A thoughtful consideration of work and the workaday world that brings the class struggle to the fore.

ESSENTIAL

HOW THE PANDEMIC TRANSFORMED THE LONG FIGHT FOR WORKER JUSTICE

A sociologist shows how the pandemic has changed the world of work irrevocably, but there’s more to be done.

“Work is a scam. We spend far too much time doing it, and most people aren’t paid anything close to the amount of value their labor creates.” So writes McCallum in this timely follow-up to Worked Over: How Round-the-Clock Work Is Killing the American Dream. Meanwhile, the rich profit from that scam—one reason, notes the author, is that they have been working so vigorously to create a narrative by which working-class Americans aren’t working hard enough. That’s not at all the case, McCallum insists. With the pandemic and its unfair demands on those classified as “essential workers”—health care workers, to be sure, but also truck drivers and meat packers—the result was a “Great Reassessment” that became a “Great Resignation” that “helped fuel the Great Discontent,” with its rejection of low-wage jobs on the part of those who were able to search for something better. Much of that essential work, especially that which involved caregiving, has barely been valued at all, considered unskilled and compensated accordingly; given demographics, that caregiving work is only going to expand. “As the so-called invisible hand of the market attempts to push us off an ecological cliff,” writes McCallum, “it’s the invisible hands of the behind-the-scenes care workers that are propping up our care infrastructure.” Reasonably enough, the author calls for a revised Green New Deal package of programs that considers care workers to be essential workers indeed—and that includes a Medicare-for-all component to boot. Meanwhile, he notes, the capitalists aren’t sitting still. While some have accepted that in order to rebuild the labor market, they’ll have to pay more, others are pushing the “gig economy,” hiring scabs, and otherwise attempting to shore up an old, utterly broken status quo.

A thoughtful consideration of work and the workaday world that brings the class struggle to the fore.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5416-1990-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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