June 13, 2019

Book Review: Squeezed by Alissa Quart

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America

by Alissa Quart

Genres: Nonfiction, Politics, Economics 
Publisher: Ecco 
Length: 320 pages 
Published: June 26, 2018 
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

My Goodreads Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars 

Official Book Summary:

"Families today are squeezed on every side—from high childcare costs and harsh employment policies to workplaces without paid family leave or even dependable and regular working hours. Many realize that attaining the standard of living their parents managed has become impossible.

Alissa Quart, executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, examines the lives of many middle-class Americans who can now barely afford to raise children. Through gripping firsthand storytelling, Quart shows how our country has failed its families. Her subjects—from professors to lawyers to caregivers to nurses—have been wrung out by a system that doesn’t support them, and enriches only a tiny elite.

Interlacing her own experience with close-up reporting on families that are just getting by, Quart reveals parenthood itself to be financially overwhelming, except for the wealthiest. She offers real solutions to these problems, including outlining necessary policy shifts, as well as detailing the DIY tactics some families are already putting into motion, and argues for the cultural reevaluation of parenthood and caregiving.

Written in the spirit of Barbara Ehrenreich and Jennifer Senior, Squeezed is an eye-opening page-turner. Powerfully argued, deeply reported, and ultimately hopeful, it casts a bright, clarifying light on families struggling to thrive in an economy that holds too few options. It will make readers think differently about their lives and those of their neighbors."


"There are people on the brink who did everything 'right' and yet the math of their family lives is simply not adding up."

Excerpt (from the Introduction):

"Michelle Belmont's debt haunted her. It was almost unspeakable, but it was a raw relief when anyone asked her about it. She wanted people to hear about her life as she lived it, how her debt trailed her like a child's monster, how it was there when she went to the supermarket, to her son's day care, and home to her one-bedroom apartment.

It began as it often does, with the student loans for the college her parents back home in Georgia thought would ensure the right future. Then there was the money she borrowed for her master's of library science degree. A bit later, when baby Eamon came along, she and her husband owed over $20,000 in hospital bills as well. What was shocking were the price tags, just for normal things, like Michelle's labor and her overnight stay. She had required a few days extra at the hospital: Eamon had been born weighing ten pounds, thirteen ounces, and she had pushed that hefty creature for five hours.

'I thought that insurance helps you get by,' Michelle told me. 'But my husband had a really cheap insurance, and you get what you pay for.'

Then the debt shadow monster just grew." 

My Book Review:

This book is not what I thought it would be.

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America starts really strong and pulls the audience in with topics that most U.S. citizens can agree need fixing: pregnancy discrimination, the plight of university adjuncts, overpriced graduate schools, and rising student loans. These issues are engaging and eye-catching; however, the book then starts to lose ethos by depending upon faulty logic and questionable soures.

Content includes an adult who is bitter her parents can’t gift her $25K, couples in areas like Manhattan who won’t relocate but willingly pay exorbitant rent and hire pre-school consultants to get their kids in overpriced private schools, individuals who think their lives should look like what they see glamorized on fictional TV shows, others who are disappointed they cannot afford lavish celebrity lifestyles, and on and on. This type of evidence weakens her argument and creates a disconnect between her introduction and her proposed conclusion: universal basic income and a socialist-run government.

For me, the book would have been much stronger if Quart had utilized stronger, more middle-class relatable examples, and really worked her way through the problems she referenced in the book's beginning. As it stands, her conclusions were faulty, the evidence lacked credibility, and redrafting to avoid logical fallacies would have been worthwhile.

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