The rapid disappearance of blue-collar jobs, combined with years of policy failures, has left working-class communities devastated. The social fabric has come apart and “deaths of despair” from suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse are on the rise across rural America. Through the stories of Kristof’s childhood peers in Yamhill, Oregon, Kristof and WuDunn detail 50 years of working-class decline with compassion, and recommend policy solutions. Recommended By Emily B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"A deft and uniquely credible exploration of rural America, and of other left-behind pockets of our country. One of the most important books I've read on the state of our disunion." Tara Westover, author of Educated
The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the acclaimed, best-selling Half the Sky now issue a plea — deeply personal and told through the lives of real Americans — to address the crisis in working-class America, while focusing on solutions to mend a half century of governmental failure.
With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an "other America." The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up, in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue-collar jobs disappeared. About one-quarter of the children on Kristof's old school bus died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents. And while these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, they are representative of many places the authors write about, ranging from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to New York and Virginia. But here too are stories about resurgence, among them: Annette Dove, who has devoted her life to helping the teenagers of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as they navigate the chaotic reality of growing up poor; Daniel McDowell, of Baltimore, whose tale of opioid addiction and recovery suggests that there are viable ways to solve our nation's drug epidemic. These accounts, illustrated with searing images by Lynsey Addario, the award-winning photographer, provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes. With their superb, nuanced reportage, Kristof and WuDunn have given us a book that is both riveting and impossible to ignore.
"This is an unflinching book that illustrates the central, confounding American paradox — in a country that purports to root for the underdog, too often we exalt the rich and we punish the poor...Kristof and WuDunn tell the stories of those who fall behind in the world's wealthiest country, and find not an efficient first-world safety net created by their government, but a patchwork of community initiatives, perpetually underfunded and run by tired saints." Dave Eggers, author of The Captain and the Glory
"With compassion and empathy, [the authors] pull readers into the lives of families who have been in a downward spiral for several generations. . . They bring a human face to issues such as drug addiction, incarceration, family dysfunction, and declining prospects for employment. Enlightening for all concerned Americans." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Kristof and WuDunn avoid pity while creating empathy for their subjects, and effectively advocate for a 'morality of grace' to which readers should hold policy makers accountable. This essential, clear-eyed account provides worthy solutions to some of America's most complex socioeconomic problems." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF and SHERYL WUDUNN, the first husband and wife to share a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, have coauthored four previous books: A Path Appears, Half the Sky, Thunder from the East, and China Wakes. They were awarded a Pulitzer in 1990 for their coverage of China, as well as the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Lifetime Achievement Award. Now an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, Kristof was previously bureau chief in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo. He won his second Pulitzer in 2006 for his columns on Darfur. WuDunn worked at the Times as a business editor and foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Beijing, and now works in finance and consulting. They live near New York City.