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08.20.08

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Phaedra

This Land Is Their Land

Reports From A Divided Nation

Reviewed by Molly Zapp


Veteran rabble-rouser and capitalism-critiquing journalist Barbara Ehrenreich boldly writes, "Economic issues are moral issues," a belief and theme that she extrapolates on in her latest collection of essays. Erudite yet accessible and scathingly sardonic, the author of Nickel and Dimed has again written a book that seeks to stir the radical, class-conscious spirit of the American left—and leave them both outraged and rolling in laughter. Ehrenreich shuns the esoteric and hands-off approach often employed by elitist academics who have little contact with the masses they purport to speak for (like Maureen Dowd). Instead, Ehrenreich talks with Target employees who were interrogated and denied access to bathrooms. The feminist journalist doesn't just cite studies showing the abysmal failure of abstinence-only education; she calls up an abstinence educator to see if she herself could qualify to become one. Ehrenreich's hallmark strategy for the myriad issues she tackles—class oppression, immigration, corporate greed, etc.—stems from her astounding ability to present a case that these issues are all connected. In "Our Broken Mental Health System," Ehrenreich opens with a discussion of the Virginia Tech massacre, then critiques both the lack of access to mental health and the overmedicalization of therapy, where hyper 9-year-olds and disillusioned adults alike "have to be drugged or disciplined into accepting their fate. What therapy aims to achieve is not 'health' but compliance with social norms," she states. But before one can swallow their Prozac or say "touché, Barb," she full-circles the essay with a call for gun control—all within a span of three pages. Although some of her essays stretch this it's-all-connected tactic a bit thin, her esemplastic skills for concisely weaving a common social and economic justice thread throughout her book—and, if they accept it, through readers' minds—is truly galvanizing. (By Barbara Ehrenreich; Metropolitan Books; 235 pages: $24 hardback)


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