Barnstorming Ohio: To Understand America

Hachette. Aug. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780306846397. $28. SOC SCI
Ohio has chosen the presidential winner in 29 of the last 31 elections, and in this latest work, Giffels (journalism, Univ. of Akron; Furnishing Eternity) seeks to discover what makes Ohio a bellwether state. According to Giffels, Ohio is average in politics, climate, economics, and lifestyles, making it an All-American everyplace. The state encompasses large urban and industrial areas as well as swaths of farmland, small towns, and the third largest university in the United States. Giffels’s tour takes readers around the state, where he talks to out-of-work autoworkers in Lordstown uncertain of their future, along with soybean and corn farmers contending with unprecedented rains that threatened to destroy crops and livelihoods. Side trips explore Ohio’s craft brewing industry and its impact on the revitalization of local economies and the over-the-top politician, known as a proto-Trump, Jim Traficant. The book ends as the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic sets in while Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, and Health Director, Amy Acton, became guides during the crisis. Written in an engaging and poetic style, this exploration of Ohio is told with care and sensitivity.
VERDICT Readers interested in current events and politics will enjoy this highly readable account.

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