Barbara Ehrenreich Discusses This Land Is Their Land

Barbara Ehrenreich is probably best known for her hugely successful Nickel and Dimed, her first-person tale from the trenches of struggling to get by doing various low wage jobs across America. But she didn't stop her social critique there, her latest book, This Land Is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation is filled with breezy, pithy essays about the disturbing trend toward a new class of the superrich few and the ultra-poor masses. She discussed the new book and America in general with City Pages.

City Pages: This book is surprisingly funny. I wasn't expecting that considering the subject matter.

Barbara Ehrenreich: You weren't? You don't know me too well.

CP: How you keep your sense of humor while writing about economic disparity and injustice?

BE: Humor is one way that I express anger, and there is a certain edge to the humor.

CP: Does it ever get difficult to maintain your sense of humor while writing about some pretty depressing subjects?

BE: No. I mean, sometimes it's the best way to express what I want to express.

CP: You're very socially progressive, and yet you bristle at being called a Marxist. What are the simple things the next president should do to increase the poor's quality of life and promote corporate responsibility?

Barbara Ehrenreich Discusses This Land Is Their Land

BE: Our immediate crisis isn't getting any better, and it's affecting the middle class too. I would say some immediate measures, although I'm not a policy wonk, I want to make that clear, I think we need to raise the minimum wage again, extend unemployment benefits because so many people are getting laid off, universal health insurance, something to stop the foreclosure crisis to help people who are in danger of losing their homes right away, increase the food stamp allotment which is now a pathetic $1 per meal. That would be a good start.

CP: Do you have hope that any of these things will happen in the near future?

BE: Well, it depends on who is elected and how much pressure we can put on him. I mean, I will vote for Obama, but not with the sense that he will automatically do everything I think he should do. I think I will continue to be part of a movement that is pressuring him and putting heat on him.

CP:And if McCain is elected?

BE: Aghhh. Then we just continue on as we have now, trying to stem the tide of terrible things.

CP: Do you have any special plans for how you're going to celebrate the end of the Bush Years?

BE: No, but that's a thought. How big the party is really depends on who gets elected. I can remember when Nixon was impeached, and opening the side door of the house, and other people were coming out of their houses, you know, sort of celebrating.

CP: This is a question I need to ask. In your essay 'Got Grease,' you mention you used to put butter on your brownies. You have to explain this to me. You really buttered your brownies?

BE: We did. It's pretty good with the saltiness of the butter contrasts with the sweetness of brownie. And then of course, it's all fat, you know. I guess I sound a little loony. Here's a person who wants all these good, progressive changes who puts butter on brownies. I don't eat brownies anymore though.

Ehrenreich will read from her book Tuesday, July 8, at Lyndale United Church Of Christ, 810 W 31st St, Minneapolis. Call Magers & Quinn Booksellers 612.822.4611 for more information.

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