Thomas Bell, Out of This Furnace (1941, but still in print thanks to the University of Pittsburgh Press).

This book tells the story of three generations of a Slovak-American family in Braddock, where all of the men worked in the town’s steel mill, owned by Carnegie and then US Steel.  Thomas Bell knew whereof he wrote.  His real name was Adalbert Thomas Belajcak; he was born into a Slovak family in Braddock; and the family portrayed in his book—the Dobrejcak family (whose name means “good man”—is modeled on his own.  Anyhow, I recommend it for two main reasons:  first, its vivid descriptions of life in Braddock before the CIO came on the scene shows that, without labor unions, there’s no such thing as a good job; second, it closes with a contemplation of what it means to be an American–in particular the ways in which the CIO challenged ethnic nationalism and promoted a kind of patriotism that embraces the nation’s revolutionary heritage without ignoring Americanism’s reactionary iterations.

Submitted by:

Priscilla Murolo
Professor of History
Sarah Lawrence College