Glass House by Brian R. Alexander – The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town

Glass House by Brian R. Alexander – The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town

“Brian Alexander’s Glass House reads more like a great novel.”*

In 1947, Forbes magazine declared Lancaster, Ohio the epitome of the all-American town. Today it is damaged, discouraged, and fighting for its future. In Glass House, journalist Brian Alexander, born and raised in Lancaster, gives readers an unparalleled look inside one town, an avatar for many American towns,  to show how seeds sown 35 years ago have sprouted to give us Trumpism, inequality, and an eroding national cohesion.

“So few journalists today spend time in America’s small towns, even though the people residing in them represent roughly half of the American population. In his remarkably nuanced Glass House, Brian Alexander gives readers an imbedded, close-up view of one iconic Ohio town — his hometown — that illuminates the lives that most politicians and urban dwellers seem to have forgotten. Part sociological study and part investigative business reporting, this book should be required reading for people trying to understand Trumpism, inequality, and the sad state of a needlessly wrecked rural America. I wish I had written it.”

— Beth Macy, author of Factory Man and Truevine

*“Brian Alexander’s Glass House reads more like a great novel. But I’ve driven by the Anchor Hocking plant (the Glass House of the title) at least several times a year since the mid-70s and seen its decay firsthand.  Glass House is a fascinating, multi-layered, and superbly written account of how politics, corporate greed, low wages, and the recent heroin epidemic have nearly destroyed a once prosperous Midwestern city.   This is a must read for anyone interested in really understanding the anger and frustration of blue collar workers and the middle class in America today.”

— Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Heavenly Table & The Devil All the Time

“Glass House is a compelling and harrowing look at the corrosion of the social and economic institutions that once held us all together, from the corporate boardroom to the factory floor. It’s the most heartbreaking tale of a city since Mike Davis’s City of Quartz.”

— Victor Fleischer, New York Times columnist; Professor of Law, University of San Diego

“A compassionate but clear-eyed description of how deindustrialization, financial speculation, union-busting and deregulation undermined the social fabric of Alexander’s home town, illustrated with gripping personal stories.”

— Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

“Brian Alexander’s ‘Glass House’ dramatizes vividly how a half-century of economic ‘progress’ dismantled America’s once-sturdy middle class. By focusing his narrative on the inhabitants of Lancaster, Ohio, Alexander personalizes this familiar story in a compelling, often surprising, and utterly heartbreaking way.”

Timothy Noah, author of The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It

The iconic Anchor Hocking Glass Company, once the world’s largest maker of glass tableware, was the base on which Lancaster’s society was built. As Glass House opens, Sam Solomon, an African-American man born in rural North Carolina, arrives in Lancaster – reputed by locals to be “the whitest town in America” — to take over as CEO. Hired by the private equity firm that holds the majority stake, Solomon immediately realizes the company is in deeper trouble than he expected. Bankruptcy looms.  

Inside the glass plant, Brian Gossett, erstwhile skatepunk and the fourth generation in his family to work for the company, is operating an H-28, a huge glass forming machine. But Brian has doubts about his career, the town, the country he’s supposed to love.  

Across town, a young heroin addict hears a knock at the door of the house where she’s staying – another customer come to make a drug buy. A local football-hero-turned cop named Eric Brown has made it his mission to stem the drug plague.  But Brown is wrestling with the realization that he can’t ever arrest Lancaster’s real problems.

As these and other stories unfold, Solomon’s fight to rescue Anchor Hocking  provides an unprecedented look inside a company in trouble, and explores a little-understood facet of the American economy that has helped wreck companies and towns while enriching those who understand how to play its game.

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