$2.00 A Day: A Chilling Look at the 1 in 25 American Families Living in Deep Poverty


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(c) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

$2.00 per person a day is the global poverty level that the World Bank uses to measure poverty in developing nations. In the wealthiest nation in the world, our own United States, $2.00 barely buys a hamburger or a soda.

Yet according to $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, a bleak, riveting ethnography by sociologists Kathryn Edin and Luke Schaefer, a growing number of American citizens are relegated to this level of deep poverty. In fact, in 2011 there were 1.5 million American families, including 3 million children living on this income. That’s 4% of all households with children in the U.S.

To give you a point of comparison, here are a few related U.S. poverty levels:

  • $16.50 per person / day : The U.S. poverty line for family of three in 2011
  • $8.30 per person / day : The U.S. “deep poverty” line in 2011

How could a family possibly survive on that miniscule amount of cash? Why can’t they seem to get a paying job? Where is welfare and government assistance in all this?

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Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes Recipe from Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron. Photo courtesy of The Guardiannora ephron heartburn quote

In an earlier post, I recommended Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, the story of a faltering marriage that is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and is based on Ephron’s marriage to Carl Bernstein. But the book is more than just a good read with a witty, brilliantly-crafted narrator; it’s chock-full of delicious-sounding recipes I am aching to try, ranging from the more traditional to ones I’ve never heard of, like this lima bean and pears dish.

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, it’s the perfect time to try out a new version of those classic holiday dishes. Why not impress your literary-minded friends and family with a recipe and words from a famous author?

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11 Excellent Books You Can Read in a Day

This guy has the right idea.
This guy has the right idea. © Alexandre Dulaunoy

If you’re an informal member of the 52-book challenge like me, you might be scrabbling to catch up to that week 46 mark. Even us voracious readers get distracted by the latest episode of Downton Abbey or holiday gift shopping on Etsy.

So you need a few quick reads but don’t want to sacrifice on quality? Add these novellas and bite-sized memoirs to your reading list. Better yet, go get them right now – several of these are completely free and kindle-ready!

From short-and-(not so?) sweet classics like Frankenstein to contemporary masterpieces like Sleep Donation, here are 10 of my favorite under 200-page books.

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Poehler’s New Book Offers Heartfelt Advice and Lots of Laughs

© Harper Collins

Amy Poehler starts off her new book, Yes Please, with a typical tongue-in-cheek warning. She tells us “writing is hard” and that she “had no business agreeing to write this book.” She then admits this self-deprecating perspective, while genuine, might also be a ploy to lower our expectations before dazzling us with her “sneaky insights about life and work.”

It’s this spirit of playfulness and sincerity that Amy Poehler embodies for me. Ever since I became a Parks and Rec regular, and learned Poehler was the real-life (now ex) partner of the idiotic but lovable Gob Bluth, I’ve counted myself a fan. Who can resist this infectious cackle? How can anyone not love such a down-to earth star who spends her spare time empowering young women?

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Class Matters: Insights on Class Issues in America from the New York Times

In lieu of taking a summer graduate sociology class on Social Inequality, I’ve been slowly working my way through the course syllabus. First up on the reading list is Class Matters, a compilation of New York Times articles on class issues and the growing disparity between the rich and poor in America.  Published in 2005, the book documents our increasing income gap and the growing stagnation of social mobility even before the Great Recession of recent years.

While I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that there are economic (among other) inequalities in America, Class Matters lays out evidence of a recent decline in social mobility, or the movement of people between socioeconomic classes. In other words, the American dream that promises those from all walks of life a fair chance at happiness and prosperity is becoming more a fantasy each year.  In comparison to other countries, reporter Janny Scott states, social mobility in the U.S. is no higher than in Britain or France, and is lower than in Canada and some of those mythic Scandinavian countries. We outrank developing countries like Brazil, where poverty status is a life sentence, but that’s hardly a comparison to high-five about.  Instead of moving forward, toward a future where every hard-working individual has equal opportunity-access, we seem to be slowly floating backwards, towards more polarized, static socioeconomic levels.

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A Master-Class with Jane Satterfield, Award-Winning Poet and Essayist

“So, tell me what each of you have been working on,” says poet-essayist Jane Satterfield, glancing around the table at me and the other creative writing students. She adjusts her glasses, then picks up a pen, ready to take notes as each of us responds. Her voice is quiet but articulate, with a lilt not unlike the compassionate tone of a therapist. She mentions nothing about the dedicated trek she just made up to Towson, hopping off a plane from Chicago that morning and trudging through slush from the previous day’s snowstorm. Instead, she had begun the night’s master class on her essays by passing out sheets of blue cardstock to each student for name cards.

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Why an Exquisite Southern Gothic Tale Haunts Me Still

Review of Swamplandia by Karen Russell

Note: This review contains spoilers

Swamplandia book cover

After receiving many recommendations for Swamplandia, I finally set out to decide for myself whether I was a fan of Karen Russell, who was recently awarded a 2013 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”  I was intrigued by the title and the premise of the novel: Among the mystical no-mans land of the Florida Everglades lies Swamplandia, an alligator-wrestling theme park run by the Bigtree “tribe.”  Admirers of the Seminole culture and all things fantastical, the (white) Bigtrees live amongst the Seths (gators), diving into pits of the toothy reptiles in front of a roaring crowd for show. Thirteen-year-old Ava, our main character, wants desperately to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Hilola Bigtree, the fierce, legendary alligator wrestler responsible for Swamplandia’s success.

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