Award-winning author and journalist David Giffels explores the meaning of identity and place, hamburgers, hard work, and basketball in this collection of wry, irreverent essays reflecting on the many aspects of Midwestern culture and life from an insider’s perspective.
In The Hard Way on Purpose, David Giffels takes us on an insider’s journey through the wreckage and resurgence of America’s Rust Belt. A native who never knew the good times, yet never abandoned his hometown of Akron, Giffels plumbs the touchstones and idiosyncrasies of a region where industry has fallen, bowling is a legitimate profession, bizarre weather is the norm, rock ’n’ roll is desperate, thrift store culture thrives, and sports is heartbreak. Intelligent, humorous, and warm, Giffels’s linked essays are about coming of age in the Midwest and about the stubborn, optimistic, and resourceful people who prevail there.
A native Ohioan who's always lived in his home town of Akron, Giffels an English professor and author of three books has a unique perspective on Midwestern history. His latest book is a collection of articles written on the distinctive culture of adversity and loss experienced by those in the Midwest who have seen everything taken from them, from their factory jobs to their rock bands and even their sports icons. Giffels treats all these things with equal gravitas, an approach that lends itself both to his signature dry humor and to a heartfelt analysis of what drives his neighbors to continue. We follow Giffels in a roughly chronological journey through his life, beginning with his school days and ending with his son's first attempt at driving. Along the way Giffels riffs on varying subjects like the origin of hamburgers, his own poetry, and bowling's vital importance to the Rust Belt, in abrupt asides that are sometimes in desperate need of segues. Regardless, the portrait painted here is an honest and revealing one, illuminating the cultural factors that have given a strange, shadowy sort of hope to millions of Americans.