Notes on the Vast and Undervalued Workforce Comprising "Hidden America" (Encore presentation.)

Feb 5, 2013

(Please note that this interview originally aired in October of last year.) Our guest is Jeanne Marie Laskas, the director of the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh. She's also an acclaimed journalist whose writing has appeared in GQ, The Washington Post Magazine, Smithsonian, and Esquire. Her new book is a collection of nonfiction essays called "Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work." It's a series of articles that --- much in the smart, engaging style of John McPhee or Susan Orlean --- effectively profiles a cross-section of the contemporary American workforce. But these are "hidden" workers, mind you: those whose tireless efforts to earn a paycheck aren't just under-appreciated, they're largely unknown. In presenting her fascinating, often funny, and always character-driven narratives of these workers, Laskas spends weeks in an Ohio coal mine and on an Alaskan oil rig; she also earns wages in a Maine migrant labor camp, a Texas beef ranch, the air traffic control tower at NYC's LaGuardia Airport, and elsewhere. The result is "a fine piece of reporting and writing --- a ride well worth taking" (Bob Schieffer, CBS News).