Important stories of the unseen and unspoken that illuminate a growing class in America.
A collection of essays and conversations about living in America without a safety net.
There is a growing class, especially in the U.S., not characterized by politics, race, or religion, but by economic uncertainty and lack of stability. Defined by the British economist Guy Standing as “the precariat,” this class cuts across broad swaths of the population: immigrants, prisoners, and gig workers, but also college graduates, homeowners, and artists. “We build community,” writes Caligiuri, “because we can’t expect, demand, or control the machinations of the captivity business.” Featuring contributions from Kiese Laymon, Valeria Luiselli, Steve Almond, Lacy M. Johnson, and other prominent writers, this book, edited by a collective of incarcerated writers in Minnesota, demonstrates what it means to live a life dominated by uncertainty. Among the subjects are a teacher struggling to free herself from a $386,000 debt from loans her gambling-addicted mother took out in her name without her knowledge; people living at a rest stop in Oregon; a gig worker delivering food to the Manhattan wealthy during the worst days of the Covid-19 pandemic; and a group of U.S. Forest Service scientists working to save trees in Oregon and California as climate change decimates forests and other natural habitats. Almost all of the essays are enlightening, speaking to the resilience with which these people address their despair. Trees share this determination, notes Lauren Markham. “The living will do whatever they need to survive,” she writes. “I had seen one desiccated former tree whose branches were covered in hundreds of cones….Sensing it will die, the tree bursts forth into cones in a frantic final act of hope: not so much for itself, but for its species.” A thoughtful conversation among the editors caps each moving essay, and the book features an introduction by Eula Biss.Important stories of the unseen and unspoken that illuminate a growing class in America.
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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