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Common Reader 2015-2016 Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis: Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich

BARBARA EHRENREICH is an American author and political activist who describes herself as "a myth buster by trade", and has been called "a veteran muckraker" by The New Yorker. During the 1980s and early 1990s she was a prominent figure in the Democratic Socialists of America. She is a widely read and award-winning columnist and essayist, and author of 21 books. Ehrenreich is perhaps best known for her 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On Getting By in America. A memoir of Ehrenreich's three-month experiment surviving on minimum wage as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart clerk, it was described by Newsweek magazine as "jarring" and "full of riveting grit", and by The New Yorker as an "exposé" putting "human flesh on the bones of such abstractions as 'living wage' and 'affordable housing'". One of my major projects as a journalist now is the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, which I instigated in 2011. We promote cutting edge journalism about poverty by recruiting journalists (very often poor themselves), helping them define their projects, and raising money to pay them for their work. 
Text under CC-BY-SA license

Born: Aug 26, 1941 (age 74) · Butte, MT

Education: Reed College · Rockefeller University

Awards: Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada (1987) · Lannan Literary Fellowship (2001)

News and Reviews

The PLACE title by Ehrenreich is Nickel and Dimed

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity — a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival. Instantly acclaimed for its insight, humor, and passion, this book is changing the way America perceives its working poor.

Valuable and illuminating . . . We have Barbara Ehrenreich to thank for bringing us the news of America’s working poor so clearly and directly, and conveying with it a deep moral outrage . . . She is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism.”
–Dorothy Gallagher, The New York Times Book Review

A brilliant on-the-job report from the dark side of the boom. No one since H. L. Mencken has assailed the smug rhetoric of prosperity with such scalpel-like precision and ferocious wit.”
–Mike Davis, author of Ecology of Fear

Millions of Americans suffer daily trying to make ends meet. Barbara Ehrenreich’s book forces people to acknowledge the average worker’s struggle, and promises to be extremely influential.”
–Lynn Woolsey, member of congress


Barbara Ehrenreich