cover image American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears

American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears

Farah Stockman. Random House, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-1-984801-15-9

Pulitzer winner Stockman debuts with a vivid and empathetic examination of “what jobs mean to people.” She centers the narrative on three former employees of the Rexnord bearing plant in Indianapolis, Ind., which announced in 2016 that it would close its doors and move production to Mexico and Texas. Shannon Mulcahy, who had been one of the first female steelworkers at Rexnord, credits the job with helping her escape an abusive marriage and support her multigenerational family. Since the plant’s closure in 2017, she’s struggled to find work that will provide the same benefits and sense of pride. Wally Hall sees the plant’s closure as the spur he needs to try to launch his own barbecue business, while union leader John Feltner has harsh words for coworkers who agreed to train their Mexican replacements for a $4 per hour bonus. Stockman contextualizes developments in her protagonists’ lives with lucid discussions of globalization, immigration, and the rise of the service economy, and casts events against the backdrop of America’s recent political turmoils, noting that Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of Rexnord’s closure earned him supporters among the plant’s workers. Throughout, Stockman interrogates her own political and cultural assumptions, and draws vibrant profiles of her three main subjects and their colleagues. The result is an intimate and captivating study of the forces dividing America. (Oct.)