During the Great Depression, the United States government commissioned over 175,000 photographs to document the era. Perhaps the most famous is Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange, where a woman sits looking into the distance, her brow furrowed and her forehead marked with worry lines. Two of her children bury their faces in her neck. She holds a third to her chest. Her sleeve is frayed.

For two years, West Tisbury resident Marc Favreau combed through these images — and countless other sources — to create his first book, Crash: A History of the Great Depression and the Fall and Rise of America, a work of young adult nonfiction. Its narrative is propelled through primary sources deftly linked.

“It started because I’m obsessed with this collection of photographs at the Library of Congress,” Mr. Favreau said. “I thought I would take a collection of those and tell the story of the Great Depression with photographs and minor captions that were strung together. That evolved into a book.”

Mr. Favreau says it is a time not marked by war or by specific battles, but pivotal nonetheless.

"The Great Depression is one of the great dividing lines in history." — Jeanna Shepard

“The Great Depression is one of the great dividing lines in U.S. history,” he said. “People thought it wasn’t going to end.”

Mr. Favreau’s book is filled with stories that go beyond images, for example that the woman in Migrant Mother was Florence Owens Thompson, of Cherokee heritage. She was 32 when the photograph was taken, and a mother to 10 children. She told Ms. Lange that she and her family had been living on frozen vegetables from nearby fields and birds the children had killed. Another photograph of Ms. Lange’s included in the book shows a wider angle of the family’s tiny, makeshift tent.

“In the camp where Lange snapped her photo, close to 2,500 migrant workers neared starvation,” Mr. Favreau writes.

The book’s narrative ranges from Herbert Hoover’s violent response to veterans protesting scarcity at the capitol, to the forced repatriation of Mexican immigrant workers in Los Angeles. Mr. Favreau takes readers into auto factories and living rooms, workers’ camps and the White House.

Crash offers fresh perspectives on familiar characters — Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Rosie the Riveter — and introduces many more, including a young Civilian Conservation Corps member named James Franco, and the women working in a uranium enrichment plant in Oak Ridge, Calif. as America prepared the first atomic bombs.

“I tried very hard to have it be told through the viewpoints of regular people, through oral history and photographs,” Mr. Favreau said.

He takes a comprehensive look at the era, examining how race, geography and social class intersect with scarcity. A chapter entitled The Blind Spot focuses on how The New Deal left African Americans behind. Mr. Favreau writes that during the Depression, more than twice as many African Americans lost their jobs compared to white people.

“During the Great Depression, most of America’s black citizens could not vote, travel freely or live where they wished,” Mr. Favreau writes. “They had almost no hope of achieving the American Dream.”

The chapter also describes the terrorism of Jim Crow and widespread lynching, eventually sowing the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. Favreau introduces NAACP president Walter White, the attorneys representing the Scottsboro Boys, and Civil Rights activist Mary Macleod Bethune among other visionaries.

Mr. Favreau is executive editor at the New Press, a New York based non-profit publisher specializing in works on social justice. There, he has edited other works about the Great Depression, including an edition of Studs Terkel’s oral history, Hard Times.

Years ago, Mr. Favreau visited the Vineyard for a book party celebrating New Press writer Patricia Sullivan. After that, he and his family began visiting in summers. Then he got permission to take a year-long sabbatical of sorts.

“Then I never left. You can imagine it was a little more complicated than that, but I just stayed.”

Mr. Favreau now works full-time remotely. He wrote the book mostly at night, after his regular work was finished.

Crash is Mr. Favreau’s first book. He said writing for young adults proved challenging.

“I edit adults who write for adults,” he said. “I went through three inside-out redos [for Crash], which was chastening.”

He said there aren’t many nonfiction books catered specifically to a young adult audience, though fiction for that demographic is flourishing.

“I think it’s important to be able to grapple with it and be a critical thinker,” he said. “But at the bookstore, there’s usually a small shelf of nonfiction.”

Mr. Favreau is the father of two teenage boys, Owen and Emmett. He said young people deserve more nonfiction material.

“They’re kind of like young citizens in a way, starting to be conscious of the world around them, and media needs to catch up with that,” he said, noting recent protests in Washington D.C. as an example of youth engagement.

Mr. Favreau’s writing reflects his respect for young people, and his commitment to offering them an unaltered look at history. He does not shy away from difficult subjects — racism, anti-Semitism and violence — but calmly lays them out for consideration with straightforward language that doesn’t condescend.

Mr. Favreau’s commitment to education about the Great Depression is evident in the back pages of the book. A detailed bibliography is followed by a guide to finding more primary sources online. He also includes a timeline of the Great Depression and an extensive glossary.

Mr. Favreau said after the stock market crash in 2008, the Great Depression was again part of the nation’s consciousness as economic fears swirled. But in Crash, the story of the Depression is ultimately a hopeful one of resilience and cooperation. The protagonist is the United States itself, weary but forging onward.

“When you get knocked down, things happen. You dust yourself off. There are new opportunities, new paths to follow,” he said.

Marc Favreau will speak about his book on Saturday, May 12 at the West Tisbury Library at 4 p.m.