Cover image for Squeezed
Title:
Squeezed

Why Our Families Can't Afford America
Author:
Quart, Alissa
Subject:
Politics
Sociology
Nonfiction
Description:
One of TIME's Best New Books to Read This Summer"Brilliant—a keen, elegantly written, and scorching account of the American family today. Through vivid stories, sharp analysis and wit, Quart anatomizes the middle class's fall while also offering solutions and hope." — Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and DimedFamilies today are squeezed on every side—from high childcare costs and harsh employment policies to workplaces without paid family leave or even dependable and regular working hours. Many realize that attaining the standard of living their parents managed has become impossible.Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of many middle-class Americans who can now barely afford to raise children. Through gripping firsthand storytelling, Quart shows how our country has failed its families. Her subjects—from professors to lawyers to caregivers to nurses—have been wrung out by a system that doesn't support them, and enriches only a tiny elite.Interlacing her own experience with close-up reporting on families that are just getting by, Quart reveals parenthood itself to be financially overwhelming, except for the wealthiest. She offers real solutions to these problems, including outlining necessary policy shifts, as well as detailing the DIY tactics some families are already putting into motion, and argues for the cultural reevaluation of parenthood and caregiving. Written in the spirit of Barbara Ehrenreich and Jennifer Senior, Squeezed is an eye-opening page-turner. Powerfully argued, deeply reported, and ultimately hopeful, it casts a bright, clarifying light on families struggling to thrive in an economy that holds too few options. It will make readers think differently about their lives and those of their neighbors.
Publisher:
HarperCollins

Ecco
Date:
2018/06/26
Digital Format:
Adobe EPUB

HTML

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

One of TIME's Best New Books to Read This Summer

"Brilliant--a keen, elegantly written, and scorching account of the American family today. Through vivid stories, sharp analysis and wit, Quart anatomizes the middle class's fall while also offering solutions and hope."

-- Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

Families today are squeezed on every side--from high childcare costs and harsh employment policies to workplaces without paid family leave or even dependable and regular working hours. Many realize that attaining the standard of living their parents managed has become impossible.

Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of many middle-class Americans who can now barely afford to raise children. Through gripping firsthand storytelling, Quart shows how our country has failed its families. Her subjects--from professors to lawyers to caregivers to nurses--have been wrung out by a system that doesn't support them, and enriches only a tiny elite.

Interlacing her own experience with close-up reporting on families that are just getting by, Quart reveals parenthood itself to be financially overwhelming, except for the wealthiest. She offers real solutions to these problems, including outlining necessary policy shifts, as well as detailing the DIY tactics some families are already putting into motion, and argues for the cultural reevaluation of parenthood and caregiving.

Written in the spirit of Barbara Ehrenreich and Jennifer Senior, Squeezed is an eye-opening page-turner. Powerfully argued, deeply reported, and ultimately hopeful, it casts a bright, clarifying light on families struggling to thrive in an economy that holds too few options. It will make readers think differently about their lives and those of their neighbors.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Quart, editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, deep dives into the struggle of ordinary families whose middle-class American dream is frustratingly out of reach. Pregnancy discrimination, childcare that can cost more than college, crippling student loan debt, limitations on midlife career makeovers, and robots replacing humans are just some of the barriers to job stability and financial solvency she covers. Quart understands and communicates well about the myriad, complex, situations that prevent many contemporary families from achieving a standard of living comparable to that of their parents. Her profiles include the "hyper-educated poor," adjunct professors who live in poverty, barely making a living wage; "extreme day care," which can include 24-hour childcare for parents with harsh and erratic work schedules; and impoverished immigrant nannies, who are underemployed and often separated from their own families while caring for their employers' children. Quart details sound policy-related solutions-an adjunct rights movement; free preschool; welfare-type assistance for elder care and childcare; an end to federal funding for sketchy, for-profit schools; and universal basic income. Her ambitious, top-tier reportage tells a powerful story of America today. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

Fighting to stay in the middle class."The middle class is endangered on all sides," argues journalist Quart (Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers, and Rebels, 2014, etc.), executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a nonprofit journalism group. In this highly thoughtful and compassionate account, she describes the forces that are making the traditional aspects of the "American Dream" out of reach for many Americans. "It's not your fault.The problem is systemic," she writes. She cites the rising costs of education, health care, rent, and day care as well as the negative effects of unstable work hours, declining unionism, the gig and freelance economy, the bias against mothers and older workers, automation, and the political shift to the right. In chapters highlighting the experiences of men and women (especially pregnant and single-parent), Quart demonstrates that the social system has left the middle class "stranded, stagnant, and impotent." The biggest culprit is "growing income inequality." Many people who "believed that their training or background would ensure that they would be properly, comfortably middle-class" are now " fronting' as bourgeois while standing on a pile of debt." The author delivers painful portraits of underemployed law school graduates, Uber-driving schoolteachers, and adjunct college professorsthe "hyper-educated poor"who earn less than $20,000 annually and shop exclusively at thrift shops. Often wracked by self-blame, isolated, and ashamed of their lack of money, those interviewed by Quart wonder how they are supposed to survive "doing what we love" in a society that undervalues caring and intellect and lacks subsidized day care and affordable housing. Some readers may balk at Quart's concern over the "psychological burden" facing upper-middle-class denizens in overpriced cities, but she offers excellent discussions of co-parenting, the problems facing immigrants, and the perils of enrolling in for-profit schools.Well-written, wide-ranging, and vital to understanding American life today. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Is there even an American middle class anymore? Examining her own hardships as an erstwhile member of the Middle Precariat, Quart (Republic of Outsiders , 2013) probes the myriad difficulties families face in a postrecession landscape. Quart's own family struggles inform this exploration, as does her work for Barbara Ehrenreich's Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Examining the forces that squeeze American workers and their families, the the book recounts stories of the debt-laden intelligentsia, the hand-to-mouth wealthy, care workers of all stripes (day-care providers, nurses, and other pink-collar professions). Quart also shares stories of ersatz solutions, such as communal housing, gig jobs such as Uber, and those struggling for an encore career after the first evaporates. Touching on coping mechanisms like bling porn on television and Instagram as well as the insidious reach of robot labor eliminating decent-paying jobs, Quart pulls together the many strands of culture that affect the families of Squeezed. First-person interviews and profiles of her peers bring a human face to the stress and suffering of families struggling to get by in a nation that formerly prided itself on a vibrant, thriving middle class. A thorough and moving profile of U.S. families in a time of crisis.--Erin Downey Howerton Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

THE IMPOSTOR: A Trae Story, by Javier Cercas. Translated by Frank Wynne. (Vintage, $17.) For three decades, Enric Marco, a Catalan mechanic, was a prominent public face of Spanish survivors of the Holocaust - until his story was revealed to be a hoax. Cercas unravels the horrific, yet wildly successful, lie, raising questions about the truth and its consequences and investigating the uneasy kinship he felt with the disgraced man. THE WAITER, by Matias Faldbakken. Translated by Alice Menzies. (Scout Press, $16.) At the Hills, a fusty fine-dining restaurant in Oslo, the title character goes off the rails. Rattled by patrons whose preferences endanger the old guard, the waiter, who prided himself on his impeccable presentation and service, descends into neurosis: mixing up orders, giving nonsensical answers. BUILT: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures, by Roma Agrawal. (Bloomsbury, $18.) A pioneering engineer behind some of the world's tallest towers shares her enthusiasm and appreciation for her craft. The "engineered universe is a narrative full of stories and secrets," Agrawal writes, and the book unveils many of the discipline's solutions to the world's problems. The astonishing ingenuity of engineers makes for fascinating reading. DAYS OF AWE: Stories, by A. M. Flomes. (Penguin, $17.) The absurd and the delicate live side by side in these 12 selections, all shot through with Homes's brand of dark humor. The title story follows a war reporter and a novelist who meet at a conference on genocide (one whose intentions are somewhat undercut by its corporate sponsors) and carry on an affair. Our reviewer, Ramona Ausubel, praised the collection, writing that "everything has a sharp edge, is strikingly beautiful and suddenly also a little menacing." SQUEEZED: Why Our Families Can't Afford America, by Alissá Quart. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $16.99.) Quart coins the term the "Middle Precariat" to describe the swath of Americans whose financial situations are increasingly tenuous. Many of the families she interviews speak of the guilt and shame they feel about their circumstances, though the book makes an argument that personal discipline is not to blame. THE MIDDLEMAN, by Olen Steinhauer. (Picador, $18.) A timely new thriller imagines what would happen if an organized anticapitalist fervor swept the United States. One day, hundreds of Americans across the country simply vanish, raising fears that the organization, known as the Massive Brigade, is actually a terrorist group. Though Steinhauer asks political questions, they don't get in the way of suspense.


Library Journal Review

Blending personal accounts with data, Quart (executive editor, Economic Hardship Reporting Project) exposes the overwhelming economic, emotional, and social hardships faced by U.S. middle-class families. Among the problems affecting the status of the "middle precariat" (including highly educated professionals who theoretically should be more economically secure) are gender bias, pregnancy/motherhood discrimination, disdain for care workers, exorbitant housing prices, health insurance and day-care costs, excessive student debt, underemployment, and low wages. Those struggling to survive are not failures; Quart blames a systemic problem that neglects families and devalues caregiving. Proposed solutions include state-mandated "3-K" and pre-K, government-funded day care, cooperative parenting, stronger unions, and universal basic income. One chapter warns about robots and software gradually replacing hospital workers, pharmacy technicians, legal aids, lawyers, and eventually truck drivers. Finally, the author encourages a national conversation about the value of work, which could alter our collective perspective on providing for the most vulnerable. -VERDICT Reminiscent of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, this straightforward work will resonate with those feeling squeezed, and inform those who are not.-Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.