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Americans Reaching for Hope

Book - 2020
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Across the country, communities are struggling to stay afloat as blue-collar jobs disappear and an American dies of a drug overdose every seven minutes. Stagnant wages, weak education, bad decisions and a lack of health care force millions of Americans into a precarious balancing act that many of them fail to master. With stark poignancy, Tightrope draws us deep into this zother America,y and shows that if America is to remain a superpower, it must empower all its people. Authors Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn tell this profoundly personal story in part through the lives of people Kristof grew up with in rural Yamhill, Oregon. Its an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has stumbled in the last few decades as manufacturing jobs evaporated. About one-quarter of the children on Kristofs old school bus have died from drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicide or reckless accidents. One family had five smart, talented children on the bus; four are now gone, and the youngest survived mostly because he spent years in prison. The next generation has lost its footing as well, for the communitys strong social fabric has ripped and family structure has crumbled. The upward mobility of the previous generation has collapsed. While these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, the authors find these problems in Alabama, Oklahoma, Virginia, Tennessee and across the heartland. But here, too, are stories of hope and resurgence, among them: Annette Dove, who devotes her life to helping the teenagers of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as they navigate the chaotic reality of growing up poor, and Daniel McDowell, of Baltimore, an army veteran whose journey from opioid addiction to recovery suggests that there are viable ways to address our nations drug epidemic. Taken together, these compelling accounts illuminate a desperate stratum of America and a way forward. With their superb, nuanced reporting, Kristof and WuDunn have given us a book that is both riveting and impossible to ignore. While our present state may seem grim, they issue a clarion call to strengthen America by strengthening each America, so that this country can compete once again at the top of its game. To do so, we must demand better of our leaders, our business executives and ourselves.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2020
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780525655084
Characteristics: 304 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Discussing on March 16, 2021 via Zoom. Zoom meeting link:

Oregon author from Yamhill. Interesting emphasis on work as the saving factor, when it's contrasted with other titles on this list.

306.0973 KRISTOF NICHOLAS - The authors of the acclaimed no. 1 best seller Half the Sky now issue an urgent call to address the crisis in working-class America, offering solutions to mend a half century of malign neglect. Across the country, communities are struggling to stay afloat as blue-coll... Read More »

Discuss on Thursday, March 11th 11:45 A.M. Join here:

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May 16, 2021

Parts of this book should be required reading for high school students(plenty of data on avoiding an unsuccessful life). Also should be required for conservatives who think reduced funding for social programs saves money. Lots of eye opening information that was new to me. Recommended.

Feb 01, 2021

This book is sociological writing at its finest -- compelling personal stories, interesting data in laymen's terms, and possible workable solutions presented in a very readable format. Most of the book is centered around Yamhill, Oregon where Kristof grew up on a farm and still maintains ties with family and friends in the area. Others locales include Baltimore, Maryland, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The authors want the reader to understand that much of the downward spiral for the middle class and others in poverty is the result of bad public policy since 1970 aggravated by bad personal choices and decisions. They also point out that white rural poverty and black urban poverty look very much alike. Photographs of many of the people portrayed are sprinkled throughout the book.

Jul 07, 2020

"Tightrope" is absolutely worthwhile. It seems to me a clear indictment of both the war on drugs and of drug abuse as causes of the working-class social crisis reaching emergency levels.

May 31, 2020

Journalist husband and wife use people from his Oregon childhood and others across the country to highlight difficulties in lives that once might have reached the middle class, explaining causes and giving examples of programs and people offering hope.

I’ve been inspired by his NYT’s pieces and found this look at people in his life thought-provoking. Given the pandemic coupled with this momentous week in Minneapolis, the book’s another wake-up call to the trauma of so many lives. Loved this quote that opened one chapter, attributed to Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist: ‘If you are lucky enough to do well, send the elevator back down.’

JOHN LOVE Apr 25, 2020

One reviewer called "Tightrope" tedious. I'd say instead, relentless. Although I believe Kristof-WuDunn's latest is essential reading, it is disheartening to read chapter after chapter about the ways our society has failed its neediest citizens - offering myths like "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" rather than real solutions do deep problems. The case studies of Nick's Yamhill school classmates who ended up in prison, drug addicted, morbidly obese, or suicidal add reality to the depressing national statistics the authors cite along with the personal stories - not just from Yamhill but from throughout the country. Although the picture of what’s happening in our country is expectedly grim, Nick and Sheryl see hope. Their concluding chapter, “America Regained,” suggests eight big steps they suggest our country take, beginning with more funding for high-quality early childhood programs. No surprises here. But I come away discouraged, knowing that our current government—even if it miraculously becomes Democratic after November—is so unlikely to accomplish even one of the eight. The authors’ quotation from James Baldwin highlights the sadness: “I know what I am asking is impossible But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand.”

JCLMeghanF Mar 12, 2020

Definitely one of my top nonfiction picks of 2020. Two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, Kristof and WuDunn, investigate the crisis in towns throughout the U.S. where blue-collar jobs have disappeared and poverty and addiction have taken over. The stories are difficult to read at times and incredibly poignant. I loved the supplement at the end where the authors list things each of us can do to help out in our own communities.

Mar 05, 2020


Chapel_Hill_KrystalB Feb 25, 2020

I read a fair amount about the lives of poor and working class folks (including the disappearing middle class), out of a desire to better understand how we, as a country, got where we are, where we are going, what we can do about it, and on a personal note, to continue strengthening my belief system. This is one well-rounded, well-written book that did exactly those things. And I appreciated Kristof's first-hand knowledge as a Yamhill-ian. He continues to ask himself a very important question- how did he end up being ok when so many of his friends and neighbors did not? Recommended.

Feb 04, 2020

Several years ago I read Half the Sky and loved it. Now the authors have come out with another must read book! This book deals with the crisis in middle class America - loss of blue collar jobs, low wages, poor education, bad funding decisions and lack of affordable health care. Sadly, this has led to drug addiction, mass incarcerations and the rich get richer at the expense of fellow Americans! This is a Must Read Book - highly recommended!


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