Not working: Voices of America's laid off workers

Writer DW Gibson traveled across the country in search of the Great Recession's victims. The result: Not Working, a portrait of America's 21st-century unemployed. Here are a few of the tales he came home with.

A journey through unemployed America
A journey through unemployed America

Over the summer and fall of 2011, I drove across the country from southern California to New York City. I made the trip with filmmaker MJ Sieber, playwright Mallery Avidon, and -- when she could escape her job -- my wife, Tasha Garcia Gibson.

We occupied blistering hot sidewalks, trying to catch people outside unemployment offices; we attended church services where congregations provided guidance for the unemployed; we stalked business reporters, distant relatives, and recognizable Facebook friends, trying to find those who were laid off in the five-year span from 2007 to 2011, those who would be willing to tell the story of the day they lost that job, the circumstances that led up to it, and the consequences that followed.

We met them in libraries, parking lots, fast-food restaurants, homes, union halls, fellowship halls, cheap motel rooms, coffee shops and bars -- wherever someone with a story preferred to sit and talk. The majority claimed that they or their particular experience -- or both -- were boring. The results were anything but. Here are their stories. --DW Gibson



The following is an adapted excerpt from DW Gibson's forthcoming book, Not Working (June, OR Books).
Interviews by DW Gibson @FortuneMagazine - Last updated May 14 2012: 11:34 AM ET
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