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Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression Hardcover – June 6, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520262476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520262478
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author and photographer team Maharidge and Williamson continue their heartfelt chronicle of the travails facing America's poor and homeless in this follow-up to the 1995 Journey to Nowhere. Presenting new stories from today's "Great Depression" and updating their accounts of those impoverished during the recession of the '80s and the supposed boom years of the '90s, this book evokes the Depression-era collaboration of Walker Evans and James Agee. Maharidge delves into causes: the pernicious effects of NAFTA; the hollowing-out of the Rust Belt of the Midwest through deindustrialization; a deeply unbalanced tax system in which the middle classes pay a higher proportion of their income than the wealthy, even in the face of ever-skyrocketing pay for CEOs. However, at the core of the narrative are the individuals who've found themselves dispossessed, hopping freight trains to look for work, waiting in food bank lines, huddling in shanties hand-built from scraps and billboard tarps, and mourning the closings of the steel mills where they once worked. Williamson's gritty photographs—of blind storefronts, abandoned lots choked with weeds, faces lined with dirt and worry, stalwart families, and squatters hunched over meager campfires—are an equally eloquent testimonial. (June)

Review

“Evokes the Depression-era collaboration of Walker Evans and James Agee.”
(Publishers Weekly 2011-04-04)

"'Someplace Like America' is unrelenting prose. . . . There's something doggedly heroic in this commitment to one of journalism's least glamorous, least remunerative subjects."
(George Packer New Yorker 2013-04-29)

“Deserves high praise . . . . Undeniable relevance to today’s American experience.”
(Foreword 2011-06-10)

“Maharidge’s straightforward-but-impassioned prose and Williamson’s gritty black-and white photographs make you angry. They’re an indictment.”
(Joseph B. Atkins, University of Mississippi American Studies 2013-04-14)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
Definitely one of the most important books I've ever read and a sobering one at that.
Alexander R. Clayton
The destitution that so many Americans now live in raises a lot of questions, and the authors explore those questions very well.
Mark K. Mcdonough
Although he hasn't read it yet, it looks very interesting and informative and the pictures are a bonus.
W. Stewart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mark K. Mcdonough VINE VOICE on October 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm about 3/4ths of the way through reading this book - about 10 or 15 pages at a time. The reason I'm reading it that way is because it just gets overwhelming. During the years in which the authors were doing their early work, I was a young man constantly crisscrossing the country, and saw many of the same sights they did. America's blue collar class was thrown to the wolves, and no one much cared or noticed - we made up the name "rust belt," shrugged our shoulders, and moved on. Now I'm a middle aged guy tied to a desk, and they've come for my class too - our turn to get thrown to the wolves.

In reading this book, and the desperate stories it contains, I was constantly reminded of how close we all our to destitution and desperation: one piece of bad luck, one chronic illness, one unlucky bet on the Wall Street wheel.

What makes this book worth reading - instead of just being a depressing catalog of misery - is the insight and compassion the authors bring to the subject. The destitution that so many Americans now live in raises a lot of questions, and the authors explore those questions very well. There are plenty of insights from the streets, but also from academics and other experts. In other words, it's a book that gives you plenty to think about, and then helps you think.

The passages that focus on individual stories of hardship (and sometimes recovery from hardship) are never sentimental, but also never clinical. The photographs and the text help you see the people in the book as individuals, not simply as a horde who have suffered misfortunes. This is a book that reminds you how much we all have in common - how much you and I share with the guy begging for food by the freeway ramp. I also liked the chapter in which the authors go to the bar right next to Goldman Sachs' headquarters and watch the traders come in to strut their stuff. You and I don't share much with them at all.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Alexander R. Clayton on July 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Definitely one of the most important books I've ever read and a sobering one at that. It is one I wish all Americans would read, because it reveals the faces of struggling fellow citizens, the likes of which we haven't seen in these numbers since the Great Depression. "Someplace Like America" is like a real-life, modern-day version of the torment Steinbeck laid out in "The Grapes of Wrath" all those years ago, albeit with numerous stories in various places across America.

As Maharidge himself states, this is a journalistic effort, not a wonky policy book, but he deftly weaves in how various political/policy decisions over the years have resulted in the suffering of Americans regardless of class, age race, sex or region of the country. We are all vulnerable, now more than ever.

My only complaint with the book is that due to the structure, it didn't feel like it really flowed and felt "all of a piece" for a while, and that's probably because it builds on previous books/articles and then moves into the present day, so there isn't necessarily a strong continuum in places. It starts in the 1980s, jumps to the 90s and 00s, revisits some of the individuals and families Maharidge and Williamson encountered previously, and then proceeds forward to document more current struggles throughout America.

Regardless of my quibbles, I found this to be a most enjoyable read, even though the subject matter is heavy and hard to take at times. It is a remarkable piece of work, and a true modern-day classic.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By She-She on July 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. If you have been in denial just how bad some folks in our country have it....please read this book. It was well written, the pictures capture the sad but yet determined individuals mentioned in the book. The forward from Bruce Springsteen is wonderful.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert Taylor Brewer on July 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Someplace Like America: Tales From The New Great Depression

For decades, it was considered political suicide to even mention the word "depression" in American political discourse. As late as 1978, Stuart Eizenstat, Chief Domestic Policy Advisor in the Carter Administration, said " if we don't fix the nation's economic problems, we could have a "banana". It was not an occasion for humor. Such was the vividness of the Great Depression upon the national psyche that everyone knew what Mr. Eizenstat meant.

In their new book, Someplace Like America, authors Dale Maharidge and Michael S. Williamson re-establish a timeline between 20th century and 21st century hardship and deprivation in America, and they do so with a compassion and conviction that allows their work to be viewed as a continuation of that Depression era opus maximus, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The face on page 136 is a face we've seen before in the Depression era work of Dorthea Lange, while page 131 shares common ground with Larry Clark's Tulsa.

After the inflation induced economic stagnation of the 1970's and Fed Chairman Paul Volker's determination to break the back of inflation, the U.S. embarked on a stretch of unparallel growth and expansion. None of this undermines the document the authors have produced because their thesis is that, even at its most robust, the American economy has always left large slices of its working population outside its growth umbrella.

In the place of the industrial economy, whose demise this new book chronicles effectively, the large and burgeoning service economy was known by its acronym FIRE (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate).
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