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Tightrope  By  cover art

Tightrope

By: Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn
Narrated by: Jennifer Garner, Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn
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Publisher's summary

The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the acclaimed, best-selling Half the Sky now issue a plea - deeply personal and told through the lives of real Americans - to address the crisis in working-class America, while focusing on solutions to mend a half-century of governmental failure.

With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an "other America". The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the 20th century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue-collar jobs disappeared. About one-quarter of the children on Kristof's old school bus died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents. And while these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, they are representative of many places the authors write about, ranging from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to New York and Virginia.

But here, too, are stories about resurgence, among them: Annette Dove, who has devoted her life to helping the teenagers of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as they navigate the chaotic reality of growing up poor; Daniel McDowell, of Baltimore, whose tale of opioid addiction and recovery suggests that there are viable ways to solve our nation's drug epidemic. Taken together, these accounts provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes. With their superb, nuanced reportage, Kristof and WuDunn have given us a book that is both riveting and impossible to ignore.

©2020 Nicholas D. Kristof (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“A deft and uniquely credible exploration of rural America, and of other left-behind pockets of our country. One of the most important books I've read on the state of our disunion.” (Tara Westover, author of Educated)

“This is a must-read that will shake you to your core. It’s a Dante-esque tour of a forgotten America, told partly through the kids who rode on Kristof’s old school bus in rural Oregon. A quarter are now dead, and others are homeless, in prison or struggling with drugs. They made bad choices, but so did America, in ways that hold back our entire country. Tightrope shows how we can and must do better.” (Katie Couric)

“With compassion and empathy, [the authors] pull readers into the lives of families who have been in a downward spiral for several generations. . . . They bring a human face to issues such as drug addiction, incarceration, family dysfunction, and declining prospects for employment. Enlightening for all concerned Americans.” (Caren Nichter, Library Journal, starred review)

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