Working Poor

Shipler, David K. The Working Poor: Invisible in America. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.

You could either pick up The Working Poor and feel really good about your own situation (if you are employed and are living well within your means) or you could read it and feel absolutely terrible for a myriad of reasons; you feel guilty about your well-off situation or you, yourself are feeling the stress of mounting debt and the growing impossibility of making ends meet. Shipler takes an unflinching look at the men and women trying to stay afloat financially as well as emotionally when they are mired in a variety of debts. He interviews men and women from all walks of life; the good, the bad, and the ugly. You have no choice but to feel something for these people. The myriad of emotions range from pity to disgust and everything in between.

Interesting lines (food for thought), “For practically every family, then, the ingredients of poverty are part financial and part psychological, part personal and part societal, part past and part present” (p 11), “She could not afford to put her own two children in the daycare center where she worked” (p 39), and “Everyone’s life had a price” (p 98).

Reason read: America’s birthday…although this book isn’t about America’s finest hour.

Author fact: Shipler won a Pulitzer for Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land which is also on my Lust List.

Book trivia: Working Poor was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Guilt Inducing Books” (p 111). Here’s the thing. Reading this book didn’t necessarily make me feel guilty about my personal situation. I am a first generation college kid and I worked hard hard to get where I am today. However, what this book made me feel more than anything was frustration. Obviously, our system doesn’t work.

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