Years ago, I read a wonderful Terkel book called The Good War. It was a collection of oral history stories from World War II, and ever since, I’ve wanted to read another of Terkel’s works.
Hard Times is also collection of oral history stories, this time dealing with the Great Depression. While there is definitely value in this work, I was a bit disappointed. The majority of the stories were political in nature, with Terkel constantly asking about the communists or the unions. I was more interested in hearing about the social and everyday life of people who lived during the great depression, and was looking for a non-fiction work more similar to Timothy Egan’s excellent book The Worst Hard Time.
There were a couple of interesting points that I took away from this book. First, that President Roosevelt saved capitalism in America because if it weren’t for the New Deal, the communists would have risen to power. Second, that the New Deal was not in itself effective in saving the economy. Yes, there were testimonies of how those WPA jobs helped some individuals, but by and large, the consensus was that the New Deal stifled growth, and that the war helped boost the economy.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1970