In Indianapolis we had a full line up of readers with Judy Wolf, Kelly Graham-MacDonald, and Nancy Lee. BookMamas—a fantastic independent store—hosted us.
All three of these women have tremendous—and different—stories. I’ve always felt a very certain connection to Judy as she comes from the world of journalism and speaks so well about newspapering—something that was already undergoing an unprecedented transformation before I started doing any reporting. Judy worked at the big paper in town for 24 years and survived early cuts before her job was taken away.
Not only does she offer informed insight about the changing dissemination of journalism and the experience of being unemployed but she is one of those rare individuals who gives so much of her time and mental energy coming up with ways to help others. In fact, I had nearly given up on the idea of doing an event in Indy as I had not been able to find a partnering store in short order. As soon as I told Judy this, she sent me a round of emails with helpful suggestions that eventually led us to BookMamas. She has also very kindly offered accommodations at her home for me and my Not Working collaborators every time we’ve passed through town. She seems to always be scheming on behalf of others. Her thoughtfulness is a rare gift in a world that feels increasingly survivalist-oriented. I still think about the fact that one of Judy’s first actions after losing her own job was to set up a job board for everyone else at the paper who had been laid off so they’d all have a place to share leads. This is a truly special individual.
Kelly Graham-MacDonald has a story that is not to be missed – one that still manages to confound me in new ways every time I think about it. She worked in social services for adults with documented disabilities who are trying to establish lives independent of group homes. But Indiana cut funding for the program and not only did Kelly lose her job but the people she served lost a system that helped to keep them on their feet. Now they are left to interact with cameras imbedded in their homes, as opposed to caring human beings like Kelly. It all feels very Orwellian—if not Nietzchean.
The good news is that Kelly has landed a full time job at the newspaper in town. Less pay than her previous job but it is something. And in a major stroke of irony: she got the job through Judy who relied on her personal connections to recommend Kelly for the position. This point goes to show how well respected Judy was (and is) at the paper and how the decision to lay her off was made by remote forces with little or no proximity to her 24 years of daily accomplishments and relationships at the paper.
And of course there’s Nancy Lee, whose chapter concludes the book. My reasons for ending the book with Nancy are spelled out in my interview with Scott Shoger at Indy’s Nuvo—and should be fairly obvious once you read her story. Who better to embodied the best of a terrible situation? Who better to embody optimism—and not optimism born out of stock patriotism or belief in business and political leaders but optimism that comes from belief in self and one’s ability to live frugally, happily and creatively. Her story must be heard by all.