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Reads for Poverty Awareness Month

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Reads for Poverty Awareness Month

poverty awareness month

The largest one-year increase in the U.S. poverty rate occurred between 2021 and 2022, jumping from 7.4% to 12.4% during that span. Since January is “Poverty Awareness Month,” here are some books that call attention to this important issue– all of which you can check out with your Livingston Library card.

(Descriptions provided by the publishers.)

going for broke

Going for Broke: Living on the Edge in the World’s Richest Country edited by Alissa Quart and David Wallis

A collection of compelling, hard-hitting first-person essays, poems, and photos that expose what our punitive social systems do to so many Americans. Going for Broke, edited by Alissa Quart, Executive Director of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and David Wallis, former Managing Director of EHRP, gives voice to a range of gifted writers for whom “economic precarity” is more than just another assignment. All illustrate what the late Barbara Ehrenreich, who conceived of EHRP, once described as “the real face of journalism today: not million dollar-a-year anchorpersons, but low-wage workers and downwardly spiraling professionals.” One essayist and grocery store worker describes what it is like to be an “essential worker” during the pandemic; another reporter and military veteran details his experience with homelessness and what would have actually helped him at the time. These dozens of fierce and sometimes darkly funny pieces reflect the larger systems that have made writers’ bodily experiences, family and home lives, and work far harder than they ought to be. Featuring introductions by luminaries including Michelle Tea, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Astra Taylor, Going for Broke is revelatory. It shows us the costs of income inequality to our bodies and our minds–and demonstrates real ways to change our conditions.

Class: A Memoir by Stephanie Land

Stephanie Land takes us with her as she finishes college and pursues her writing career. Facing barriers at every turn including a byzantine loan system, not having enough money for food, navigating the judgments of professors and fellow students who didn’t understand the demands of attending college while under the poverty line—Land finds a way to survive once again, finally graduating in her mid-thirties. Class paints an intimate and heartbreaking portrait of motherhood as it converges and often conflicts with personal desire and professional ambition. Who has the right to create art? Who has the right to go to college? And what kind of work is valued in our culture? In clear, candid, and moving prose, Class grapples with these questions, offering a searing indictment of America’s educational system and an inspiring testimony of a mother’s triumph against all odds.

The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America by Kathryn Edin, Luke H. Shaeffer, and Timothy Jon Nelson

Three of the nation’s top scholars, known for tackling key mysteries about poverty in America, turn their attention from the country’s poorest people to its poorest places. Based on a fresh, data-driven approach, they discover that America’s most disadvantaged communities are not the big cities that get the most notice. Instead, nearly all are rural. Little if any attention has been paid to these places or to the people who make their lives there. This revelation set in motion a five-year journey across Appalachia, the Cotton and Tobacco Belts of the Deep South, and South Texas. Immersing themselves in these communities, pouring over centuries of local history, attending parades and festivals, the authors trace the legacies of the deepest poverty in America, including inequalities shaping people’s health, livelihoods, and upward social mobility for families. Wrung dry by powerful forces and corrupt government officials, the “internal colonies” in these regions were exploited for their resources and then left to collapse. The unfolding revelation in The Injustice of Place is not about what sets these places apart, but about what they have in common: a history of raw, intensive resource extraction and human exploitation. This history and its reverberations demand a reckoning and a commitment to wage a new War on Poverty, with the unrelenting focus on our nation’s places of deepest need.

Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond

In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow. Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.

profit and punishment

Profit and Punishment : How America Criminalizes the Poor in the Name of Justice by Tony Messenger

As a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tony Messenger has spent years in county and municipal courthouses documenting how poor Americans are convicted of minor crimes and then saddled with exorbitant fines and fees. If they are unable to pay, they are often sent to prison, where they are then charged a pay-to-stay bill, in a cycle that soon creates a mountain of debt that can take years to pay off. These insidious penalties are used to raise money for broken local and state budgets, often overseen by for-profit companies, and it is one of the central issues of the criminal justice reform movement. In the tradition of Evicted and The New Jim Crow, Messenger has written a call to arms, shining a light on a two-tiered system invisible to most Americans. He introduces readers to three single mothers caught up in this system: living in poverty in Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, whose lives are upended when minor offenses become monumental financial and personal catastrophes. As these women struggle to clear their debt and move on with their lives, readers meet the dogged civil rights advocates and lawmakers fighting by their side to create a more equitable and fair court of justice. In this remarkable feat of reporting, Tony Messenger exposes injustice that is agonizing and infuriating in its mundane cruelty, as he champions the rights and dignity of some of the most vulnerable Americans.

Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending US Poverty by Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddoz

Goldblum, CEO and founder of the National Diaper Bank Network, and Shaddox, a journalist and activist, give a book shedding light on the realities faced by those living in poverty across the United States and provide a road map for eradicating poverty via policy changes.

Invisible Americans: The Tragic Cost of Child Poverty by Jeffrey G. Madrick

By official count, more than one out of every six American children live beneath the poverty line. But statistics alone tell little of the story. In Invisible Americans, Jeff Madrick brings to light the often invisible reality and irreparable damage of child poverty in America. Keeping his focus on the children, he examines the roots of the problem, including the toothless remnants of our social welfare system, entrenched racism, and a government unmotivated to help the most voiceless citizens. Backed by new and unambiguous research, he makes clear the devastating consequences of growing up poor: living in poverty, even temporarily, is detrimental to cognitive abilities, emotional control, and the overall health of children. The cost to society is incalculable. The inaction of politicians is unacceptable. Still, Madrick argues, there may be more reason to hope now than ever before. Rather than attempting to treat the symptoms of poverty, we might be able to ameliorate its worst effects through a single, simple, and politically feasible policy that he lays out in this impassioned and urgent call to arms.

Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World by Annie Lowrey

A brilliantly reported, global look at universal basic income—a stipend given to every citizen—and why it might be the answer for our age of rising inequality, persistent poverty, and dazzling technology. Imagine if every month the government deposited $1,000 into your checking account, with no strings attached and nothing expected in return. It sounds crazy. But it has become one of the most influential and discussed policy ideas of our time. The founder of Facebook, President Obama’s chief economist, Canada and Finland’s governments, the conservative and labor movements’ leading intellectual lights—all are seriously debating versions of a UBI. In this sparkling and provocative book, economics writer Annie Lowrey looks at the global UBI movement. She travels to Kenya to see how a UBI is lifting the poorest people on earth out of destitution, India to see how inefficient government programs are failing the poor, South Korea to interrogate UBI’s intellectual pedigree, and Silicon Valley to meet the tech titans financing UBI pilots in expectation of a world with advanced artificial intelligence and little need for human labor. Lowrey also examines the challenges the movement faces: contradictory aims, uncomfortable costs, and most powerfully, the entrenched belief that no one should get something for nothing. The UBI movement calls into question our deepest intuitions about what we owe each other. Yet as Lowrey persuasively shows, a UBI—giving people money—is not just a solution to our problems, but a better foundation for our society in this age of marvels.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions

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