Summary and book reviews of Squeezed by Alissa Quart

Squeezed

Why Our Families Can't Afford America

by Alissa Quart

Squeezed by Alissa Quart X
Squeezed by Alissa Quart
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2019, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Cynthia C. Scott
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About this Book

Book Summary

Families today are squeezed on every side - from high childcare costs and harsh employment policies to workplaces without paid family leave or even dependable and regular working hours. Many realize that attaining the standard of living their parents managed has become impossible.

Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of many middle-class Americans who can now barely afford to raise children. Through gripping firsthand storytelling, Quart shows how our country has failed its families. Her subjects - from professors to lawyers to caregivers to nurses - have been wrung out by a system that doesn't support them, and enriches only a tiny elite.

Interlacing her own experience with close-up reporting on families that are just getting by, Quart reveals parenthood itself to be financially overwhelming, except for the wealthiest. She offers real solutions to these problems, including outlining necessary policy shifts, as well as detailing the DIY tactics some families are already putting into motion, and argues for the cultural reevaluation of parenthood and caregiving.

Written in the spirit of Barbara Ehrenreich and Jennifer Senior, Squeezed is an eye-opening page-turner. Powerfully argued, deeply reported, and ultimately hopeful, it casts a bright, clarifying light on families struggling to thrive in an economy that holds too few options. It will make readers think differently about their lives and those of their neighbors.

INTRODUCTION



Michelle Belmont's debt haunted her. It was almost unspeakable, but it was a raw relief when anyone asked her about it. She wanted people to hear about her life as she lived it, how her debt trailed her like a child's monster, how it was there when she went to the supermarket, to her son's day care, and home to her one-bedroom apartment.

It began as it often does, with the student loans for the college her parents back home in Georgia thought would ensure the right future. Then there was the money she borrowed for her master's of library science degree. A bit later, when baby Eamon came along, she and her husband owed over $20,000 in hospital bills as well. What was shocking were the price tags, just for normal things, like Michelle's labor and her overnight stay. She had required a few days extra at the hospital: Eamon had been born weighing ten pounds, thirteen ounces, and she had pushed that hefty creature for five hours.

"I thought that ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Do you think it's harder to be a middle class parent today than it was when you were growing up? How does this make you feel?
  2. Which people or characters in the book do you identify with and why? Who don't you identify with? Why? Did anyone's story move you? Did you feel like some people could have tried harder or taken different paths to achieve greater stability and success?
  3. Quart argues that America per se doesn't care about care. What does that mean to you? Do you think caregiving—by parents, guardians, daycare workers and babysitters or even teachers and nurses—is undervalued in our country? Why are they paid so little and given less respect than other professions?
  4. Quart questions the "do ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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...continued

Full Review (573 words).

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(Reviewed by Cynthia C. Scott).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
[Quart's] ambitious, top-tier reportage tells a powerful story of America today.

Library Journal
Reminiscent of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, this straightforward work will resonate with those feeling squeezed , and inform those who are not

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Vital to understanding American life today.

Author Blurb Arlie Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
A vivid prose stylist, Quart makes powerfully real what happens when those who were once middle class can now only window shop for the American Dream. She also offers crucial collective plans to get us out of our anguishing binds.

Author Blurb Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
Brilliant - a keen, elegantly written, and scorching account of the American family today. Through vivid stories, sharp analysis and wit, Quart anatomizes the middle class's fall while also offering solutions and hope.

Author Blurb Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex and Don't Call Me Princess
What Alissa Quart does so beautifully is weave together textured, compelling portraits of individual families with big ideas. Read this important book to understand the challenges your own family faces in parenting, housing, planning for the future - and read it to find out what to do about them!

Author Blurb David Corn, author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump
Quart deftly chronicles the plight of Americans confronting the dangerous rise of Middle Class financial instability. Squeezed is journalism at its best: exploratory, visceral, and searching for answers. An important work to which attention should - and must - be paid.

Author Blurb Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars
Quart's investigation, written with the elegance of a literary novel, forces us to examine the grave consequences of an economic structure that has crushed the very people it claims are at the heart of the American dream.

Author Blurb Astra Taylor, author of The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age
Profound, a sweeping, blistering portrait of hard-working people from all walks of life. It's a rousing wakeup call that also points the way forward to a more equitable, expansive future.

Author Blurb Helaine Olen, author of Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry
Alissa Quart is a modern James Agee. Squeezed gets deep inside the increasingly perilous financial lives of American families showing that they are collateral damage of our disappearing government. A damning, necessary and intensely vital book.

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Beyond the Book

Universal Basic Income

Author Alissa Quart argues in her book Squeezed, that a Universal Basic Income is one possible solution for job insecurity, particularly for stay-at-home parents and domestic workers who are often shut out of the economy and for workers whose jobs may be phased out due to automation.

But what exactly is UBI? Basically, it's a program that distributes a fixed income to everyone, regardless of employment. While there are some questions as to how it should be implemented, one estimate suggests it would cost the United States up to $3.2 trillion to distribute $10,000 checks annually to every adult citizen or $1.5 trillion if means-tested to exclude those who don't need it (by comparison the National Health Expenditures in 2016 was $3.3 ...

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