Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Journalist's book details Appalachian furniture maker's fight to keep jobs from being outsourced

Beth Macy
Inspired by a story she wrote in 2012 for The Roanoke Times, journalist Beth Macy has taken the idea one step further and turned it into a book, Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town. In April Columbia University gave Macy a $30,000 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, which is "given annually to aid in the completion of a significant work of nonfiction on a topic of American political or social concern," Carole Tarrant reports for the Times. Macy left the paper in May to work on a second book.

The book, set to be published Tuesday, July 15, centers on John Bassett, who lives and works in Henry County, Virginia, an area where 19,000 jobs have been outsourced, Ralph Berrier reports for the Times. Macy's story chronicles "how the brash, cocky, opinionated Bassett had been cast aside by his own family and was left with one small factory in Galax, Va., the Vaughan-Bassett company. From that humble outpost, he launched the largest anti-dumping petition against Chinese manufacturers—and he won. He pumped the money back into his company and added jobs."

Macy told Berrier, "The story has everything. He’s a rich Bassett, he’s a fighter who took on China and he won in the International Court of Trade and he’s from Galax. It’s a family-feud story, and it’s the story of every factory that closed in America, from textiles to whatever. I said, 'I have to go meet him.'" (Read more)
New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin says Factory Man "is loaded with colorful minutiae . . . but it also seriously traces an important arc of regional decline, as the conditions that once made Appalachia ideal furniture country begin to fail." (Read more)

Kirkus Reviews says: "The author’s brightly written, richly detailed narrative not only illuminates globalization and the issue of offshoring, but succeeds brilliantly in conveying the human costs borne by low-income people displaced from a way of life—i.e., factory jobs that their Appalachian families had worked for generations." (Read more)

UPDATE, July 15: Macy was interviewed on "Fresh Air." To hear it, click here.

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