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Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town
     

Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town

by Brian Alexander
 

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For readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Strangers in Their Own Land

**A New York Post Must-Read Book**
**A Newsweek Best New Book**
**One of The Week's 20 Books to Read in 2017**
**One of Bustle's 16 Best Nonfiction Books Coming in February 2017**

Beth Macy,

Overview

For readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Strangers in Their Own Land

**A New York Post Must-Read Book**
**A Newsweek Best New Book**
**One of The Week's 20 Books to Read in 2017**
**One of Bustle's 16 Best Nonfiction Books Coming in February 2017**

Beth Macy, author of Factory Man: "Remarkably nuanced...this book should be required reading."

"Glass House’s subtitle...hints at the book’s difference from its best-selling predecessor. Alexander’s book is less personal, less tortured, a work of journalism far more willing to indict forces larger than the stubborn, delusional pride of the white working class. This book hunts bigger game."Slate

In 1947, Forbes magazine declared Lancaster, Ohio the epitome of the all-American town. Today it is damaged, discouraged, and fighting for its future. In Glass House, journalist Brian Alexander uses the story of one town to show how seeds sown 35 years ago have sprouted to give us Trumpism, inequality, and an eroding national cohesion.

The Anchor Hocking Glass Company, once the world’s largest maker of glass tableware, was the base on which Lancaster’s society was built. As Glass House unfolds, bankruptcy looms. With access to the company and its leaders, and Lancaster’s citizens, Alexander shows how financial engineering took hold in the 1980s, accelerated in the 21st Century, and wrecked the company. We follow CEO Sam Solomon, an African-American leading the nearly all-white town’s biggest private employer, as he tries to rescue the company from the New York private equity firm that hired him. Meanwhile, Alexander goes behind the scenes, entwined with the lives of residents as they wrestle with heroin, politics, high-interest lenders, low wage jobs, technology, and the new demands of American life: people like Brian Gossett, the fourth generation to work at Anchor Hocking; Joe Piccolo, first-time director of the annual music festival who discovers the town relies on him, and it, for salvation; Jason Roach, who police believed may have been Lancaster’s biggest drug dealer; and Eric Brown, a local football hero-turned-cop who comes to realize that he can never arrest Lancaster’s real problems.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/28/2016
Journalist Alexander (America Unzipped) tells the story of how her hometown of Lancaster, Ohio—about which a 1947 Forbes cover story pronounced “this is America”—has been devastated by a barrage of economic forces. It was built on industry (initially shoe manufacturing, and then glassmaking), and factories employed much of Lancaster’s population for decades. Eventually one glass company, Anchor Hocking, emerged as the focal point, providing steady income and uniting the community. As noted by Alexander, “Residents believed their town was the way America was supposed to be.” But by the 1980s, business and financial changes hit both America and Anchor Hocking, including increased competition and corporate raiders. This forced the company and Lancaster residents into a downward spiral of low wages, fewer job opportunities, heroin abuse, and a general feeling of hopelessness. Through research and interviews with dozens of Lancaster residents, Alexander paints a picture of a town that’s typical of many formerly thriving communities across America. Change is tough, especially with today’s societal disconnection and the “financialization and digitalization of American life.” This is a particularly timely read for our tumultuous and divisive era. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

"A devastating read...For anyone wondering why swing-state America voted against the establishment in 2016, Mr. Alexander supplies plenty of answers." —The Wall Street Journal

"An examination of a town in Ohio that quite literally fell apart—and how that town in and of itself serves as a microcosm of the most pressing issues being faced in America today. From drug dealers to cops, from industry to finance, Alexander goes deep into the heart of what ails us and takes no prisoners." —Newsweek

"Lancaster, Ohio, was declared the All-American Town by Forbes in 1947; its Anchor Hocking Glass Company was the foundation of a healthy, booming community. The town began to crumble as the factory shut down, as with too many other once-vibrant American hubs, leaving its citizens dreaming of the good old days. This well-reported book is all the stronger given the author’s connection to it: Lancaster is Alexander’s hometown. Shades of JD Vance’s 'Hillbilly Elegy.'" —The New York Post

"For those still trying to fathom why the land of the free and the home of the brave opted for a crass, vituperative huckster with an unwavering fondness for alternative facts instead of the flawed oligarch Democrats served up, Brian Alexander has a story for you." —The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Reads like an odd—and oddly satisfying—fusion of George Packer’s The Unwinding and one of Michael Lewis’ real-life financial thrillers." —Laura Miller, Slate

"Gripping...There are those who argue that leveraged acquisitions and restructurings of the sort that Anchor Hocking has endured make companies more efficient and steer capital to better uses...Alexander makes a persuasive case, though, that from the perspective of Lancaster, it’s been one big fleecing... leaving behind a city with a weakened economic base and a shredded social fabric—and precious few resources to repair them with." —Bloomberg Businessweek

"Provocative." —The Columbus Dispatch

"Alexander deftly shows how Lancaster represents the collapse of the American dream in microcosm. The other Ohio. The other America. No New Deal awaits them. Their predicament is not covered on the evening news. But they have Trump." —Inequality.org

"A well documented examination of how this once flourishing Ohio town became something else altogether." —Dayton Daily News

"A particularly timely read for our tumultuous and divisive era." —Publishers Weekly

"Those mystified by the election of Donald Trump could well start here...A devastating and illuminating book that shows how a city and a country got where they are and how difficult it can be to reverse course." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Brian Alexander’s Glass House dramatizes vividly how a half-century of economic ‘progress’ dismantled America’s once-sturdy middle class. By focusing his narrative on the inhabitants of Lancaster, Ohio, Alexander personalizes this familiar story in a compelling, often surprising, and utterly heartbreaking way.”—Timothy Noah, author of The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It

"Brian Alexander’s Glass House reads more like a great novel. But I’ve driven by the Anchor Hocking plant (the Glass House of the title) at least several times a year since the mid-70s and seen its decay firsthand. Glass House is a fascinating, multi-layered, and superbly written account of how politics, corporate greed, low wages, and the recent heroin epidemic have nearly destroyed a once prosperous Midwestern city. This is a must read for anyone interested in really understanding the anger and frustration of blue collar workers and the middle class in America today." —Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Heavenly Table and The Devil All the Time

"So few journalists today spend time in America’s small towns, even though the people residing in them represent roughly half of the American population. In his remarkably nuanced Glass House, Brian Alexander gives readers an imbedded, close-up view of one iconic Ohio town — his hometown — that illuminates the lives that most politicians and urban dwellers seem to have forgotten. Part sociological study and part investigative business reporting, this book should be required reading for people trying to understand Trumpism, inequality, and the sad state of a needlessly wrecked rural America. I wish I had written it." —Beth Macy, author of Factory Man and (forthcoming) Truevine

"Glass House is a compelling and harrowing look at the corrosion of the social and economic institutions that once held us all together, from the corporate boardroom to the factory floor. It's the most heartbreaking tale of a city since Mike Davis's City of Quartz." —Victor Fleischer, Professor of Law, University of San Diego, and New York Times columnist

"A compassionate but clear-eyed description of how deindustrialization, financial speculation, union-busting and deregulation undermined the social fabric of Alexander's home town, illustrated with gripping personal stories." Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

"An an extraordinarily important book at the exact moment it is most needed...Glass House concludes that, rather than some ill-explained and spontaneous decision of working people to suddenly become shiftless and lazy, there are actual real, straightforward and understandable institutional reasons for Lancaster's decline...Please, read Glass House. Read it especially if you read Hillbilly Elegy... a smart, sensible, approachable and eye-opening book that treats a complex topic with necessary sophistication while treating the real human beings at its center with the respect they deserve." —Craig Calcaterra

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-11-23
A journalist examines how corporate America and the politics enabling it have corroded an Ohio city to its very foundation.Alexander (America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction, 2008, etc.) understands Lancaster, Ohio, as perhaps only a native can. He understands intuitively what the city long represented, the communal pride it sustained, and how the shattering of the social contract between industry and community has left it a crumbling shell. This isn't an inherently political book, but those mystified by the election of Donald Trump could well start here. Though specifically about one city, as the author notes, "whatever had happened to Lancaster had happened everywhere else, too." In 1947, amid the postwar boom, Forbes declared of Lancaster, "This is America," devoting most of its 30th anniversary issue to the city as "the epitome and apogee of the American free enterprise system." It was also one of the whitest and most homogenized cities in the country, one that owed much of its prosperity to the Anchor Hocking glass company, which employed many of its citizens and invested back into the community. As recently as 1990, Lancaster considered itself special, and Alexander remains glad and proud that he was raised there (in a family that worked in that glass industry). What happened? Plenty: big-box stores, competition from cheaper foreign goods, union busting and givebacks, bankruptcy and takeover by private equity outsiders with a "strip-and-sell" strategy, cheap Mexican labor, political corruption, flight of the well-to-do to cities that have yet to face such a collapse, and rampant drug dealing and addiction problems among those who remain. The author effectively interweaves the personal stories of those who have lived there and continued to with an analysis of Anchor Hocking and the policies that have made a few rich while reducing the many to hand-to-mouth subsistence or to prison on drug charges. A devastating and illuminating book that shows how a city and a country got where they are and how difficult it can be to reverse course.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250085801
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
02/14/2017
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
7,960
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Brian Alexander has written about American culture for decades. A former contributing editor to Wired magazine, he has been recognized by Medill School of Journalism's John Bartlow Martin awards for public interest journalism and other organizations. He grew up in Lancaster, with a family history in the glass business. He lives in California.

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