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Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Doby Gabriel Thompson
Synopses & Reviews
What is it like to do the back-breaking work of immigrants? To find out, Gabriel Thompson spent a year working alongside Latino immigrants, who initially thought he was either crazy or an undercover immigration agent. He stooped over lettuce fields in Arizona, and worked the graveyard shift at a chicken slaughterhouse in rural Alabama. He dodged taxis — not always successfully — as a bicycle delivery boy for an upscale Manhattan restaurant, and was fired from a flower shop by a boss who, he quickly realized, was nuts.
As one coworker explained, These jobs make you old quick. Back spasms occasionally keep Thompson in bed, where he suffers recurring nightmares involving iceberg lettuce and chicken carcasses. Combining personal narrative with investigative reporting, Thompson shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcement — while telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants, and desperate US citizens alike, forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour.
"Thompson (There's No Jos Here) details working alongside undocumented workers in this stirring look at the bottom rung of America's economic ladder. Thompson's project feels initially like a gimmick; that this middle-class white American can go undercover in the lettuce fields of Arizona or the poultry plants of Alabama seems more stunt (or rehash of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed) than sound journalism. But the warmth with which he describes his co-workers and the heartbreaking descriptions of the demanding, degrading, and low-paying jobs quickly pull the reader in. Gimmick or no, the author pushes his body and his patience to the limits, all the while deferring attention to the true heroes: his co-workers, whose dignity, perseverance, physical endurance, and manual skill are no less admirable for being born of sheer necessity. What emerges are not tales of downtrodden migrants but of clever hands and clever minds forced into repetitive and dangerous labor without legal protections. Thompson excels at putting a human face on individuals and situations alternately ignored and vilified." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An award-winning young investigative journalist goes undercover, living the life of an undocumented immigrant.
About the Author
Gabriel Thompson writes for New York magazine, The Nation, the Brooklyn Rail, and In These Times. The author of There's No Jose Here, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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