Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein



Hello Fellow Reader!

One of the reasons that I like book clubs is that they will get you to read out of your comfort zone. I belong to two different book clubs and often the books are not books that I would have picked for myself. And very often, I enjoy the book more than I would have thought.

JanesvilleThat happened this month with the book Janesville, An American Story by Amy Goldstein. The book is about what happened in Janesville, WI after the GM plant closed down. Okay, that does not sound that interesting, right? I mean, I would guess that the town went downhill. I expected it to be a bit dry and boring.

It is not. I am so impressed with the way that Amy Goldstein approached this subject. The story is told from the perspective of about 20 people in the town. Some of the people had worked for GM or one of the companies that existed to supply GM with parts. But included were the perspectives of others in the town affected by the closings. It was so interesting to follow from the different perspectives.

The book spans 2010 to 2013 with an Epilogue from 2015. It is not a long book – 351 pages. It covers events that I remember but did not know the context at the time to put it in perspective. (In case you didn’t know, Paul Ryan is a native son of Janesville and that is the district he represents.) The author puts in context the politics of the time and the town’s attitudes and talks about the changes that occurred after the plant closed. You get a first hand look at the success of the re-training efforts.

For example, we follow the Vaughns. Both Mike and Barb worked for Lear Corp., which closed because of the GM plant closing. Barb decided right away to go back to school and get a two-year degree in Criminal Justice. It took Mike a little longer to decide what he wanted to do. He followed Barb in going back to school and getting a two-year degree in Human Resources. Because of the grants available at the time, both went to the local junior college for free. Barb was one of the lucky ones hired to be a guard at the local prison. It became apparent that this was not the job for her and she decided to go back to school for a 4-year degree in social work. She was able to get a job with a local social service agency while she was back in school. Mike was also fortunate that he was able to get a job after he finished. Neither of them made anywhere near the amount of money they had made with their factory jobs. But they were fortunate that they found positions that they liked.

The stories about the people in the town are interesting. You want to know what happens next and if they are doing okay. I think the book is very well done (It has won numerous awards, so I am not alone in that feeling.) and absorbing. I really didn’t want to put it down.

Thanks for reading!


About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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