Like My Father Before Me is a work of fiction. Still, much is based on real events. Here are the distinctions…
All characters are fictional with the exception of Jesse Jackson and Lee Iacocca, very public figures. Jackson’s comments are verbatim from a 1988 speech in Kenosha. All of Iacocca’s comments, whether addressing large groups of workers or a small group in conversation, are paraphrased from the public record.
Sequence of events
Major milestones in the battle between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the two companies involved — AMC and Chrysler — are based on the historical record. This includes the thrusts and parries of negotiation, key decisions by the entities, and the impressive public relations war waged by UAW Local 72. Here’s a vital and fascinating source: The End of the Line: Lost Jobs, New Lives in Postindustrial America by Kathryn Marie Dudley, Professor of Anthropology & American Studies at Yale University. Some of the dialogue in the novel was rooted in real conversations Ms. Dudley conducted with “survivors” of the Kenosha experience.
The history of the American labor movement is filled with intriguing examples of labor spies, paid agents and companies who collect and disseminate information, misinformation and money to undermine unions. While Like My Father Before Me is embellished with labor spy activity from the historical record, there is no evidence that American Motors or Chrysler used such tactics against the UAW or Local 72 during the years featured in the novel.
The Kenosha story of 1985-1989 included deadly violence. However, Like My Father Before Me sidesteps these real events to avoid incriminating any person, living or dead. Instead, by studying labor uprisings elsewhere in the automotive and other industries, I’ve brought fictional but plausible acts of violence into the narrative. While the underground organization in the novel is entirely fictional, one need look no further than the real-life Molly Maguires, a secret society that fought for mine workers, to understand how real Ram’s Head could have been.