Abandoned in the Heartland: Work, Family, and Living in East St. Louis

March 20, 2018 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian
Abandoned in the Heartland: Work, Family, and Living in East St. Louis, by Jennifer Hamer.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

Jennifer Hamer’s book, Abandoned in the Heartland: Work, Family, and Living in East St. Louis, takes readers into the lives of East St. Louis’s predominantly African American residents to find out what happened since industry abandoned the city. The book details the loss of jobs, quality schools, and the disappearance of city services. Once a thriving manufacturing and transportation center, East St. Louis is now known for its unemployment, crime, and collapsing infrastructure. 

Author Jennifer Hamer introduces men and women who search for meaning and opportunity in dead-end jobs and parents who have the impossible task of protecting their children in this dangerous and toxic environment. The book is full of stories of courage and offers a powerful vision of the transformed circumstances of life in this rejected city. Abandoned in the Heartland is also illustrated with historical and contemporary photographs showing readers before and after images of the city.

Hamer says in her prologue, “Over the last decades, the locus of poverty shifted from the rural south to the industrial cities of the North. Today, its most poignant manifestations lie buried in our inner-ring and formerly industrial suburbs, such as East St. Louis; Paterson, New Jersey; and Gary, Indiana. East St. Louis is a suburb where residents are overwhelmingly working-class but poor, and the municipality is in persistent decline. And, should current economic and employment trends continue, this city will perhaps serve as a foretaste for America’s working-class places and people in general.”
 

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Last updated: March 20, 2018

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