Synopses & Reviews
and#147;Matt Garcia's explosive new history of the United Farm Workers offers an absolutely stunning set of revelations about the internal life of that union while at the same time demonstrating the creative brilliance of those who organized the most important and successful boycott movement since the eve of the American Revolution itself.and#8221; and#151;Nelson Lichtenstein, MacArthur Foundation Chair in History, University of California, Santa Barbara
and#147;Matt Garciaand#8217;s From The Jaws Of Victory has done a great service in not only chronicling in all its compelling detail what once promised to be an unprecedented revolution in the organization of agri-business and the status of its workers, but also in telling this story with all its shadows, flaws, and shortfalls included. Rather than give us a statue in the park with which to track and remember our history, Garcia has given us a living, breathing monument to our actual selves and to who we might have been or yet might be. From The Jaws of Victory is full of perspective, understanding, and respect, a must for anyone who wants to follow the tracks of an uprising in stature and sensibility that powered some of the poorest and hardest working Americans through their rise and fall on the national stage.and#8221; and#151;David Harris, author of The Crisis: The President, the Prophet, and the Shahand#151;1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam
"From the Jaws of Victory is an essential contribution to the growing body of work on Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers' movement. This unabashedly objective, disciplined, and honest work adds critical new textures to the portrait of an American icon and his complex legacy." and#151;Hector Tobar, author of Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States
and#147;Matt Garcia's Jaws of Victory is a gripping, thoroughly researched narrative about the rise and fall of the UFW. The reader will come away with an entirely new perspective on the UFW and its iconic leader, Cesar Chavez. Garcia pulls no punches, and, consequently, the reader is in for a roller-coaster ride of emotion as the author unravels the cocoon that has enshrined the image of Chavez for decades. This book is the historian's craft at its best as Garcia painstakingly takes us through a bevy of untapped primary sources to show us the complex nature of the UFW as it lead the cause for agricultural workers' rights. Garcia reminds us that the UFW should not be defined merely by its leader, but should be understood as a collective group of dedicated, although sometimes flawed, individuals, who transformed the way the American public thought about food consumption and workers' rights.and#8221; and#151;Maria E. Montoya, author of Translating Property: The Maxwell Land Grant and the Conflict Over Land in the American West, 1840-1900
"Matt Garcia places the reader right in the center of the struggles to create, build, and grow the farm workers movement, represented by the emergence of the United Farm Workers of America. But he does more than that. He examines the story of UFW leader Cesar Chavez, not from the standpoint of either further canonizing him or from tearing him down, but from the standpoint of understanding the circumstances in which he was operating, the decisions he made, and some of the fateful mistakes that have had a lasting impact on the UFW. This book made me think of the famous words of the late freedom fighter Amilcar Cabral, who cautioned justice movements to and#145;tell no lies; claim no easy victories.and#8217;and#8221; and#151;Bill Fletcher, Jr., co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice
"Matt Garcia's activist scholarship and participant observer methods give voice to the volunteers that were the backbone of the farm worker movement. Garcia reveals two themes that are untouched by recent critiques: that the Teamster Union acted at the behest of Richard Nixon, and that Cesar Chavez may never have intended the UFW to be a union in the traditional sense, but instead a model for communal living." and#151;Fernando Gapasin, co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice
and#8220;Essential reading for anyone seriously studying the farm worker movement.and#8221;
and#8220;Garcia has compiled the most comprehensive history on the United Farm Workers to date, with many new oral histories that will change how we think about the UFW.and#8221;
and#8220;A thorough history of the rise and fall of Cesar Chavezand#8217;s United Farm Workers labor union. . . . Meticulous and timely.and#8221;
"Garciaand#8217;s critique is informed by original research and motivated by his remembrance of a time when farm workersand#8217; lives were improving."
"'Someplace Like America' is unrelenting prose. . . . There's something doggedly heroic in this commitment to one of journalism's least glamorous, least remunerative subjects."
and#8220;Evokes the Depression-era collaboration of Walker Evans and James Agee.and#8221;
and#8220;Deserves high praise . . . . Undeniable relevance to todayand#8217;s American experience.and#8221;
and#8220;Maharidgeand#8217;s straightforward-but-impassioned prose and Williamsonand#8217;s gritty black-and white photographs make you angry. Theyand#8217;re an indictment.and#8221;
From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement
is the most comprehensive history ever written on the meteoric rise and precipitous decline of the United Farm Workers, the most successful farm labor union in United States history. Based on little-known sources and one-of-a-kind oral histories with many veterans of the farm worker movement, this book revises much of what we know about the UFW. Matt Garciaand#8217;s gripping account of the expansion of the unionand#8217;s grape boycott reveals how the boycott, which UFW leader Cesar Chavez initially resisted, became the defining feature of the movement and drove the growers to sign labor contracts in 1970. Garcia vividly relates how, as the union expanded and the boycott spread across the United States, Canada, and Europe, Chavez found it more difficult to organize workers and fend off rival unions. Ultimately, the union was a victim of its own success and Chavezand#8217;s growing instability.
From the Jaws of Victory delves deeply into Chavezand#8217;s attitudes and beliefs, and how they changed over time. Garcia also presents in-depth studies of other leaders in the UFW, including Gilbert Padilla, Marshall Ganz, Dolores Huerta, and Jerry Cohen. He introduces figures such as the co-coordinator of the boycott, Jerry Brown; the undisputed leader of the international boycott, Elaine Elinson; and Harry Kubo, the Japanese American farmer who led a successful campaign against the UFW in the mid-1970s.
In Someplace Like America
, writer Dale Maharidge and photographer Michael S. Williamson take us to the working-class heart of America, bringing to lifeand#151;through shoe leather reporting, memoir, vivid stories, stunning photographs, and thoughtful analysisand#151;the deepening crises of poverty and homelessness. The story begins in 1980, when the authors joined forces to cover the America being ignored by the mainstream mediaand#151;people living on the margins and losing their jobs as a result of deindustrialization. Since then, Maharidge and Williamson have traveled more than half a million miles to investigate the state of the working class (winning a Pulitzer Prize in the process). In Someplace Like America
, they follow the lives of several families over the thirty-year span to present an intimate and devastating portrait of workers going jobless. This brilliant and essential studyand#151;begun in the trickle-down Reagan years and culminating with the recent banking catastropheand#151;puts a human face on todayand#8217;s grim economic numbers. It also illuminates the courage and resolve with which the next generation faces the future.
and#147;Someplace Like America is unrelenting prose, not poetry, but what the book lacks in intimacy it makes up for in breadth and persistence. There's something doggedly heroic in this commitment to one of journalism's least glamorous, least remunerative subjects.and#8221;
and#150;George Packer, The New Yorker
and#147;These boys saw the floorboards giving out while the rest of America danced in the pig and whistle. Maharidge and Williamson have a document here that may be even more important in a generation than it is today.and#8221;and#151;Charlie LeDuff, author of Work and Other Sins: Life in New York City and Thereabouts
and#147;Through the voices and stories of working-class people, Maharidge and Williamson provide insight into the current situation, reminding us of the history of economic struggle and the importance of understanding our culture from the bottom up.and#8221; and#151;John Russo, co-author of Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and Memory in Youngstown
and#147;This is a deeply felt and beautifully crafted book. Maharidge and Williamson are brave and clear-eyed in chronicling the struggle of Americaand#8217;s workers.and#8221; and#151;Todd DePastino, author of Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America
"In this moving and urgent book, Maharidge and Williamson continue to dig through the social wreckage of three decades of economic plunder, courageously documenting the uprooted and displaced, the uncertain and the fearful. Someplace Like America peers into the dark heart of a society that has turned its back on working people--and that may be on the cusp of abandoning its dignity as well. In the smoldering occupational ruins of what once was, Maharidge also manages to find hopeful embers of what might one day be. A disturbing retrospective on twenty-five years of reporting on the long-term dissolution of the American dream." and#151;Jefferson Cowie, Cornell University, author of Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class
In May 1937, seventy thousand workers walked off their jobs at four large steel companies known collectively as andldquo;Little Steel.andrdquo; The strikers sought to make the companies retreat from decades of antiunion repression, abide by the newly enacted federal labor law, and recognize their union. For two months a grinding struggle ensued, punctuated by bloody clashes in which police, company agents, and National Guardsmen ruthlessly beat and shot unionists. At least sixteen died and hundreds more were injured before the strike ended in failure. The violence and brutality of the Little Steel Strike became legendary. It was in many ways the last great strike in modern America.
Traditionally the Little Steel Strike has been understood as a modest setback at most for steel workers, one that actually confirmed the potency of New Deal reforms and did little to impede the progress of the labor movement. However, The Last Great Strike tells a different story about the conflict and its significance for unions and labor rights. More than any other strike, it laid bare the contradictions of the industrial labor movement, the resilience of corporate power, and the limits of New Deal liberalism at a crucial time in American history.
andldquo;The history deftly told by Ahmed White inand#160;The Last Great Strike
isnand#39;t really historyandmdash;the fallout from the 1937 andlsquo;Little Steelandrsquo; strike lingers. This book should be a must-read for anyone interested in todayandrsquo;s labor issuesandmdash;from efforts to break public workersandrsquo; unions to the push for a $15 minimum wage.andrdquo;andmdash;Dale Maharidge, author of Journey to Nowhere
, which inspired Bruce Springsteenandrsquo;s andldquo;Youngstownandrdquo;
andldquo;The Last Great Strike is a brilliant, incisive, always intriguing, sometimes heartbreaking account of a critical moment in Americaandrsquo;s labor history. Professor Whiteandrsquo;s work is more important than ever today, as working men and women struggle to make a living and hang on to their rights. A fascinating read.andrdquo;andmdash;Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd
andldquo;The Last Great Strike is a superb piece of scholarship about a critical event in modern American labor history. It sheds light on a pivotal moment in the creation of the modern labor movement and the origins of industrial unionism in America, and it has much to teach us about the evolution of labor law. Ahmed White does us a real intellectual and even political service in reminding us that the New Deal coalition that rested so heavily on the organizational muscle of that eraandrsquo;s new labor movement entailed crippling constraints only fully visible later on in the 20th century.andrdquo;andmdash;Steve Fraser, author of The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power
About the Author
Dale Maharidge is Associate Professor at Columbia Universityand#8217;s Graduate School of Journalism. He has published seven books, including And Their Children After Them, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass. Michael S. Williamson is a photographer at the Washington Post who has collaborated with Maharidge on many of his books.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Bruce Springsteen
Someplace Like America: An Introduction
Snapshots from the Road, 2009
Part 1. America Begins a Thirty-Year Journey to Nowhere: The 1980s
1. On Becoming a Hobo
3. New Timer
4. Home Sweet Tent
5. True Bottom
Part 2. The Journey Continues: The 1990s
6. Inspiration: The Two-Way Highway
7. Waiting for an Explosion
8. When Bruce Met Jenny
Part 3. A Nation Grows Hungrier: 2
9. Hunger in the Homes
10. The Working Poor: Maggie and the Invisible Children
11. Mr. Murray on Maggie
Part 4. Updating People and Places: The Late 2s
13. Necropolis: After the Apocalypse
14. New Timer: Finding Mr. Heisenberg Instead
15. Home Sweet Tent Home
16. Maggie: and#147;Am I Doing the Right Thing?and#8221;
17. Maggie on Mr. Murray
Part 5. America with the Lid Ripped Off: The Late 2s
18. Search and Rescue
19. New Orleans Jazz
20. Scapegoats in the Sun
21. The Dark Experiment
22. The Big Boys
23. Anger in Suburban New Jersey
Part 6. Rebuilding Ourselves, Then Taking America on a Journey to Somewhere New
24. Zen in a Crippled New Hampshire Mill Town
25. A Woman of the Soil in Kansas City
26. The Phoenix?
27. Looking Forwardand#151;and Back
Acknowledgments and Credits