... is billed as a collection of essays from the past four decades, but the Ehrenreich in these pages will be mostly familiar to the million-plus readers of Nickel and Dimed, which began as an article for Harper’s Magazine that is reprinted here ... shows how Ehrenreich’s sincere activist efforts have always contained a vein of dark wit ... There’s a consistent tone to all of the essays: tough and acerbic, crusty to the point of imperturbable ... the Ehrenreich of this collection is Ehrenreich the activist, the author of startlingly prescient essays and scabrous op-eds. She was writing about the splintering middle class during the self-congratulatory Reagan years, and about problems of trickle-down feminism long before well-heeled women were exhorted to lean in. These pieces weren’t the place for her to parse any ambivalence. After all, she had a job to do.
From the wage gap and exploitation of workers to gender inequality and second-wave feminism, Ehrenreich digs deep in her investigations into the topics that capture the collective fancy as well as those that rarely register in the social consciousness ... It’s a one-stop shop for fans of Ehrenreich’s gimlet eye and informed outrage. Whether talking about welfare reform during the 2008 recession or the helplessness that threatens to burgeon into a mental health crisis, Ehrenreich brings a passion and practicality to her discourse. There is a sense that Ehrenreich is always in receptor mode, that cogent analysis is her default setting. A rewarding, illuminating tour de force.
In a sense, Ehrenreich’s work has always been mournful, mostly for the traditions of social justice and collective organizing so ruthlessly attacked since the Ronald Reagan administration. The author stayed prolific even after her hardcover success, and this collection is sprawling ... The chapter titles are often provocative...and her significant research is conveyed in a wry, taut polemical style ... While some earlier work may seem dated—e.g., essays on the grating 1980s yuppie ethos—others chillingly foresaw the devastation of labor and the middle class, the privatization of social services, and the increased cruelty of law enforcement toward the vulnerable ... With such relevance to fractured late-capitalist America, Ehrenreich’s work warrants renewed attention