Had I Known: Collected Essays

Twelve: Grand Central. Mar. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781455543670. $28. SOC SCI
Ehrenreich, best known for her exposé Nickel and Dimed, shares a look back at her considerable body of published essays. The pieces, written between 1984 and 2019, appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Nation, and Harper’s Magazine. In her introduction, she notes journalism’s declining status and urges better support for the profession. To that effect, she has started a nonprofit, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. The work is divided into six broad topic areas: “Haves and Have-Nots”; “Health”; “Men”; “Women”; “God, Science, and Joy”; and “Bourgeois Blunders”), each containing essays published decades apart. Interestingly, the problems she highlights have not changed much over the years. The technology of the times may have altered, but the social problems remain. In a 1986 New York Times article, she asked: “Is the Middle Class Doomed?” Her 1987 Mother Jones essay, “Welcome to Fleece U,” documented the high tuition of colleges and universities. Unchanged by time, however, is the author’s stylish prose.
VERDICT For readers interested in social justice issues in late 20th- to early 21st-century America.

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