One of NPR’s Best Books of 2020
One of Time’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2020
From the New York Times bestselling author of I Can’t Date Jesus, which Vogue called “a piece of personal and cultural storytelling that is as fun as it is illuminating,” comes a wry and insightful essay collection that explores the financial and emotional cost of chasing your dreams.
Ever since Oprah Winfrey told the 2007 graduating class of Howard University, “Don’t be afraid,” Michael Arceneaux has been scared to death. You should never do the opposite of what Oprah instructs you to do, but when you don’t have her pocket change, how can you not be terrified of the consequences of pursuing your dreams?
Michael has never shied away from discussing his struggles with debt, but in I Don’t Want to Die Poor, he reveals the extent to which it has an impact on every facet of his life—how he dates; how he seeks medical care (or in some cases, is unable to); how he wrestles with the question of whether or not he should have chosen a more financially secure path; and finally, how he has dealt with his “dream” turning into an ongoing nightmare as he realizes one bad decision could unravel all that he’s earned. You know, actual “economic anxiety.”
I Don’t Want to Die Poor is an unforgettable and relatable examination about what it’s like leading a life that often feels out of your control. But in Michael’s voice that’s “as joyful as he is shrewd” (BuzzFeed), these razor-sharp essays will still manage to make you laugh and remind you that you’re not alone in this often intimidating journey.
In an often funny, and sometimes moving, collection of essays, Arceneaux (I Can't Date Jesus) explores a defining decision in his life: financing his Howard University communications degree through private student loans. While writing with humor and outrage about an education system that saddles students with debilitating levels of debt, he also discusses his brief time as a cast member of a reality TV show, his interest in the intricacies of health insurance, his romantic woes, and his search for gay porn he finds palatable. Those born before the Reagan administration might find themselves turning to Urban Dictionary to decipher some of his vocabulary, but readers across generational lines will appreciate the sensitivity with which Arceneaux examines his relationships to potential partners, or to his mother. In discussing her harsh disciplinary methods, he writes "I wouldn't have wanted to touch you in any way that didn't convey love and adoration, but I would never have stood there and let you strike me." That quality the love of a family that instills both gratitude and opposition informs much of this book. By turns angry, hilarious, and introspective, this should strike a chord with millennials.
Relatable to anyone who is riddled with student loan debt
I loved the title of this book! Sadly, “not dying poor” been my main goal since I was a child. As a fellow millennial who is riddled with student loan debt, the short stories resonated a lot. I loved how the author’s made serious points , backed by data with a hint of humor. Some parts of the book did seem to drag a little, and I struggled to see its connection with the greater topics, but overall, I enjoyed the book and be would recommend to my friend and family.
Education and healthcare should be free.
Michael shows how messed up the US is on both fronts. No one should start their adulthood, ages 18-19, in a financial abyss just trying to get an education. And in his case, stress from finances led to health problems. Happy to see the power of his pen eventually got him on a path to healthy. May more good fortune come to your books, TV shows, and movie scripts.
And the wit is backed by facts that have become more dire since this was published two years ago.
Thanks to Fresh Air!
Can’t wait to read, I purchased this right away after hearing you on air with Miss Gross. I’m so happy to discover such an eloquent journalist.