Winner of the 2021 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, HAD I KNOWN contains the most provocative, incendiary, and career-making pieces by bestselling author, essayist, political activist, and "veteran muckraker" Barbara Ehrenreich (The New Yorker).
A self-proclaimed "myth buster by trade," Barbara Ehrenreich has covered an extensive range of topics as a journalist and political activist, and is unafraid to dive into intellectual waters that others deem too murky. Now, Had I Known gathers the articles and excerpts from a long-ranging career that most highlight Ehrenreich's brilliance, social consciousness, and wry wit.
From Ehrenreich's award-winning article "Welcome to Cancerland," published shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, to her groundbreaking undercover investigative journalism in Nickel and Dimed, to her exploration of death and mortality in the New York Times bestseller, Natural Causes, Barbara Ehrenreich has been writing radical, thought-provoking, and worldview-altering pieces for over four decades. Her reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review, among others, while her essays, op-eds and feature articles have appeared in the New York Times, Harper's Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and many more. Had I Known pulls from the vast and varied collection of one of our country's most incisive thinkers to create one must-have volume.
Activist and journalist Ehrenreich (Natural Causes) addresses numerous hot-button issues in this argumentative and passionate collection. She challenges the status quo throughout, while also including a healthy dose of self-questioning. The 40 selections assembled into six categories (Haves and Have-Nots; Health; Men; Women; God, Science, and Joy; and Bourgeois Blunders) and published between 1984 and 2018 address race, class, and gender with admirable breadth. Writing on sexual harassment in 2017, Ehrenreich reminds the reader of how little focus has been accorded to abuses committed against working-class women. An essay from over a decade ago on immigration is notably topical, as is one written soon after the 2008 financial crash on the "criminalization of being poor." She is wittily satirical at times, as when skewering adherents to "the cult of conspicuous busyness," who feel "embarrassed to be caught doing only one thing at a time," and bitterly Swiftian at others, proposing a combination of "welfare and flogging" as an acceptably punitive compromise for opponents of government aid to the poor. Her most acerbic passages will be off-putting to some, but most will find this a gripping look at why "dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots."