New book takes readers inside Postville - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New book takes readers inside Postville


DUBUQUE (KWWL) - For years Postville has made the national spotlight. First for diversity, then for the raid. In 1987 Agriprocessors came to Postville. It became the largest kosher meat packing plant in the country; bringing jobs and ethnicity to the town. Then last may, a federal raid nearly wiped out the town.

A new book called "Postville U.S.A", written by people who've spent more than ten years in the town, is giving a new perspective on everything.

Postville U.S.A. has three authors. Two are UNI professors who moved to Iowa years ago and the third moved to Postville from Los Angeles. This book is a process that began more than ten years ago and the authors admit, the book didn't turn out anything like they imagined.

Inside this more than 170 page book a perspective on the town of Postville.

"You know its gotten a great deal of national attention because of the very interesting ethnic and religious groups which have moved in town," said co-author Mark Grey.

Ethnic groups from more than 35 different countries have come through this town. For Grey, Michele Devlin and Aaron Goldsmith that's where the story started.

"There was a point in which we were hoping to write a book about Postville in which we were talking about Postville being a successful laboratory for diversity," said Grey.

But as time passed the so called plot of this book took a turn. In May 2008 an immigration raid at Agriprocessors turned the town upside down and changed the story.

"It was fascinating to sort of be in the middle and not really have an agenda, but to hear everyone's voices from different sides," said co-author Michele Devlin.

After more 12 years of "studying" the town the three sat down to write Postville U.S.A: Surviving Diversity in Small-town America.

"A chance for somebody to start fresh and look at Postville for it's strengths and its real weaknesses and that's a story all of in it's own. It's doesn't have to be sensationalized it's got a lot of already special things inside of it," said co-author Aaron Goldsmith.

The three explored the rapid change in demographics, the benefits and problems of diversity in communities like Postville, workers rights, and immigration.

"We really try to present a balanced perspective not only of the raid but the community over the last 10 or 15 years or so and really try to bring in as many different voices and perspectives as we possible could," said Grey.

"Postville's got a nice future and right now it's starting to settle it's self down and climb out of the ashes," said Goldsmith.

By the way, talk about inside perspective, Aaron Goldsmith actually lived in Postville and served on the city council. One thing the authors stressed: this is a story in progress and they believe Postville will still serve as an example for the entire country.

Online reporter: Lauren Squires
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