Janesville

An American Story

Janesville

* Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year * Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize​ * 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year * A New York Times Notable Book * A Washington Post Notable Book * An NPR Best Book of 2017 * A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2017 * An Economist Best Book of 2017 * A Business Insider Best Book of 2017 *

“A gripping story of psychological defeat and resilience” (Bob Woodward, The Washington Post)—an intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class.

This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its main factory shuts down—but it’s not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up.

Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Amy Goldstein spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin, where the nation’s oldest operating General Motors assembly plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession. Now, with intelligence, sympathy, and insight into what connects and divides people in an era of economic upheaval, Goldstein shows the consequences of one of America’s biggest political issues. Her reporting takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job re-trainers to show why it’s so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a healthy, prosperous working class.

“Moving and magnificently well-researched...Janesville joins a growing family of books about the evisceration of the working class in the United States. What sets it apart is the sophistication of its storytelling and analysis” (Jennifer Senior, The New York Times).

“Anyone tempted to generalize about the American working class ought to meet the people in Janesville. The reporting behind this book is extraordinary and the story—a stark, heartbreaking reminder that political ideologies have real consequences—is told with rare sympathy and insight” (Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Soul of a New Machine).
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501102264 | 
  • January 2018
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Janesville includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

A New York Times Notable Book, a Washington Post Notable Book, and one of Barack Obama’s top 10 books—all in 2017—Janesville: An American Story is an account of resilience, hardship, and family in America’s heartland. Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin, after General Motors shut down its oldest operating assembly plant in the midst of the Great Recession. Goldstein paints an intimate picture of blue-collar workers and their families who are faced with uncertainty, doubt, depression, and the inability to care for their loved ones. What emerges is a portrait of middle America, where brave people try to remake themselves while supporting each other. Goldstein’s unflinching portrait of politicians—including Barack Obama and Paul Ryan, whose hometown is Janesville—shows the human cost to sometimes empty promises.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. One of the themes in the first half of Janesville is the dissol see more

About the Author

Amy Goldstein
Melina Mara

Amy Goldstein

Amy Goldstein has been a staff writer for thirty years at The Washington Post, where much of her work has focused on social policy. Among her awards, she shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She has been a fellow at Harvard University at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Janesville: An American Story is her first book. She lives in Washington, DC.

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