A startling examination of the patchy response to pandemic-era unemployment.

A vivid, disheartening portrait of unemployment during the pandemic.

Ravenelle, a professor of sociology and author of Hustle and Gig, begins by looking at two key categories: the “Officially Unemployed” and the “Forgotten Jobless.” This key distinction determined whether someone who found themselves out of work during the pandemic could apply for unemployment insurance or not. One chapter includes a brief history of unemployment insurance in America and the ways it has been weakened by “decades of neoliberal, antiwelfare ideology.” In addition to “causing more quarantining than polio, killing more Americans than HIV/AIDS, and resulting in more sudden unemployment than the Great Depression,” writes the author, the pandemic "divided people into essential and nonessential, demanding or on-demand, vaccinated or unvaccinated." In an eye-opening text based on an in-depth study with more than 200 workers, Ravenelle examines exactly how people made it through 2020 and 2021 and, specifically, “what happens to the most precarious workers— the gig workers and laid-off restaurant staff, the early-career creatives, and the minimum-wage employees—when the economy collapses, and how they fare in the pursuit of an economic recovery." Many ended up doing “side hustles” such as food delivery, dog walking, driving for a car service, or pickups for shopping apps. Ravenelle analyzes why those who didn’t apply for unemployment chose not to, for reasons ranging from not knowing they were eligible, to believing it was wrong to take money for not working. The author sympathetically portrays people who “faced weeks and months of living on the edge," clearly believing that America could do better by its unemployed. She closes by proposing a number of fixes to ensure how our outdated economic and employment systems could be made more efficient and effective for the overextended workers of today and tomorrow.

A startling examination of the patchy response to pandemic-era unemployment.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9780520387300

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023


A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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