MLA Platinum Award Press Release

BookBrowse Reviews Squeezed by Alissa Quart

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio


Why Our Families Can't Afford America

by Alissa Quart

Squeezed by Alissa Quart X
Squeezed by Alissa Quart
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 320 pages
    May 2019, 272 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Cynthia C. Scott
Buy This Book

About this Book



Sharp, intelligent, compassionate and timely, Squeezed is a document of contemporary America that demands to be read.

At thirty-five, Brianne Bolin, an adjunct professor at Columbia College with a Ph.D in English, never dreamed she'd be shopping for clothes at Goodwill or relying on food stamps and Medicaid to support her eight-year-old son, Finn, who has paraplegic cerebral palsy. But she, like a lot of people Alissa Quart chronicles in Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America, is a perfect example of what Quart calls the Middle Precariat, "extensively trained and educated workers" who are saddled with "debt, overwork, isolation, and shame about [their] lack of money."

Quart backs up this reading with statistics. Compared to twenty years ago, contemporary middle-class life has become thirty percent more expensive and college has almost doubled in cost. Daycare eats almost thirty percent of one half the earnings of a two-salary household. And while the middle class is feeling the squeeze, working class people of color and immigrants, unable to obtain affordable housing, education and well-paying jobs, are being frozen out completely.

Behind these sobering facts are stories of people caught in an endless plunge from the economic ladder. Quart exhaustively investigates their plight, combing through Silicon Valley's shadow economy, where teachers and journalists moonlight as Uber drivers or strip-club bouncers; sitting in on classes for downsized middle-aged workers as they retrain for a younger and lower-paid job market; and chronicling Blanca, an overworked and underpaid Paraguayan nanny, and her near-Herculean efforts to get her son into a decent school in New York City's convoluted public school system.

While the struggle hits both genders, it is women who fare worse. As the aforementioned Blanca attests, they often work in fields–domestic and childcare work, nursing, teaching–that are increasingly undervalued and underpaid. One of seven child-care workers, many of whom are women of color and immigrants, live below the poverty line. Nurses face the threat of automation. Pregnancy discrimination has risen twenty-three percent from 2005 and 2011. And when former black journalist Courtenay Edelhart looks for more lucrative work in public relations, she encounters the triple hardships of race, gender, and age. Men who work in traditionally feminized jobs, like Uber-driving teacher Matt Barry, are also boxed out. Stripped of their earning power, women, particularly women of color, and their families are the biggest economic losers.

Despite the bleak outlook, there are solutions. Quart gives much needed attention to issues like universal basic income (see Beyond the Book), which would provide a basic income to all citizens regardless of employment, universal public Pre-K childcare programs for working families, like the one championed by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and generous parental paid leave laws.

Most of the problems Quart addresses are deeply systemic and require social and political movements to resolve, something she could have addressed more since they are the result of long-stemming political choices. Still, Squeezed has much in common with works like Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed about minimum-wage workers, for her sympathetic portraits of people deeply affected by these issues and that makes it more than an important work for people concerned about economic inequality.

Quart, who admits to dealing with some of the same insecurities, empathizes with people who blame themselves for the challenges they face in a system that is rigged against them. More than just a scathing moral indictment of a country that pays lip service to the interests of working families, Squeezed is also a compassionate argument for creating an economy that prioritizes people over profits.

Reviewed by Cynthia C. Scott

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2018, and has been updated for the May 2019 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Universal Basic Income

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Delayed Rays of a Star
    by Amanda Lee Koe
    Amanda Lee Koe's Delayed Rays of a Star begins with a late-1920s photo of three women at a party in ...
  • Book Jacket: Sleepovers
    by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips
    In Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' debut story collection, Sleepovers, it can be difficult to keep tabs on...
  • Book Jacket
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...
  • Book Jacket
    by Carolina De Robertis
    Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis follows five characters who share a house, troubles, joys and parts...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Voyage of the Morning Light
    by Marina Endicott

    A sweeping novel set aboard a merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Of Bears and Ballots

An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics

A charming account of holding local office with an entertaining, quirky cast of characters.



Solve this clue:

A S Louder T W

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.