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Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression Hardcover – June 6, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
In reading this book, and the desperate stories it contains, I was constantly reminded of how close we all are 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.
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.
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).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book gives insight as to how the homeless manage to survive and how the homeless became homeless. Its hard to believe that this is happening go n our land of plenty.Published 6 months ago by jirl
the whole book is deeply moving; the idea of locating people over many years is powerful. These people are America too, they have things to tell, to teach all of us and they should... Read morePublished on February 15, 2014 by Daniel Atlan
I would just echo what other reviewers have written. The best description is sobering and I too could only read the book in smail sections. Read morePublished on December 8, 2013 by Derek Putonen
Much like the journalists who documented the 1930's depression, this book provides a 30 year perspective of the destruction of the American middle class. Read morePublished on September 3, 2013 by Kindle Customer
Tells stories of people and places not covered anywhere I've seen before. Adds depth to my understanding of poverty and the human spirit in modern America.Published on September 3, 2013 by Paul W Schurke
I bought this book for my husband. Although he hasn't read it yet, it looks very interesting and informative and the pictures are a bonus. Read morePublished on July 5, 2013 by Weegee
This is a book that actually spans many downturns in the US economy, and how many segments of society get left behind. Read morePublished on June 9, 2013 by Todd J. Kluger
I read about this book in an article in a recent New Yorker and was intrigued enough to order the book. Read morePublished on May 26, 2013 by William Ciaburri
I got on to this book through a New Yorker a article by George Packer. Most journalism about the Great Recession has missed the most dispossessed among us. Read morePublished on May 25, 2013 by Gil thelen