Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

Knopf. Jan. 2020. 320p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780525655084. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525655091. SOC SCI
The authors, a Pulitzer Prize–winning husband-and-wife journalist team (Half the Sky), turn their attention to America’s overlooked and left-behind working class. With compassion and empathy, they pull readers into the lives of families who have been in a downward spiral for several generations. Stories about Kristof’s former classmates and neighbors in his hometown of Yamhill, OR, are stark and troubling, but the authors balance them with other stories about organizations that have been effective and which have made Herculean efforts to turn lives around or mitigate despair. Kristof and WuDunn note that their goal is not to propose policy, but rather to share illustrative stories in order to make clear the enormity of the problem. They bring a human face to issues such as drug addiction, incarceration, family dysfunction, and declining prospects for employment. By comparing America’s policies to those of other wealthy nations, they show that solutions are available for “escalators” out of poverty. They also offer ten ways readers can personally make a difference. (A companion PBS documentary is planned.)
VERDICT Enlightening for all concerned Americans, but especially for those interested in social justice issues.

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