Leigh Gallagher, an assistant managing editor at Fortune, has written an important book which underscores the economic and societal changes sweeping through the United States. It is provocatively entitled “The End of the Suburbs” (The subtitle is: Where the American Dream Is Moving”), published by Portfolio/Penguin.
The book is well timed. The U.S., as we can all plainly see, is going through a sea change these days, in which old dreams and values have been flipped upside down. Perhaps this age group has lower expectations than that of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation or the Baby Boomers who followed it. Heck, every generation probably feels it is special and that the demands and challenges are more profound than ever before.
Gallagher well describes the way the worrisome economic times have framed these changes. Clearly nobody should feel immune from the movement of buyouts and layoffs. It sometimes seems that the longer you can stay at one employer, the bigger the target you become because you’re making too much money (by the company’s feeling) and that you can be replaced by a younger and cheaper employee. Even if the quality of the work suffers, so be it. Maybe Jimmy Carter was premature when, as our president, he spoke of a national “malaise.”
When the housing bubble burst, it sent tremors across the nation and around the world. Basically, the fallout turned the promise of the American Dream right on its head. Growing up, everyone’s goal was to own a home, especially in a bucolic suburb, and having the great feeling of sticking your chest out, sitting back and basking in your own glow. Who wouldn’t want to brag: “Hey, I made it!”
Gallagher is a sensitive observer. She understands what’s going on and wisely avoids the trap of sounding preachy or resorting to a journalist’s cocky stance of all but bragging, “I told you so!”
Instead, she allows her reporting to lead the way, and the readers are better for her efforts.