Youngstown and Other Sorrows is a timely memoir describing the economic, social, and cultural
stories of those living inside what is known today as the Rust Belt capital: Youngstown, Ohio. Over 100 people were interviewed for the book.
In 1955 the city made the finest quality steel for most of country. By 1977, the mills were closed and 5,000 people became jobless. It was cheaper to import steel from Japan. Some left for the oil boom in Texas, but the majority stayed--waiting for the mills to return. Promises were made. In visiting Youngstown seven times before the general election, candidate Trump promised the mills would soon return. The city never diversified into other industries. The size of the downtown population has been reduced to 60,000 from a once-high of 200,000 people. An exodus of professional and business people have created gated communities 15 miles outside the city limits and residents now commute to Pittsburgh or Cleveland for work.
The reflections of those interviewed are a mosaic of memories and experiences of the place they call home. They are a proud insular community, people resentful of outsiders who give them labels. I worked in the Republic Steel mill as a "college kid." In Youngstown, I tried to elicit stories and events that gave clarity to each protagonist's story. Lives filled with humor, sadness, anger, and hope. The town somehow resorted into what a local priest called, "tribalism and racism." The school board was reorganized and taken over from Columbus, the capital. The only air service stopped in late 2017. The book helps describe how residents have coped. But Youngstown is not alone. Youngstown and Other Sorrows helps the reader understand the complex emotional, economic, social and political issues dividing our country in the early 21st century.