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Down The Up Escalator: American Lives in the Great (and Too Long) Recession
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Down The Up Escalator: American Lives in the Great (and Too Long) Recession

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  152 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
One of our most incisive and committed journalists—author of the classic All the Livelong Day—shows us the real human cost of our economic follies.

The Great Recession has thrown huge economic challenges at almost all Americans save the super-affluent few, and we are only now beginning to reckon up the human toll it is taking. Down the Up Escalator is an urgent dispatch fr
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Doubleday (first published June 21st 2011)
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Susan Grodsky
Oct 05, 2014 Susan Grodsky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barbara Garson seems like a wonderful person. I can imagine knocking on her door to borrow a cup of sugar and leaving three hours later, after stimulating conversation punctuated with rueful laughter.

This book puts a human face on the squeezing of the middle class. She talks with many different people, all of who have been deeply harmed in different ways. It's important to remember that economics is not just lines on a graph -- it's highly skilled middle aged men who have been unemployed for 18
An honest look at our current economy through the eyes of those who have been hurt by the recession. I found parts of it difficult to read, especially the stories about people who lost their homes through no fault of their own. She does an excellent job interviewing people from all over the United States and from all walks of life!

I was somewhat surprised reading about the mortgages that were collateralized prior to even being granted and by the fact that the same mortgage was sold many times o
Ginny Dodge
Jun 19, 2015 Ginny Dodge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the first books I've read by a journalist. I am trying to explore genres I haven't previously tried out and I found myself pretty engaged to the characters presented and the voice of the author. I thought Barbara had a great way of humanizing her subjects even though she was using fake names and businesses. Overall, I thought this was a pretty sad book. We've found that while "down is an unAmerican direction", we have certainly stagnated when is comes to in country manufacturing, ...more
May 12, 2013 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, library
This book was interesting but very lightweight. It was more of an extended magazine article than a book, because I wouldn't expect to be able to read 300 pages of non-fiction in a few hours. However, for what it is, it's good. The author talks to various people affected by the recession and hears their stories and their theories on why things happened as they did. I don't know many people who have to scramble the way her subjects do and it was useful to get a sense for what life is like for them ...more
Carly Thompson
Well written account of the effects of the Great Recession on average middle class Americans. Garson looks at people who have lost jobs, lost homes, and lost investment income. Written in the first person (and with some personal information) this is a clear account that shows the human cost behind the machinations of Wall Street.
Sep 21, 2013 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 2008 America suffered through the bursting of a real estate bubble that devastated its citizens and the economy. The stock market went into free fall, corporations began laying off workers by the thousands and homes and retirement portfolios saw their values drop. Panic spread throughout the country as similar reports streamed in from countries around the world. Individuals who had a job and equity in their homes on Monday would find themselves with no job by Friday and a home worth less in v ...more
Apr 13, 2013 Caren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This is an up-close-and-personal look at how the recent economic hard times have affected ordinary Americans. The author has done a wonderful job of introducing us to real people and their stories. She has changed their names, but assures us these people are not composite characters, but real people and real stories. The book delves into three aspects of difficulties recent years have brought so many of us: job loss, foreclosures, and loss of savings. If you look at those three areas, you realiz ...more
Sep 07, 2013 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stupid computer ate my first review so keeping this short.

On the one hand, it does a nice job of avoiding any stories that feel overly repetitive or cliched about what happened to people in the recession. This helps give a greater sense of depth about what was going on.

At the same time, the focus on solidly middle class people means that the most damaging parts of the recession are not really visible. A lot of the people profiled had some degree of assets or employment before the crash, so whil
Apr 24, 2013 Gloria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If you have been directly affected by a job loss and/or financial stress during the recession that began in 2008, read this book. If you simply want to better understand the issues that continue to affect others experiencing unemployment and housing issues, read this book. Barbara Garson helps us understand what happened with lenders, bailouts, short sales, loan modifications, changing labor needs, young and older workers, outsourcing, the greedy and the naive, and more. Perhaps that sounds bori ...more
Sep 02, 2013 Melissa rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, nonfiction
“If you’re not a worker, not a consumer, and you don’t earn significant income from investments, then you don’t have much of a place in capitalist society. In the course of this recession millions more of us have slipped into that no place. Most of us will still manage to eat and keep our televisions connected. But it can’t be pleasant to live in a country whose elite have no regular use for us.” (pg. 269)

This quote, coming at the end of Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Reces
Jul 27, 2013 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this book down. It puts in plain, understandable terms (rare these days) the mortgage crisis issues and all the other aspects of our economy and how we got there - often pointing out things I'd noticed, but hadn't associated them as part of the reason. It shows what REAL people have been doing to cope and the change in attitudes and plans they needed to do so. It tells it through people on many sides of the issues.

I can't say this book is uplifting - with this economy it just isn'
Jun 22, 2013 Nigel rated it really liked it
Excellent, deeply personal look at the lives affected and undone (and in some cases untouched) by the recent financial upheavals, that acts as a necessary counterbalance to the more flashy and/or technical accounts of high level banking and housing shenanigans I've read over the last few years. Will probably be overshadowed by George Packer's THE UNWINDING, but still recommended.

(Note that it's not so much a book about poverty in the USA - as Garson point out, most of the people she interviews
Decent first hand accounts of people left almost permanently unemployed by the great recession. The second half focuses on the foreclosure crisis that accompanied the recession, touches upon reasons for this happening. Kinda of a Studs Terkel-lite type presentation.
Mar 12, 2016 Jiny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With insightful observations, Garson brought her the readers to the frontline of the recession caused the the housing bubble. She is resourceful, erudite, and articulate with her interviews.
Scott Schneider
Many years ago I read Barbara Garson's All the Livelong Day and loved it so I was excited to see a new book from her. I even went to an event with her at the AFL last month. This book interviews and tells personal stories of people affected by the Great Recession. It includes both old and young, rich and poor people. As such it documents the widespread destruction of the recession. But it is ultimately a pretty depressing read. Very few make it past their financial troubles. It doesn't give one ...more
Lois Beaudrie

very interesting and informative.
Nicki Schwenkbeck
Sep 10, 2013 Nicki Schwenkbeck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The companies that wrote us off as workers now write us off as consumers. If you're not a worker, not a consumer, and you don't earn significant income from investments, then you don't have much of a place in capitalist society. In the course of this recession millions more of us have slipped into that no place. Most of us will still manage to eat and keep our televisions connected. But it can't be pleasant to live in a country whose elite have no regular use for us."
Barbara Garson
Down the Up E
Marjorie Semmens
Jan 22, 2016 Marjorie Semmens rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Read for cinema conversations
Reading this book makes me want to throw it across the room and kick it a bit. The stories are infuriating, stressful, and aggravating, while simultaneously demonstrating the resilience and persistence of those who are convinced that hard work will pull them out of a ruined economy. Definitely not a fun read, but interesting to get some perspective on what else was happening during the years right after I graduated and was looking for work.
Yet another economics book! I recommend this one because the personal stories are gripping and they are backed up by an overview of trends in the 20th century. It has a journalistic tone, like reading magazine articles, so it's very accessible. The overarching theme is that while individuals can be blamed for their financial choices, they were also victims of societal forces that were hard to avoid.
Jun 05, 2013 Connie rated it really liked it
Barbara Garson makes an interesting case for the recession starting much sooner than we might think-policies from the Regan era are being felt today.
She tells the story from a "social history" point of view-we see the effects of fiscal and monetary policy through the eyes of those affected.
It makes for a very compelling read.
Apr 18, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absorbing non-fiction, and a look into how the majority of people fared during the great recession. The author points out that the middle class has been losing ground for years, and uses examples to highlight this. Not academic at all, and easily readable. For anyone interested in reading non-fiction sociology that pertains to work.
Luke Winders
Apr 22, 2013 Luke Winders rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was all fairly interesting but it gets the boost to 4 stars from 3 for the middle section on all the housing bullshit I was peripherally and slackerishly involved in for the last 5 years. Solano County is well represented with the woeful tale of a downtown Benicia condo and a sad depiction of good old Vallejo. Rep the V!
Aug 05, 2013 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this book because of my own experiences throughout this recession. I knew I wasn't unique but still wanted to hear other stories that the media was under-reporting if they bothered at all. I suppose it delivers some sort of comfort to read others trials and tribulations. I did enjoy the book.

Apr 20, 2013 Ang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy crap, this book is depressing. But one of the things that really comes through is the (sometimes stupid) resilience of Americans. And that's not a bad thing to read about.

But I do feel, after reading it, utterly hopeless. So you know, read at your own risk.
Tim Suddeth
Aug 23, 2013 Tim Suddeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Garson interviews people from different walks of life whose jobs, homes or investments were affected by the recession. Very true and interesting to see how people have accepted the changes they have endured. Good case studies but not very encouraging. Well written.
Lynn Roberts
May 28, 2013 Lynn Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very quick read. It is very anecdotal about individuals and how they survived the recession. Pretty depressing.... as there doesnt really seem to be an upturn. Just the rich are getting richer and the poor...... we...
Mike Stolfi
Written in a readable style, another great book about the continuing decline of the social contract & why it will probably matter to you soon, if you're not bothered by these things already.
This is a scary & informative book. Anyone who wants to take a look at what this economic FUBAR is doing to Americans should read this book. Very riveting.
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Barbara Garson is an American playwright, author and social activist, perhaps best known for the play MacBird. Garson attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a B.A. specializing in Classical History in 1964. She was active in the Free Speech Movement, as the editor of The Free Speech Movement Newsletter, which was printed on an offset press that she herself had restored. ...more
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