getting his start in journalism at the Lansing State Journal, he later worked as a staff writer for the Chicago Reader. His book "The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes" won the 2008 Great Lakes Book Award in General Nonfiction. Ted's writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Salon, Slate, and The Nation.

Customer Reviews

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This is a very well written book.
Ronald Teuber
I have watched these great cities in the North, Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Pittsburg get destroyed and abandoned.
Lawrence Baker
He wove together an historical analysis with personal and sometimes tragic stories.
Tom Heaney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Connor Coyne on September 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Early this morning I couldn't sleep, so I drove out to Gillie's Coney Island just north of Flint to finish reading Edward McClelland's engrossing book "Nothin' but Blue Skies." Although Blue Skies is nothing less than a full-blown survey of Rust Belt decline -- from Buffalo to Decatur -- the penultimate chapter dealt specifically with the end stages of Flint's decay, and particularly the spike in crime as a result of public safety cuts.

After I finished reading, I drove home, and the predawn twilight was illuminated by a massive fire that had consumed a huge old house on the Eastside. The flames reached higher than the house's three stories and I could smell the soot on the interstate a half-mile away. It was a striking and depressing reminder that, far from exaggerating Midwestern distress, books like McClelland's attempt to proportionally consider the dimensions of the human disaster here.

Cities like Flint, Detroit, Cleveland, and Homestead have been scrutinized in a recent series of memoirs and analyses -- Gordon Young's "Teardown," Charlie LeDuff's "Detroit: An American Autopsy," and "Nothin' but Blue Skies," among many others. As America's industrial decline has evolved into its post-industrial catastrophe, we are very fortunate to have received these candid, sharp, nuanced accounts of communities stripped of resource and divested of political power. It is a mortally important subject, as it hints toward the fate of much of America, and whatever their individual wrinkles may be, I consider these books to be a gift.

"Nothin' but Blue Skies" specifically may be one of the most rhetorically strident of these, just as its subject is the most encompassing. Each of sixteen chapters is framed around a different city's moment of industrial reckoning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Contentious on June 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I ordered "nothin but BLUE SKIES" from Amazon almost a month ago, I thought Edward McClelland was unduly optimistic in the title and implied premise of the book. Then, I realized the title is a satirical, double entendre, or maybe a triple. He has used his expert reporter's skills to collect heart breaking stories from rust belt communities whose loss of smoke stack industries has brought back "blue skies", which, so far, have not been much consolation to the, much reduced, under employed populations now living smoke free.
I grew up in and graduated from public high school in Detroit, worked in two auto assembly plants, and in peripheral industries for the bulk of my working life. I agree with the author that much blame for the decline of the American branded auto industry rests on management denial of world-wide automobile trends and oil supply realities. However, he touches oh, so lightly on the reality that overreaching by the industrial unions was at least as much to blame.
The second meaning of "blue skies" is that, for some of the cities, new industries such as urban agriculture, wind powered and direct solar powered electrical generation, et cetera probably will not require reestablishing the smoke stacks.
Some of the recovery scenarios my seem unrealistically optimistic, and may be too long term to be politically realistic. Nevertheless, they are more honest, and sustainable than the approach followed by the "feds" with respect to General Motors. In that case ownership was stripped from historic stakeholders, then essentially awarded to the organization whose members would be most likely to vote the correct way.
Meanwhile, I must be optimistic myself. I just bought a 2013 General Motors SUV.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. L LaRegina on September 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Take a city-by-city tour of the American rustbelt's post-1970s race to the bottom in journalist Edward McClelland's 2013 book NOTHIN' BUT BLUE SKIES: THE HEYDAY, HARD TIMES, AND HOPES OF AMERICA'S INDUSTRIAL HEARTLAND. Both big-picture overviews of the big towns and personal stories of the working people of cities such as Detroit, Buffalo, and Decatur robbed of their standards of living, the book declares the winners and losers of the Reagan Revolution, four decades running.

Near the end of NOTHIN' BUT BLUE SKIES author McClelland tells of a job offer a newspaper withdraws from him because he asks for something they weren't offering, a week's vacation during his first year of employment. While a bit off the main topic of blue collar work that went to the lands of lower wages, the South and/or overseas, this anecdote seems to serve as the lesson to all who think assembly line workers didn't deserve those competitive wages they used to get: You're next.

I find it odd that NOTHIN' BUT BLUE SKIES goes out its way to dig up dirt on journalist Michael Moore and his movie ROGER AND ME, claiming Moore actually had interviewed General Motors chair Roger Smith but hid that fact for the sake of the film. Frankly, whether he did or not is beside the point of that groundbreaking documentary, which is that G.M. set the standard of executives overpaying themselves at the expense of both workers and the company itself.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Christopher M. White on June 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm halfway through and really enjoying it. I grew up in Flint until I was 15 when I moved to Ann Arbor. It puts into context a lot of what I lived through but was too young to understand fully.
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