American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts, veteran British reporter Chris McGreal of The Guardian, an award-winning writer stationed in the U.S., takes a deep dive into the opioid epidemic in a narrative anchored in Williamson, W.Va. He provides not just an overarching treatment of the epidemic's roots but also heart-wrenching anecdotes and discussion of how classist prejudice against poor Appalachians slowed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's response. McGreal doesn't hesitate to paint drug companies as the villains, especially OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma. "This urgent, readable chronicle, which names names and pulls no punches, clearly and compassionately illuminates the evolution of America’s mass addiction problem," Zoe Pagnamenta writes for Publisher's Weekly.
Fifth-generation Kansan Sarah Smarsh explores the common struggles of the working poor through a memoir of her childhood in Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth. "Smarsh shows us through the fate of her own family how the working class became the working poor. She takes us through the welfare cuts of the Reagan administration that stigmatized her working mother and through the modern housing crisis that ruined her father’s construction business," Elizabeth Catte writes for The Washington Post. "Heartland is her map of home, drawn with loving hands and tender words. This is the nation’s class divide brought into sharp relief through personal history . . . a welcome interruption in the national silence that hangs over the lives of the poor and a repudiation of the culture of shame that swamps people who deserve better."