Mr. Arnade’s photographs of his transient subjects are starkly beautiful, but he does not romanticize them or claim any moral victory for himself ... Like Orwell, Mr. Arnade spent a long time with the people he would write about, and he renders them sharply, with an eye for revelatory detail ... And, like Orwell’s, Mr. Arnade’s pronouncements are sometimes muddled ... More often, Mr. Arnade writes with insight and honesty.
... both heartbreaking and humanizing ... What makes Dignity so compelling is Arnade’s thread of introspection: As he reached out to strangers, he dug inward, seeking to understand what effect his path to the 'front row' of America had on his assumptions, judgments and perceptions. Coming to recognize and shed the blinders of his economic and ethnic class, he found a new capacity for empathy and understanding.
Arnade offers no tidy conclusions, and his work is bound to provoke reaction, discussion, and perhaps controversy. Inarguably, his 'attempt to listen and look with humility' is a portrait of what it’s like to feel disfavored by the institutions and values of a 'front row' society that purports to be a meritocracy, with education serving as its all-access pass.
Arnade strives to afford each individual respect for choices made and understanding for opportunities denied. Although he concludes that everyone—in the front row and the back—must listen, keep from being judgmental, and understand others’ values, he offers no other suggestions for changing an exclusionary, exploitative, racist system that has created vast economic and social inequality, drug addiction, and humiliation. Some analysis would have given this moving volume more heft ... Candid, empathetic portraits of silenced men, women, and children.