05 January, 2009

Essential Reading

In the midst of tracking news from across the world, I don't want to forget about struggles of a different sort ongoing in this country. I just finished reading a very, very good book about poverty and welfare in the U.S. that was given to me by one of my new professors. I know, I know, you're thinking, "Welfare?!" Don't tune me out!

The book, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and A Nation's Drive to End Welfare, was written by Jason DeParle, a reporter with the New York Times, and is so well written it is an honest-to-God page-turner. DeParle does such a good job weaving the macro with the micro. His chapters alternate between a journalistic dissection of the political forces and decisions that led to then-Pres. Clinton signing a bill that shunted 9 million women and children from this nation's welfare rolls and a vivid, painfully honest examination of the lives of three women in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Jewel, Angie and Opal - who let DeParle deep into their lives and families, which he traced back six generations into the Mississippi Delta.

It's maddening, heartbreaking, and something I think everybody should read.

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