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The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt Paperback – March 18, 2014
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“Give us something to root for,” Akron, Ohio, writer and professor Giffels says near the beginning of this collection of personal essays about his embattled home state. Ohio once was home to manufacturing plants, industry, prosperity. That began to change in the 1960s, when factories began to close, and the dismantling of the state—and of Akron specifically—continues to this day. And it’s not just a figurative dismantling: one of the most moving essays here describes the author’s thoughts as he watched an old Firestone smokestack being literally dismantled, brick by brick, on a summer’s day. Giffels’ essays put a human face on daily life in today’s Ohio, while reminding readers of all the things Ohio has given the world: from the Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker to rockers Devo and Chrissie Hynde, to the hamburger (well, probably not, but Ohio’s claim to the burger makes a heck of a good story). An interesting and occasionally moving portrait of a place that, despite its decades-long downward slide, remains, for many, a pretty good place to live. --David Pitt
“They still build souls in Akron. The Hard Way on Purpose is proof. David Giffels is a Rust Belt prophet, laughing—sometimes through his tears—in Doom’s face. You want to hear America singing? Buy this book.” (Scott Raab, author of The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James)
“David Giffels writes straight into the heart of Akron, Ohio, the place we both call home. It’s a hard place to be from, which is why it makes such a good story. What other place could have spawned Jim Jarmusch, LeBron James, Lux Interior and the Goodyear blimp? So it’s no accident that this book reads like the American soul—wicked and sincere and ingeniously weird. It is a great story, an authentic one about the way people protect the places they love, and The Hard Way on Purpose gets it exactly right.” (Patrick Carney, The Black Keys (celebrated indie rock band from Akron, Ohio))
“This amazing book will resonate with anyone who’s ever loved a hometown, wherever it might be—especially if it’s the kind of hometown people usually leave. Even if you’ve never been to Akron, Giffels brilliantly captures how it feels to love your city fiercely, even when it’s falling apart. He celebrates Akron as ‘the Paris of hard times.’ Giffels might be its Baudelaire.” (Rob Sheffield, author of Love Is a Mix Tape and Turn Around Bright Eyes)
“Occasionally, an essayist so perfectly chronicles a specific place that he or she becomes synonymous with it. Joseph Mitchell and New York; Joan Didion and California; Adam Gopnik and Paris; John Jeremiah Sullivan and the American South. With The Hard Way on Purpose, David Giffels has pulled a chair up to this lofty literary table, and in so doing, provided the hardscrabble industrial Midwest with its own lyrical, learned, and very large-hearted champion.” (David Goodwillie, author of American Subversive)
“A heartfelt analysis...the portrait painted here is an honest and revealing one, illuminating the cultural factors that have given a strange, shadowy sort of hope to millions of Americans.” (Publishers Weekly)
"This collection of essays about life in Akron, Ohio, is so deep and inviting and surprising that I plan to carry a bunch in my trunk. Then, instead of mounting the Heartland defense, I’ll just throw the bigmouth fucknut in question a copy of Giffels’ masterwork and let it do the talking." (Eric Nuzum, Washington Independent Review of Books)
"[An] appealing, original fusion of personal essay collection and Rust Beltpost-mortem. . . funny and crisplyrendered." (Kirkus)
"[Giffels] gives you the Midwestern experience, from hoping your greatest sports star will choose his hometown over the bright lights, big city (in this case, LeBron James, who famously didn’t keep playing for his hometown) to the search for the perfect bowling shirt." (Flavorwire)
“Giffels’ voice is friendly.…his details so vibrant and fresh. . . . A region on the mend has found its voice.” (The New York Times Book Review)
"Let this heartfelt collection of essays by David Giffels reveal the wit and pride that are beyond all our preconceptions of Akron, Ohio." (Los Angeles Times)
Top customer reviews
If you ever looked at your hometown with hard eyes and asked if you should stay or go, this book is your cultural autobiography.