Caught in the Middle America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism

Richard C. Longworth

Bloomsbury USA




320 Pages



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The Midwest has always been the heart of America—both its economic bellwether and the repository of its national identity. Now, in a new, globalized age, the Midwest is challenged as never before. With an influx of immigrant workers and an outpouring of manufacturing jobs, the region that defines the American self—the Lake Wobegon image of solid, hardworking farmers and factory hands—is changing at breakneck speed. As factory farms and global forces displace old ways of life, the United States is being transformed literally from the inside out.

In Caught in the Middle, longtime Chicago Tribune reporter Richard C. Longworth explores the new reality of life in today's heartland and reveals what these changes mean for the region—and the country. Ranging from the manufacturing collapse that has crippled the Midwest to the biofuels revolution that may save it, and from the school districts struggling with new immigrants to the Iowa meatpacking town that can't survive without them, Longworth addresses what's right and what's wrong in the region, and offers a prescription for how it must change—politically as well as economically—if it is to survive and prosper.


Praise for Caught in the Middle

"In Caught in the Middle, former Chicago Tribune reporter Richard C. Longworth tells heartland stories, lots of them, and compiles them in a passionate, probing and painfully honest book . . . Longworth does an admirable job."—Jonathan Eig, The Wall Street Journal

"One place in America that nobody can accuse of being unaware of China's economic ascent is the heartland—the industrial region that formed the center of the 20th century's most dynamic and innovative economy, but now is synonymous with unemployed workers and foreclosed houses. Former foreign correspondent Longworth's gloomy assessment of the prospects of a region that has been one of globalization's clear losers is harsh. But while his tale of the failures of complacent workers, inept managers and clueless politicians to confront global competition takes place firmly in the nation's interior, he offers little reason for those living elsewhere to feel insulated from similar threats."John Sparks, Newsweek

"A superb analysis of the crisis in the Midwest and sober advice on how to alleviate, if not eliminate, the region's pain. Moreover, he captures the flavor of the Midwest today, the nuevo Midwest—replete with immigrants, urban/suburban/rural ghettos, hollowed-out cities, abandoned small towns, failing schools and feckless politicians. But it is still breathing and not without assets—rich farmland, a plethora of fresh water, agricultural and industrial expertise and excellent research universities—and a few success stories, a reborn Chicago, most notably . . . Caught in the Middle provides a brilliant battle plan."—Peter A. Coclanis, Chicago Tribune

"Longworth's book should be of interest even to those who have never come closer to America's heartland than to change planes at O'Hare. Almost any chapter of Caught in the Middle could generate a book's worth of debate anywhere in this country: What's to become of higher ed—or K-12 ed for that matter. The structure of state and local government as an impediment to remaking the economy. The role of immigration. The future of agriculture. The future of small towns not close enough to a metropolitan area to serve as bedroom communities."—Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"The author has performed a public service by detailing the problem areas—farming, ethanol production, the loss of manufacturing, immigration and so on—that are challenging the citizens and their offspring in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. We who think we've got it so good out here, far from the craziness of the East and West coasts, need to be shaken from our indifferent state of mind. Longworth makes a valiant stab at that."—Repps Hudson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Richard Longworth's Caught in the Middle is an extraordinary journey through the heart of America. This clear-eyed, probing look at how the world's forces are bearing down on the lives of ordinary Americans is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of our cities and small towns. Caught in the Middle is unsettling, provocative, and—perhaps most importantly—hopeful."—Alex Kotlowitz, author of The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America's Dilemma

"A well-reported take on the Midwest's precarious economic, political and social condition, with a provocative prescription for its survival in the global world."—Kirkus Reviews

"Excellently reported and thoughtfully analyzed, Longworth's account ought not be missed by midwesterners grappling with globalization."—Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Richard C. Longworth

  • Now a fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Richard C. Longworth was an award-winning foreign correspondent and senior writer at the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of Global Squeeze. Twice a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Longworth lives in Chicago.