Barbara Ehrenreich

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Barbara Ehrenreich was a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine from 1999 to 2012.

Her bestselling book, Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America (2001), originated as a piece of undercover reportage published in the January 1999 issue of the magazine, for which she received the Sidney Hillman Award in 2000. In her introduction to the book, Ehrenreich recalls how, during a lunch with Harper’s editor Lewis H. Lapham, conversation turned to how one lives on low wages. She suggested that someone ought to “do the old-fashioned kind of journalism—you know, go out there and try it for themselves,” after which “Lapham got this crazy-looking half smile on his face and ended life as I knew it, for long stretches at least, with the single word, ‘You.’”

Ehrenreich is the author or co-author of, among other works, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (1998); Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (2005); Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy (2007); and Complaints & Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness (2011), co-written with former Mother Jones editor Deirdre English.

Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Time, The Progressive, and Mother Jones, among others.

Readings — From the March 2018 issue

Running to the Grave

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Readings — From the March 2014 issue

The Trees Step Out of the Forest

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Readings — From the June 2012 issue

The animal cure

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Notebook — From the February 2007 issue

Pathologies of hope

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Article — From the November 2001 issue

Welcome to cancerland

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A mammogram leads to a cult of pink kitsch

Article — From the April 2000 issue

Maid to order

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The politics of other women’s work

Article — From the January 1999 issue

Nickel-and-dimed

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On (not) getting by in America

Article — From the December 1997 issue

Giving women the business

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On winning, losing, and leaving the corporate game

Article — From the August 1997 issue

Spinning the poor into gold

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How corporations seek to profit from welfare reform

Readings — From the December 1989 issue

Working-class heroes no more

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October 2019

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Secrets and Lies·

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

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Seeking Asylum·

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Out of sight on Leros, the island of the damned

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Poem for Harm·

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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Good Bad Bad Good·

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

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Life after Life·

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
—Chaucer

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A solid-gold toilet named “America” was stolen from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, in Oxfordshire, England.

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