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Powell's Q&A

Barbara Ehrenreich (2008)

Describe your latest project.
This Land Is Their Land is a collection of short essays, mostly previously unpublished in print. The largest single theme is the increasing division of America into the rich and the rest of us. But there's a lot more here, plus plenty of bold new ideas — such as the need for veterinary care for children and abstinence training for middle-aged people... and how the economy would benefit from replacing our current CEOs with undocumented immigrants.

  1. This Land Is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation
    $5.96 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "Entertaining Ehrenreich certainly is, but she raises a hard, serious question: 'How many 'wake-up calls' do we need, people...?'" Publishers Weekly

    "Provocative, angry and funny, often at the same time..." Kirkus Reviews

  2. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
    $6.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist
    "Ehrenreich's scorn withers, her humor stings, and her radical light shines on." The Boston Globe
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
How about my son Ben Ehrenreich, author of the brilliant novel The Suitors. Or his friend Seshu Foster, author of Atomik Aztec.

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false?
Fiction writers should be better liars since they're always making things up, but I haven't known my son to tell a lie since he was 14 and took the car off for a spin.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
On the fiction side, I'm reading River of Gods by Ian McDonald right now because a friend recommended it. I'm addicted to novels and am terrified that I'll run out someday and have to live in the real world full-time.

What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
I don't even notice that I'm wearing them.

Why do you write?
For one thing, it beats working. I've been freelancing almost all my adult life — setting my own hours, wearing sweatpants all day, and taking breaks to do a little housecleaning. I'm so spoiled by this way of life that I can't even imagine going into an office and doing what someone tells me to do.

Most of the time I don't actually write, because I don't have anything to say until I do a lot of thinking and research. That's the real fun — research — or satisfying my curiosity and calling that "work."

Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?
Kelvin, of course. Where else do you find absolute zero?

Name the best television series of all time.
The best? I've been addicted to most of the big HBO series: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, and Rome.

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
A wild book tour — what could that mean? Book tours are hell: claustrophobic, sleep-deprived, and usually powered solely by chicken Caesar salad. If anyone is having a good time, I'd like to know how.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
I've been reading a lot about American business culture recently, and my favorite books include:

White-Collar Sweatshop: The Deterioration of Work and Its Rewards in Corporate America by Jill Andresky Fraser

The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism by Richard Sennett

Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers by Robert Jackall

From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession by Rakesh Khurana

The Organization Man by William H. Whyte

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Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of fourteen books, including Dancing In the Streets and the New York Times bestsellers Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. A frequent contributor to Harper's and The Nation, she has also been a columnist at the New York Times and Time magazine.


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