Not Working

Not Working

People Talk About Losing a Job and Finding Their Way in Today’s Changing Economy

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780143122555
  • 480 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


Poignant true stories of resilience, determination, and the search for fulfillment

Inspired by Studs Terkel’s Working and by James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, DW Gibson sets off on a journey across the United States to interview Americans who have lost their jobs. Here is the mortgage broker who arrived at work to find the door to his office building padlocked, the human resources executive who laid off a couple hundred people before being laid off herself, the husband who was laid off two weeks after his wife learned she was pregnant, the wife who was forced to lay off her husband.

In telling the stories of people who could be our neighbors, our friends, our relatives, Not Workingholds up a mirror to our times, showing us the individuals behind the unemployment statistics—their fears and hopes—and offering a map for navigating our changing economy. With an extraordinary mix of pathos, anger, solidarity, and humor, it brings clarity—and humanity—to the national conversation.

For information about the companion documentary film, Not Working: The Pulse of the Great Recession, please visit


“A book with fascinating range [and] a fresh perspective [that shows] how powerful the genre of oral history can be.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Wrenching . . . Wide-ranging . . . This book is so important.” New York Daily News

“A touching and all-too-necessary text.” Interview

“Comparable in heft and style to Studs Terkel’s WorkingNot Working is as timely as its predecessor. . . . [It] provides an in-depth look at a new type of American and reveals a new type of American story. . . . The storytellers in Not Working . . . show that, as a society, we’re more than where we work.” —City Arts (Seattle, WA)

“Add[s] faces, personalities and pathos to the unemployment figures thrown around every month. Just as [Studs] Terkel showed how so many of us define ourselves with our work, Gibson’s subjects demonstrate how, even beyond the financial havoc that ensues, losing a job unsettles a person’s sense of self.”The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)

“Not Working reveals something Americans only talk about in numbers.  Gibson gives . . . the big picture of America’s temperature.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“An intense, moving, ground-level history of our difficult times.” —Teju Cole, author of Open City

“Powerful and heartrending.” —Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker