Beth Macy

Speech Topics

Beth Macy explores the takeaways she learned from writing “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town.” The book set out to answer two questions: What is the untold aftermath of offshoring some 5 million manufacturing jobs? And was there another way? Drawing upon two years of research, including meticulous reporting and hundreds of interviews with everyone from displaced workers to American and Chinese CEOs, Macy tells the story of two factory towns in Virginia, run largely by different branches of the same family tree. One branch offshored nearly all its domestic production, putting 8,500 people out of work. The other successfully kept its flagship factory going. What are the lessons we can draw from these two business/family stories?

Drawing upon a quarter-century of reporting from one of the most segregated cities in the South, journalist Beth Macy explains the beauty of getting outside your ZIP code in the workplace, in your community and in the global economy. Based on interviews with a disparate set of people from displaced workers living in rural trailer parks to Somali Bantu refugees living in public housing to Mexican migrant workers who split their time between two very different worlds, Macy explains the importance of bridge-building across lines of race, socioeconomics, geography and religion — and traces how we’re all connected in this globalized world, whether we realize it or not. As social media makes an even greater presence in our lives, it’s more important now than ever to engage with people living outside our social and virtual worlds.


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Beth Macy is the author of the critically acclaimed and New York Times-bestselling books, Factory Man and Truevine. Her third nonfiction narrative is Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America (2018).

Growing out of three decades of reporting from the same Virginia communities, as her prior books did, Dopesick unpacks the most intractable social problems of our time: the opioid crisis, set against a landscape of job loss, corporate greed and stigma, along with the families and first responders who are heroically fighting back. Overdose deaths are now the equivalent of a jetliner crashing in our country every day, and yet the government response to the epidemic remains, in a word, impotent.

Dopesick is, in many ways, the sequel to Macy’s first book, FACTORY MAN. It lays out exactly how the jobless “other America” ended up couch-surfing with the likes of surgeon’s daughters and civic leaders’ kids who fall prey to prostitution, jail, and even death. Tom Hanks describes Dopesick as “a deep — and deeply needed — look into the troubled soul of America.” Stanford addiction medicine specialist and author Dr. Anna Lembke calls it the first book to capture the entirety of the epidemic, “with a fast-paced narrative, colorful and inspiring characters, vivid historical detail, and a profound sense of place.”

A longtime reporter who specializes in outsiders and underdogs, Macy has won more than a dozen national journalism awards, including a Lukas Prize for Factory Man, multiple shortlist and best-book-of-the-year honors for Truevine, and a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard for her newspaper writing.

A frequent speaker, teacher and essayist, Macy has been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Oprah magazine, and Parade. Her approach to storytelling: Report from the ground up, establish trust, be patient, find stories that tap into universal truths. Get out of your ZIP code. To do good journalism, be a human first.

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