THE NEW MEN: Making the Men Who Made America ~Jon Enfield
“A profit-sharer had to be at least twenty-two years of age, or married, or the sole support of a close relative. He had to be sober, saving, clean-living, and decently housed. And he had to let Sociological investigators confirm his being all those things.”
It is early in the Twentieth Century and immigrants are pouring into the new industrializing America to avoid death and the conflicts in their birth countries. The Ford Motor Company is gearing up to make 300 vehicles a day to supply the needs and wants of a nation; the new workers are not trained in being citizens or assembly line workers and so Mr. Ford sets out to do just that – train the NEW MEN who will make America’s future.
Jon Enfield, the author, found all sorts of records about what was occurring during this time period as he was working on his Doctorate in English and the material fascinated him. Some of the people in this story are real people who took notes and kept records of the events and the process. Most of the characters are fictional and represent the people who lived these events and were trained by the Ford Company including learning English, finding affordable housing, healthcare and working up to profit-sharing and being a Five Dollar a Day Man. Ford was offering a make a living wage with investigators checking up on the individual’s situation and keeping the men honest and moving up the pay scale.
The story focuses on an Italian (Ghilaraza) family who after father has been arrested and jailed for political reasons in Italy decides to move his family to the United States. The Gramazio Family becomes the Gram Family as they arrive in the new land and Antonio Gram the narrator of the story receives much needed surgery to repair the twist of his spine and problem with his leg. Tony still has a hunched back and pain, but he can go to school full time and this helps his family very much over time. The eldest son remains in Italy and become a police/ military man and he writes about all the changes in the country and all the arrests and killings as WWI heats up in Europe.
Tony is hired to be an investigator in the Five Dollar a Day school in the Detroit Ford Motor Company. There he studies the good school programs and works with families to achieve the profit-sharing plan. The stories of the families he meets and questions are very interesting and of course, they represent the different countries and the problems, including racism, they are having. He also is required to remove people from the process and from the work experiences who do not follow the protocol. His friend Ross, who is a reporter, helps pull the threads of the story together and give the reader a larger overview.
THE NEW MEN is very well written, and I believe the writer captured lots of the feelings people were experiencing when they make such a big move. It was very poignant in the moments that they gave their sons to Europe’s War and to the beginnings of the Union movement. Were police to be trusted, who was swindling whom, prohibition or not, and what were the politicians really doing?
Negros were also entering the work force in rapid numbers and wanting to earn a living wage and support their families. Jewish families were finding oppression, suspicion and aggression surrounding them and their highly educated children. Women were pushing for better healthcare and the Vote. What an amazing time period to be a part of and living within, and the author has mixed the facts and the fiction in just the right portions to tell a terrific story. I could not put the book down. After the first hours read, I was hooked and so did the next read in 6 hours straight into the next day! THE NEW MEN is that good.
TLC Online Booktours and Wayzgoose Press sent me an e-copy of this book for review and I give it an enthusiastic yes and Thanks.
Jon Enfield received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago, was the former fiction editor of the Chicago Review, and taught writing at the University of Southern California. He is quite intrigued with the early twentieth century in America and how it influenced the fundamental realities of America today.
Tags: Chicago; immigrants; Ford Motor Company; WWI; FIVE DOLLAR A DAY program; assembly lines; industrial revolution, early 1900s; Detroit, historic fiction; America, suffrage movement; Peace Ship; prohibition; education; automobiles; politics; equal pay; family values; Jon Enfield, THE NEW MEN