#BookReview: American Made by Farah Stockman

Strong Case Studies Marred By Author’s Biases. Overall, this is a strong case study following three people the author somewhat randomly stumbled into when tasked with reporting on the closure of a particular factory and its implications on the 2016 and 2020 elections. The author openly admits in the very first chapter that she is a fairly typical New England Liberal Elite, and that flavors much of her commentary and several of her observations – but also provides for at least a few hints of potential growth along the way. But once her own biases are accounted for, this truly is a strong look at a deep dive into the three people she chronicles and their histories and thoughts as they navigate both their personal situations over these few years and the national situations as they see and understand them. At times funny but far more often tragic, this is a very real look at what at least some go through when their factory job closes around them, to be moved elsewhere. (Full disclosure, my own father living through this *twice* in my teens in as Goodyear shut down their plants in Cartersville, GA has defined my own story almost as much as a few other situations not relevant to this book. So I have my own thoughts on the matter as someone whose family underwent similar situations a couple of decades before the events of this book, but who saw them as the child of the adult worker rather than as the adult workers chronicled here.)

Ultimately, your mileage on this will vary based on whether you can at minimum accept the author’s biases for what they are or even if you outright fully agree with them. But I *do* appreciate the flashes of growth she shows, particularly in later sections, as she learns just how fully human these people are, even as her prejudices early in the book somewhat openly show that she didn’t fully appreciate just how fully human people like this could be before actually spending considerable time with them. Indeed, the one outright flaw here is that there is at least a hint of impropriety when the author begins engaging perhaps a bit too much with the lives of her subjects – but again, that ultimately comes down to just how sensitive your own ethical meter is.

Overall a mostly strong book, and very much recommended.

This review of American Made by Farah Stockman was originally written on August 31, 2021.

Featured New Release of The Week: Drugs, Money, and Secret Handshakes by Robin Feldman

This week we are looking at an eye opening klaxon call warning us of the inner workings of the drug industry in the US. This week, we are looking at Drugs, Money, and Secret Handshakes by Robin Feldman.

Quite simply, if you are an American reading this and you only read a single book between now and the November 2020 elections, it needs to be this one.

Fully 46% of the edition I read was bibliography and index – that is how well documented this treatise is. Indeed, at times it seemed that literally every sentence Feldman wrote had a footnote marker at the end of it.

And what she documents here is simply astonishing. I think many of us have suspected various pieces of the problem for quite a while, and indeed reform efforts as long ago as the mid 80s, when I was a toddler, have sought to correct some of what is described in this book. But as Feldman points out, many of these reforms have only exacerbated the problem rather than solving it.

Feldman does an excellent job introducing the problem in Chapter 1, spends chapters 2-4 detailing the problem from multiple perspectives, discusses an actual study of the problem she executed in chapter 5 – which is astonishing in its own right and not to be missed – and finally details some potential solutions in Chapter 6. It is refreshing that she explicitly states in the introduction to Chapter 6 that many of her proposals won’t be politically palatable and so gives a range of options from possibly politically palatable yet likely ineffective to almost a third rail of politics yet could likely actually solve the issue.

If this book gets the discussion it deserves, it will likely be a driving force in at least some of the 2020 campaigns, and it deserves to be. Feldman truly does a superb job of documenting and explaining her case, and I look forward to seeing where this goes.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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