The many fragmented individual stories tend to blur together, but the message comes through loud and clear.

READ REVIEW

THE MISSING CLASS

PORTRAITS OF THE NEAR POOR IN AMERICA

The lives of nine families just barely scraping by in four New York City neighborhoods.

Puerto Ricans in Sunset Park, Dominicans in Washington Heights, African-Americans in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, they all fall into the authors’ “missing class”: the 57-million Americans (one fifth of the population) living just above the truly poor but below the middle class. Newman (Sociology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.; A Different Shade of Gray: Mid-Life and Beyond in the Inner City, 2003, etc.) and Chen (editor of INTHEFRAY Magazine) got to know these families and their neighborhoods well between 1995 to 2002. Assisted by a fieldwork research team, they interviewed employers, teachers, community leaders, police and various service providers in addition to the family members themselves. What characterizes the missing class, the authors conclude, is precariousness: a single incident, such as the loss of a job, an accident, illness or divorce, can plunge its members downward into poverty. They work hard, sometimes holding down two jobs, but they don’t have bank accounts, don’t own their homes and have little or no health insurance. Most run continuous balances on their credit cards, paying high interest rates and large fees. They lack the time to supervise their children and are often saddled with the additional responsibility of poverty-stricken relatives who ask for money or move in. In nearly overwhelming detail, Newman and Chen create a grim picture of what life is like without a safety net. These “forgotten but vital” Americans deserve respect for what they have already accomplished, the authors assert, and they need society’s support in housing, education, health care and job training if they are to keep hold of the gains they have made. The concluding chapter examines specific strategies for facilitating home and car ownership, encouraging savings, bringing grocery stores to underserved neighborhoods, reducing school dropout rates and making college accessible and affordable.

The many fragmented individual stories tend to blur together, but the message comes through loud and clear.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8070-4139-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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