Sociologist Auyero (Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown) and his graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin deliver exceptional in-depth longitudinal studies of 11 people living in precarious social and economic conditions in their city. Their subjects include a multilingual, highly educated Nepalese cab driver; an impeccably dressed food industry worker in her 50s who lives in a storage unit; a copier repairman with bad knees and failing eyesight who can’t afford to retire; a musician whose career doesn’t afford him the luxury of having a family in the “live music capital of the world”; a 65-year-old injured Mexican laborer who began working when he was five; and a waitress turned exotic dancer. At the heart of these narratives is Austin, whose hip, progressive reputation belies its worsening income inequality and long history of racial and economic segregation. Beyond the particulars of each story are the institutional and political changes that have placed workers at an increasing disadvantage—the “rise of the service economy,” dismantling of the social safety net, decline of unions, and acceleration of globalization, among other factors. Lucid and empathetic, these insightful portraits reveal how life histories are intertwined with political and economic forces beyond any individual’s control. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/15/2015 Release date: 09/01/2015 Genre: Nonfiction
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