cover image Had I Known: Collected Essays

Had I Known: Collected Essays

Barbara Ehrenreich. Twelve, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4555-4367-0

Activist and journalist Ehrenreich (Natural Causes) addresses numerous hot-button issues in this argumentative and passionate collection. She challenges the status quo throughout, while also including a healthy dose of self-questioning. The 40 selections—assembled into six categories (Haves and Have-Nots; Health; Men; Women; God, Science, and Joy; and Bourgeois Blunders) and published between 1984 and 2018—address race, class, and gender with admirable breadth. Writing on sexual harassment in 2017, Ehrenreich reminds the reader of how little focus has been accorded to abuses committed against working-class women. An essay from over a decade ago on immigration is notably topical, as is one written soon after the 2008 financial crash on the “criminalization of being poor.” She is wittily satirical at times, as when skewering adherents to “the cult of conspicuous busyness,” who feel “embarrassed to be caught doing only one thing at a time,” and bitterly Swiftian at others, proposing a combination of “welfare and flogging” as an acceptably punitive compromise for opponents of government aid to the poor. Her most acerbic passages will be off-putting to some, but most will find this a gripping look at why “dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.” Agent: Kristine Dahl, ICM Partners. (Mar.)