Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xvi

I dedicate Abandoned in the Heartland, a book about families, to my own family of children, a spouse, parents and grandmother, sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews. Yet, my definition of family, as many know, extends well beyond the traditional categorization and includes a larger community of others. I list these...

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Prologue

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pp. 1-29

East St. Louis, Illinois, embodies at least three core elements of American national life: it is a suburb in the heartland, it is predominantly African American, and it is poor. Taken together, these three elements overlap one another and overwhelm the popular imagination, for they also, counterintuitively, contradict...

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Chapter One: In America’s Heartland

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pp. 30-57

These are hard times, and the struggle for American workingclass men and women to maintain dignity, work, and family life is a national one. Nowhere is this struggle sharper than in America’s heartland and especially in East St. Louis, Illinois. Life here is mired in issues of safety, damaged infrastructure, and poor prospects...

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Chapter Two: East St. Louisans and Their Cars

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pp. 58-75

Few, if any, accoutrements of American materialism embody the iconography of suburbia quite like the private automobile. The car represents freedom and spontaneity and is also a commodity and a status symbol in its own right.
When you start considering East St. Louis as an inner-ring suburb...

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Chapter Three: Work and Meaning in a Jobless Suburb

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pp. 76-97

For most Americans, voluntarily leaving one job for another usually is a mark of advancement. You expect your moves through the workforce to better your life in some important way: a raise, a promotion to a new title or set of responsibilities that in turn can be parlayed into another vertical breakthrough. But for Maxwell Lawson...

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Chapter Four: Hustling, Clean and Dirty

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pp. 98-124

With only half of working-age East St. Louisans employed and 35 percent of the population below the federally defined poverty level, life is austere. Even though recent federal poverty guidelines specify that a family of four earning above $18,850 annually does not qualify for assistance, half of the city’s households...

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Chapter Five: “Around here, women never get done workin'”

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pp. 125-153

From whatever angle you examine them and with whatever terms you use, the lives of most East St. Louisans are distinguished by their desperation. They aspire to the same things middle-class Americans attain — stability, security, family — but at every turn, public resources and infrastructure fail to support...

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Chapter Six: “Gotta protect my own”

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pp. 154-179

In May 2001, the following letter from a serial killer was sent to a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the major paper in the St. Louis metropolitan area: “Dear Bill: nice sob story about Teresa Wilson. Write one about Greenwade write a good one and I’ll tell you where many others are. To prove I’m real here’s directions...

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Chapter Seven: The Cost of Abandonment

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pp. 180-184

The stories of African Americans in southwestern Illinois are contained in the history of my own family. My maternal greatgrandfather settled in Pin Oak, a small rural community made up of mostly black farm families. His family’s “Lewis Farm” grew tomatoes for the Brooks Ketchup company, located just...

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Epilogue: Obama and East St. Louis

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pp. 185-192

The historic election of Barack Obama, cause for euphoria throughout the American black community, had special poignance in Illinois. Previously, the state of Lincoln had produced the first African American elected to Congress in the twentieth century and two of the century’s three black senators...

Notes

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pp. 193-214

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 215-230

Index

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pp. 231-246

Images

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pp. 247-264