cover image Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream

Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream

Alissa Quart. Ecco, $32 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-302800-5

Journalist and poet Quart (Squeezed) delivers an impassioned and historically grounded argument for more economic and social interdependence in American society. Contending that “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps” has become a near-impossible moral aspiration for many Americans, Quart reveals the unexamined advantages and government assistance behind the self-made myths of public figures including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horatio Alger, Ayn Rand, Donald Trump, and Elon Musk. Rather than upholding an unreachable ideal of independence and self-reliance that shames people for not achieving success, Quart argues that Americans should become comfortable acknowledging a more realistic state of interdependence, where lives are shaped by the help of parents, teachers, caretakers, and access to opportunity. She buttresses her claims with details about “the rise of small-scale democratic workplaces and novel forms of citizen altruism and activism” during the Covid-19 pandemic and vivid profiles of multiracial city co-ops, grassroots coalitions of activists and medical students performing ad-hoc community services, and a therapist whose work is “informed by social class awareness.” Quart’s vision of an America where no one needs to put on “codified theatrical performances via social media” to get the help they need is a breath of fresh air. This eloquent and incisive call to action inspires. (Mar.)