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An Akron Gen-Xer scrapes off the rust for a fresh look at his home town
Former Akron Beacon Journal reporter David Giffels sees the Rubber City bouncing back in his new book, 'The Hard Way on Purpose'
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI
and VIVIAN GOODMAN


Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Courtesy of Timothy Fitzwater
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Former Akron Beacon Journal reporter David Giffels' new book, 'The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches From the Rust Belt,' is an Editors’ Choice in the New York Times Book Review. 

The editors say, "A region on the mend has found its voice."   

 

LISTEN: Giffels talks to Mark Urycki about his book and the regional experiences that led to it.

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (3:52)


Growing up in Akron in the late 1970s, David Giffels never saw his hometown's best days. Goodyear, Firestone, and Goodrich had abandoned the Rubber City, but Giffels never has.

That's one way he differs from LeBron James, although they both attended St. Vincent St. Mary's High School and Giffels, too, once worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was a ball boy.

As a columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal, Giffels never seemed ashamed of his town's history and he fairly bristles with hometown pride in his new book, 'The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches From the Rust Belt.' 

He says it bothers him that the rest of the country pays little attention to the region unless it's "swing-state" election time. And he thinks there are lessons to be learned from the region's identity crisis and Akron's new focus on "re-invention."

He says he was born "at the beginning of the end" of Akron as an industrial city. And he recalls that, while he was attending the University of Akron, the city's downtown "looked like Beirut." 

Giffels says that in his lifetime Akron has lost a third of its population. "I spent my life, " he says, "watching people leave."

But he notes that Le Bron James still lives here, raises his children here, and "likes being one of us."

Giffels feels the same. He recently turned down a job offer in New York City, and looks to be a permanent resident of what the New York Times review of his book calls "a region on the mend."

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

Really tired of hearing from this guy. He sounds like an elitist who spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself for living in NE Ohio. I've lived here my whole life, as have millions of other people. And my experience is not at all represented by this guy's book. NE Ohio STILL IS a manufacturing powerhouses, and it's something we should be proud of. I have an engineering degree and work in manufacturing. There are tons of good paying jobs (white collar and blue collar) in this area in manufacturing. The tire industry isn't gone. What about Goodyear's huge new headquarters? Everywhere has people that move away. That isn't just something that happens here.


Posted by: seymour (NE Ohio) on May 29, 2014 12:05PM
I also think David is championing Akron and Northeast Ohio. It is true that at its peak, Akron had over 350,000 residents; now the population has dwindled down to less than 200K. I think he is portraying Akron as an underdog, which has been kick and beat, but never gave up. And the people that are still here have never quit believing. I also think the same! We have two great major Universities, excellent health care, and some of the best eateries in the country. If you are into sports-we have all the balls; football, basketball, baseball, and even one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world! If David wanted to leave and live a lucrative life in the big city, I am sure he could. However- he (as I) has chosen to stick around because he loves the area he grew up in. I think that is the crux of what he is saying.


Posted by: Mike (Akron) on May 29, 2014 6:05AM
You have totally misunderstand him. He is not talking against Akron or NE Ohio! He is cheerleading the area and trying to build it up.


Posted by: Richard (Youngstown) on May 29, 2014 2:05AM
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