Wed October 3, 2012
Notes on the Vast, Diligent, and Undervalued Workforce Comprising "Hidden America"
Our guest is Jeanne Marie Laskas, the director of the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh. She's also an acclaimed and accomplished journalist whose writing has appeared in GQ, The Washington Post Magazine, Smithsonian, and Esquire, among other publications. 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 engaging yet informative style of John McPhee or Susan Orlean --- effectively profiles a cross-section of the contemporary American workforce. But these are "hidden" workers, mind you --- the people 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; 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).