“A literary miracle. In effortlessly lucid prose, Laskas tells stories that spellbind precisely because they remind us of the center that quietly holds America together.”—Robert Draper, author of Do Not Ask What Good We Do
“In this thoroughly entertaining study of what some people do that other people would never do, journalist Laskas makes her subjects sing.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Each of these profiles rings true.”—*The Huffington Post
“At a time when American workers seem most prized for their ability to serve as campaign props, Hidden America comes as a breath of fresh air with no political slant, no hidden motive.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Hearing [these] voices, it’s impossible not to see the world a little differently.”—The Daily Beast, Hot Read
“It’s not a stretch to use the name Studs Terkel in the same sentence with the name Jeanne Marie Laskas. She’s one hell of a journalist, a world-class storyteller. This is not just a good read, it’s an important one.”—Linda Ellerbee
“At once heartwarming, funny, sad, ironic, and most of all, insightful.”—Bob Schieffer
“A finely crafted look behind the curtains of everyday life—think Dirty Jobs for the literate set.”—Mike Sager, author of The Someone You’re Not
“A wondrous book, fierce and intimate in its investigations...Like Studs Terkel if he wrote novels and Tom Wolfe if he wrote about working folk.”—Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies and The Signal
Director of the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh, National Magazine Award finalist for a GQ piece on coal miners, and author of long-running Washington Post Magazine column "Significant Others," Laskas here profiles everyday folks who make life in America work. Good thought in these divided times.
A glimpse inside the lives of the unsung people who do the work that keeps America ticking. Laskas, an intrepid reporter and great storyteller, spent weeks underground in a coal mine and lived with blueberry pickers in a migrant-worker camp in Maine and with roughnecks on a drilling rig off Alaska's North Slope. Her accounts of these and other ventures, most of which first appeared in GQ, introduce people doing jobs that most Americans never think about. She learned about what really goes on at a cattle ranch in Texas and at a huge landfill in California, and she shared a ride with a female long-haul trucker and exposed the strains of air traffic controllers at La Guardia Airport. Although these pieces are character-driven, Laskas has done her research, and she inserts some provocative facts and figures. In Washington County, Maine, which has the state's highest unemployment rate, and where a good blueberry raker can earn $1,350 a week, there are no white applicants for the job; in Puente Hills, Calif., methane from the trash dump produces enough electricity to power about 70,000 homes. Two pieces that do not quite fit into the theme of revealing a hidden but necessary world are the one on the cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals—visible on TV and hardly essential—and the one on buying guns at a sporting goods store in Yuma, Ariz. Both of these pieces are enjoyable, however, and the author succeeds in capturing the attitudes, concerns, experiences and sometimes the private lives of workers that most readers are unlikely to come into contact with. Highly informative and thoroughly entertaining.