cover image The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt

The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt

David Giffels. Scribner, $15 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-4516-9274-7

A native Ohioan who’s always lived in his home town of Akron, Giffels—an English professor and author of three books—has a unique perspective on Midwestern history. His latest book is a collection of articles written on the distinctive culture of adversity and loss experienced by those in the Midwest who have seen everything taken from them, from their factory jobs to their rock bands and even their sports icons. Giffels treats all these things with equal gravitas, an approach that lends itself both to his signature dry humor and to a heartfelt analysis of what drives his neighbors to continue. We follow Giffels in a roughly chronological journey through his life, beginning with his school days and ending with his son’s first attempt at driving. Along the way Giffels riffs on varying subjects like the origin of hamburgers, his own poetry, and bowling’s vital importance to the Rust Belt, in abrupt asides that are sometimes in desperate need of segues. Regardless, 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. (Mar.)