Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America
NOW AN AUDIOBOOK
Named an Amazon Best of the Month pick and one of the Best Books of the Year, Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America tells about a handful of people in the 1930s, a glimpse of America at a turning point. They were caught up in an effort to describe America in a series of travel guides. Through striking images and firsthand accounts, Soul of a People reveals their experiences, along with the most vivid excerpts from selected guides and interviews: Harlem schoolchildren, truckers, Chicago fishmongers, Cuban cigar makers, a Florida midwife, and Nebraskan meatpackers.
This book and the related documentary film illuminate what it felt like to live that experience, and how it affected their lives and work afterward.
“A fascinating behind-the-scenes tour”: Check out the rave in Audiofile magazine.
Praise for ‘Soul of a People’
“Taylor has written a lively, informative, and often uplifting story of the Federal Writers Project.”
— Douglas Brinkley, author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America
“A wonderful and engaging book.”
— Robert Whitaker, author of On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation
“David Taylor goes inside the project to give us intimate snapshots of the writers and what they saw and felt during that hard time. Soul of a People is a revealing and a valuable resource.”
— Nick Taylor, author of American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA
“Soul of a People is the first book to tell the stories of the Federal Writers themselves. In David Taylor’s engaging narrative, this spunky, colorful, and entertaining crew comes back to life.”
— Ann Banks, editor of First Person America
“An excellent history…”
— Washington City Paper
Read reviews on Goodreads and please add your own.
Book Club Resources
- Group discussions of Soul of a People can draw on ideas from the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools session about the book.
- “Writers’ Project Searched For American Stories,” All Things Considered author interview on NPR (7 min. audio)
- Library of Congress author blog post: “Inquiring Minds: Commemorating the Federal Writers’ Project“
- Author blog post about Leo Seltzer, a young documentary filmmaker during the 1930s and WPA arts project employee interviewed for the book – and his 1938 WPA film, The Technique of Fresco Painting, showing the process of making a WPA mural in a Bronx high school
- “Literary Cubs, Canceling Out Each Other’s Reticence” – American Scholar author article about friendship among WPA writers Nelson Algren and Richard Wright
- “Exploring Virginia Life through the WPA Writers’ Project” – author article in Virginia Libraries
- “Roads Less Traveled” author interview in the Davidson Journal
Related Resources: Check out this list of online resources about the Great Depression from the Library of Congress.