Amanda McMillan Lequieu, "Who We Are Is Where We Are: Making Home in the American Rust Belt" (Columbia UP, 2024)


Half a century ago, deindustrialization gutted blue-collar jobs in the American Midwest. But today, these places are not ghost towns. People still call these communities home, even as they struggle with unemployment, poverty, and other social and economic crises. Why do people remain in declining areas through difficult circumstances? What do their choices tell us about rootedness in a time of flux?

Through the cases of the former steel manufacturing hub of southeast Chicago and a shuttered mining community in Iron County, Wisconsin, Amanda McMillan Lequieu traces the power and shifting meanings of the notion of home for people who live in troubled places. Building from on-the-ground observations of community life, archival research, and interviews with long-term residents, she shows how inhabitants of deindustrialized communities balance material constraints with deeply felt identities. McMillan Lequieu maps how the concept of home has been constructed and the ways it has been reshaped as these communities have changed. She considers how long-term residents navigate the tensions around belonging and making ends meet long after the departure of their community’s founding industry.

In Who We Are Is Where We Are: Making Home in the American Rust Belt (Columbia UP, 2024), Amanda McMillan Lequieu links the past and the present, rural and urban, to shed new light on life in postindustrial communities. Beyond a story of Midwestern deindustrialization, this timely book provides broader insight into the capacious idea of home—how and where it is made, threatened, and renegotiated in a world fraught with change.

Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is a Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. He is the author of The Social Construction of a Cultural Spectacle: Floatzilla (Lexington Books, 2023) and Community Media Representations of Place and Identity at Tug Fest: Reconstructing the Mississippi River (Lexington Books, 2022). His general area of study is in the areas of social construction of experience, identity, and place. He is currently conducting research for his next project that looks at nightlife and the emotional labor that is performed by employees of bars and nightclubs. To learn more about Michael O. Johnston you can go to his website, Google Scholar, Twitter @ProfessorJohnst, or by email at

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Michael Johnston

Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University.

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