An eye-opening account of the lives ensnared in the new poverty cycle.

$2.00 A DAY


An analysis of the growing portion of American poor who live on an average of $2 per day.

Welfare in the United States has always been a divisive issue. Most Americans agree that the poor deserve government assistance, but those same people also respond with vitriol at the idea of welfare as a system that encourages entitlement, promotes laziness, and creates a class of “takers.” Government assistance programs date back as far as the post–Civil War era, but only recently has the public’s outrage over government spending on welfare become so controversial. Following the wildly exaggerated myths of figures like Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” and the influential though dubious analysis of Charles Murray’s Losing Ground (1984), policy was reshaped in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton, changing the nature of government assistance to the poor. Edin (Sociology and Public Health/Johns Hopkins Univ.; co-author: Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage, 2005) and Shaefer (Social Work/Univ. of Michigan) argue that this shift created a new class of poor in America that fights to survive on barely $2 per person per day because they cannot qualify for the new government aid programs or the assistance they receive is simply not enough to supplement their low-paying jobs. By 2011, more than 4 percent of households with children in the U.S. fell into this category, doubling in the decade and a half since welfare was reformed in the 1990s. Curious as to how this new class of poor survives, Edin and Shaefer traveled to some of the most depressed areas of the country, including Chicago, Appalachia, and the Mississippi Delta. The authors share deeply human stories of the regular people trapped in poverty, typically through no fault of their own. Some are victims of abuse, others are forced to quit their low-paying jobs due to health concerns, and some simply cannot catch a break despite playing by the rules.

An eye-opening account of the lives ensnared in the new poverty cycle.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-30318-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?