Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago by Christine J. Walley
In 1980, Christine J. Walley's world was turned upside down when the steel mill in Southeast Chicago where her father worked abruptly closed. In the ensuing years, ninety thousand other area residents would also lose their jobs in the mills - just one example of the vast scale of de-industrialization occurring across the United States. The disruption of this event propelled Walley into a career as a cultural anthropologist, and now, in Exit Zero, she brings her anthropological perspective home, examining the fate of her family and that of blue-collar America at large. Interweaving personal narratives and family photos with a nuanced assessment of the social impacts of de-industrialization, Exit Zero is one part memoir and one part ethnography - providing a much-needed female and familial perspective on cultures of labor and their decline. Through vivid accounts of her family's struggles and her own upward mobility, Walley reveals the social landscapes of America's industrial fallout, navigating complex tensions among class, labor, economy, and environment. Unsatisfied with the notion that her family's turmoil was inevitable in the ever-forward progress of the United States, she provides a fresh and important counter narrative that gives a new voice to the many Americans whose distress resulting from de-industrialization has too often counter narrative ignored.