AMERICAN MADE

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Stockman shows the shattering effects of globalization on the unskilled workers sometimes called “the precariat” for the precariousness of their jobs. In this immersive account, she follows three former employees of the Rexnord bearings plant in Indianapolis after the company’s 2016 announcement that it was moving its operations to Mexico and Texas. Each worker’s life was upended by the shutdown and, the author argues in mostly persuasive fashion, represents a larger cause. Shannon Mulcahy, one of the first female steelworkers at the plant, embodies the women’s movement; Wally Hall, a descendant of slaves, the struggle for civil rights; and John Feltner, a vice president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, organized labor. Stockman examines the steep price the workers paid for the closure, which included having to train their Mexican replacements in order to get a severance package. Behind their stories lay the stark realities of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has led to a loss of 700,000 U.S. factory jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and of Trump’s failed promise to bring jobs back. The author notes that her research altered her view of free trade: “Supporters of free trade say it generates enough wealth to compensate losers. But we don’t.” Throughout, Stockman “re-created” scenes in ways some readers may sometimes find confusing or cringeworthy, as when she writes that one woman had “skin the color of a freshly unwrapped Hershey’s kiss” and another “had silky skin the color of salted caramel gelato.” She appears to be trying to capture a subject’s point of view, but she doesn’t enclose them in quotation marks, and it’s hard to be sure whose thoughts they reflect. The stylistic awkwardness aside, this book gives a valuable account of the many things work means to Americans.

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