Academic journal article American Studies

SOMEPLACE LIKE AMERICA: Tales from the New Great Depression

Academic journal article American Studies

SOMEPLACE LIKE AMERICA: Tales from the New Great Depression

Article excerpt

SOMEPLACE LIKE AMERICA: Tales from the New Great Depression. By Dale Maharidge. Photographs by Michael S. Williamson. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 2011.

The Great Recession is a relative matter. "My Great Recession is your Great Depression if you lose your job and your home," writes Dale Maharidge in his and photographer Michael S. Williamson's new book Someplace Like America (7).

In fact, even the Great Depression of the 1930s included two recessions, the first lasting from 1929 to 1933, and the second from 1937 to 1938. "From my streetlevel perspective, the technical definition . . . means very little to the jobless and unemployed" (7).

Someplace Like America is the latest book by Maharidge and Williamson to depict the lives of the marginalized in this nation, the people who began falling through the cracks after Ronald Reagan announced it was "morning in America" 28 years ago (31).

In their first, Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass, they traveled by "bus, by thumb, in boxcars, and in a rusting 1973 Olds Delta 88" across mid-1980s America and encountered a restless homelessness-not unlike the hoboes and Dust Bowl refugees Woody Guthrie sang about in the 1930s-desperate for a job and a future wherever the road led (4).

In Someplace Like America, Maharidge, now teaching at Columbia University, and Williamson, a Washington Post photographer, show us a new kind of desperation, one less likely to hit the road, one that knows "life is not better somewhere else" (227). As former steelworker Ken Platt of that "necropolis" of American de-industrialization, Youngstown, Ohio, says, "the rest of the country is down to where we are" (109). …

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