Advance Praise

“This is a big-hearted American book, audacious and bold. Gabriel Thompson goes the distance, and should help silence the nativist nabobs and peddlers of racial propaganda who clog the immigration discourse today. In the spirit of Upton Sinclair, it’s an ode to the working human—whether that worker comes from Iowa or Michoacan.”

— LUIS ALBERTO URREA, author of The Devil’s Highway


“In the shadows of the U.S. economy—places where underpaid, often undocumented workers toil in hellish conditions—Gabriel Thompson does more than just observe and document. Showing deep solidarity as well as a commitment to exposing the injustices endured by low-paid laborers in America, Thompson spent a year working alongside this largely immigrant and rural workforce—cutting lettuce, dumping tubs of chicken parts, and huffing through the streets of Manhattan to deliver food. In writing this remarkable book, Thompson brings attention to the resilience of the workers who are the backbone of this country’s economy, appreciates the great contributions of undocumented workers to making our lives better by holding up the economy and the backlash they so often face. For anyone who has fought for dignity in the workplace, Working in the Shadows is a triumph—and a call to arms.”

— DOLORES HUERTA, co-founder of the United Farm Workers


Thompson (There’s No José Here) details working alongside undocumented workers in this stirring look at the bottom rung of America’s economic ladder. Thompson’s project feels initially like a gimmick; that this middle-class white American can go undercover in the lettuce fields of Arizona or the poultry plants of Alabama seems more stunt (or rehash of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed) than sound journalism. But the warmth with which he describes his co-workers and the heartbreaking descriptions of the demanding, degrading, and low-paying jobs quickly pull the reader in. Gimmick or no, the author pushes his body and his patience to the limits, all the while deferring attention to the true heroes: his co-workers, whose dignity, perseverance, physical endurance, and manual skill are no less admirable for being born of sheer necessity. What emerges are not tales of downtrodden migrants but of clever hands and clever minds forced into repetitive and dangerous labor without legal protections. Thompson excels at putting a human face on individuals and situations alternately ignored and vilified.