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Postville: USA: Surviving Diversity in Small-Town America Paperback – September 1, 2009

3.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of the effects of globalization is to bring vast numbers of diverse peoples to traditionally homogenous small towns almost as easily as urban centers. Postville, Iowa, is such a town, attracting newcomers from 50 nations looking for work. Until 2008, when government immigration enforcement moved in, the town seemed to be a successful, harmonious experiment in social adaptation. Postville's financial and social success stemmed largely from a bond with Agriprocessors, the Kosher meatpacking plant that employed much of the town. The powerful sense of unity common to factory towns overcame differences in the population, even among its white residents. In May, 2008, for the sake of political points, the government made an example of Agriprocessors, arresting every undocumented worker-a full 20 percent of the town's population-and dismantling its business. In the process, it unmade the town. The authors build their case study around interviews with residents, putting together a picture of multiculturalism at work; tellingly, however, the authors (an anthropologist, a public health professor, and a city councilman) avoid the question of immigrant exploitation and corporate greed-indeed, the lack of testimony from undocumented laborers themselves speak volumes.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: GemmaMedia; 59169th edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934848646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934848647
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #854,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The greatest strength of this book is its subject. The town of Postville, Iowa, endured an immigration raid on May 12, 2008 that shut down its largest employer. It was widely discussed at the time. Here we have some non-superficial coverage from three authors who were there.

I liked the parts that covered the ICE's preparation for the big raid, the activities of local charities as they fed and housed people afterwards, Agriprocessors efforts to keep operating, media coverage of Postville both before and after the raid, and the description of the diversity industry. There were lots of interesting details along the way. For example, many of the illegals arrested were from Guatemala. Guatemalans in Iowa!

I dearly wish there had been an editor. The story spills out in a disorganized way, jumping ahead, jumping around -- so much to say, no time to say it. And unlike that other book (Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America), a good read before you tackle this one, Postville U.S.A. suffers from awkward, clumsy prose, the kind of thing a good editor would polish away.

The other annoyance is the authors tendency to preach. The "[Nine] Lessons Learned Surviving Diversity" chapter is the most outrageous. One gets the feeling they would love to see thousands marching down a street behind a banner that reads "All Hail the Nine Lessons!". The Capitalists among you will smile as you read they'd like the continued presence of cheap foreign labor in America. The fans of Labor, higher minimum wages etc., will be scowling.
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Format: Paperback
The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Raid that occurred in Postville, Iowa in the spring of 2008 had incredible impact on the community and surrounding area. The authors shared not only their expertise on the history of AgriProcessors in Postville, the history of immigration and policy in America, the growth (sometimes painful) that occurred as a wide variety of cultures settled in Postville and grew to call it 'Home'; as well as the devastation that followed the raid. As I read the book, I was struck by the authenticity of the message. One of the authors, Aaron, who lives and works in Postville, speaks clearly of the adjustment of very different cultures living closely in a small town. 'Diversity' is often glossed over, or painted as an easy process - Aaron describes the growth and hard work needed to make it work. It was very interesting that even though the authors are experts at diversity, their advice was discounted because their backgrounds are not viewed as 'diverse' enough to qualify them as 'experts'.
Living only 15 miles from Postville, and a sociologist/social worker/mediator by training, I was interested in Postville over the years and impressed as I saw the schools and health systems stretch to make thing work. After the raid, I was very concerned about the community of Postville, and the devastation to families and the economy. It was as though a bomb had ripped through the social and economic fabric of the community and very few resources were provided to aid in the clean-up. I knew firsthand that the needs of those affected by the raid were being provided by individuals stepping up and helping out.
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Format: Paperback
This book covers the big immigration raid of 2008, but not well. It also covers the multicultural aspects of Postville, again not well.

The subtitle "Surviving Diversity in Small-Town America" promises analysis of a weighty topic. But Postville, Iowa, has too many cultures and too many issues. There's altogether too much to sort out. It doesn't help that the two dominant groups in Postville, the long time residents (Lutherans, other Protestants, some Catholics) and the relative newcomers (Hasidic Jews) are not on good terms. The latter group was unwilling to assimilate, or even accommodate. They did not obey the laws of the dominant culture in small ways, such as getting a building permit to modify a residence, or in large ways, such as hiring only those with the legal right to work.

We read of the hopeful details, such as an Orthodox Jew being elected to the City Council. But we are never offered a broader vision. One suspects both sides are so protected by Political Correctness that the authors felt unable to describe relations between them.

Coverage of the raid is also spotty. Although we do get a fine description of ICE preparing temporary holding facilities in Waterloo, Iowa, we don't get interviews of the ICE officials who decided to conduct the raid. Why after years of open disrespect for the law did the ICE decide to enforce? Was it the alleged child labor? Or the alleged money laundering, allowing illegal employees to be paid in cash by a third party? Was it related in any way to cultural diversity? The raid happened, but we don't learn why.

The authors were on the scene. They do report what they saw. They did not dig. They leave giant holes in the story. They got only halfway to a good book.
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