Give a Listen—Kathy Edin joins P4P to discuss $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

On Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, Politics for the People spent an hour in conversation with Dr. Kathryn Edin, one of the co-authors of $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.


You can listen to the whole conversation at the end of this post or take a look at the highlights below.

Dr. Edin is one of the country’s leading researchers focused on understanding poverty in America.  She is a qualitative and mixed-method researcher who has studied welfare, the working poor, family life and the social context of poverty to provide new insights into the lives of the poor in America. She is the author of several books.

In $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Kathy and her co-author H. Luke Shaefer uncover the growing phenomenon of Americans living with virtually no cash, on $2.00 a day or less.

I think Kathy’s body of work is critically important in demystifying poverty and busting through some of the anti-poor, misguided and commonly held beliefs about poverty in America and the impact those beliefs have on public policy.

Give a listen to my introduction of Dr. Edin and our opening conversation where Kathy lays out how she uncovered the growing numbers of Americans living on $2.00 a day.  I asked how she picked $2.00 a day as the marker for extreme poverty.  She shared with us that they wanted to “…choose a number that would have some resonance with the way we measure extreme poverty in other countries….$2.00 is one of the rubrics the World Bank uses to measure extreme poverty in developing nations.”

Dr. Edin shares with us her approach of spending time in four different parts of the country: Chicago, Cleveland, Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta to meet Americans struggling to survive on $2.00 a day and to answer four questions: Was this real? How do people end up here? What’s it like? What are the consequences?


In our next clip, two Politics for the People members ask Dr. Edin their questions. Dr. Jessie Fields asks, “In your extensive look at poverty why do you think America, the most financially advanced country, has so profoundly failed to address poverty? ”  Kathy talks about her time in the Mississippi Delta and how it changed her.  Speaking of her time with Tabitha Hicks, she says, “…I’d never met anyone so hungry….At one point I screwed up the courage to ask her, what does it feel like to be this hungry and she said,

Well, it feels like you want to be dead, because it’s peaceful being dead.”

Dr. Edin goes on to say that it is “…the kind of separation we see in the United States that blinds us to the poor.”

Catana Barnes shares a personal experience in trying to access the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program in Nevada, and asks Dr. Edin how many families are actually able to receive meaningful assistance there.

You can listen below or by clicking this link:


Harry Kresky asks in the next section, “Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders campaign raised the issue of income inequality.  From a policy, political and moral point of view, what is the relationship between that approach and ending poverty?” Check out what Kathy Edin has to say including her comments, “Is society so unequal that the poor can’t participate? Is society so unequal that the poor are are no longer assigned a valuable place in society?”

Nicole Diaz, a psychology student at Bronx Community College asks Dr. Edin why she decided to write a book about the problems poor people are dealing with and what she felt as she was writing and doing her research.  Kathy powerfully shares her experiences and says, “It’s been the greatest privilege really of my career to write about and represent these families.”  Give a listen:


Our final question of the evening came from Tiani Coleman who spoke about her own experiences with family members going through poverty and how difficult it was. She asked Dr. Edin to talk about how she is able to enter people’s lives and earn their trust.  Give a listen to their conversation:


You can listen to the full recording of the Politics for the People conversation with Dr. Kathryn Edin below:








P4P Conversation with David Daley, author of RATF**KED

rat fauked

On Sunday, June 4th, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour in conversation with David Daley, the author of RATF**KED: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy.  The book outlines the Republican Party campaign begun after the 2008 Presidential election, called REDMAP, to (rather inexpensively) win a sufficient number of state legislatures to control the redistricting process after the 2010 census (the redrawing of district lines is done state by state every 10 years, following each census).  It is a modern day whodunnit, and examines one of the myriad ways in which our political process is currently run by the political parties at the expense of the American people.

You can listen to the full recording of our conversation at the end of this post, or take a look at the highlights below.

Our first audio clip is my introduction of David Daley and includes an overview of the book and how the Republican Party took the dark art of gerrymandering to a whole new level.  He calls is the “…biggest heist in American electoral political history”.  I ask David if gerrymandering is fundamentally a controversy and fight about which party is going to win over the other.  If so, why should independents be concerned about leveling the playing field between Republicans and Democrats?  It is a rich exchange. Have a listen.


Politics for the People book club members then joined the conversation with their questions. Tiani Coleman, the President of New Hampshire Independent Voters shared that in reading the book, “…we were able to see how gerrymandered safe districts have created a very partisan, polarized House, where many voters don’t have a real voice because their vote makes no difference, and where the outcome is not reflective of the majority will of the voters.  Do you agree with Larry Lessig that “equality” or lack thereof, is the flaw?  And do you think creating more competitive districts will fully provide that equality to all voters?”  Give a listen to their conversation where David shares his thoughts on open primaries and the importance of competition:


PJ Steiner, a leader with the Utah League of Independent Voters, talked about efforts he is involved with to reform redistricting.  They discuss the issue of independent commissions.  You can hear their exchange here:


Dr. Jessie Fields and David talk about how redistricting and gerrymandering impact the African American community, talking about the recent Supreme Court decision in NC.  Jessie expresses concern about the way the African American community is taken for granted by the Democratic Party.  She asks how can we give more power and weight to the voter?  Is the 14th Amendment relative to redistricting reform?  You can listen to their conversation here:


Phil Leech, a member of Voters Not Politicians in Michigan talked about how fortunate he feels that they have the right to citizen initiative and referendum in Michigan where they are actively pursuing redistricting reform.  He asked David to speak about the prospects for fair redistricting on the national level given that so many states do not have an initiative process.  David shares that there is no easy answer even though “…voters of all stripes and parties” support reform.  Listen here:


Julie Leek and David talked about Julie’s experience at a civics forum at her home church in NC and the hesitancy of a state Supreme Court Judge to address the issue.  You can hear their exchange here:


Our final question came from Independent Voting’s general counsel, Harry Kresky.  Harry raised concerns with the Supreme Court’s ruling n the North Carolina case.  It seemed the court was evaluating whether the lines drawn went further than necessary to get the “desired outcome”.  At what point does the judiciary itself become implicated in gerrymandering if outcome is the standard?  Listen to Harry and David’s fascinating exchange here:


You can listen to the entire Politics for the People book club conversation with David Daley:


Stay Tuned

we will announcing our next

Politics for the People

Book Club Selection Soon




Highlights of P4P Conversation with Lisa McGirr

McGirr Stewart Dyptich

On Sunday, April 3rd, 2016 the Politics for the People Book Club spent an hour in conversation with Lisa McGirr, a Professor of History at Harvard and author of the book club’s selection The War on Alcohol, Prohibition and the Rise of the American State.  I am sharing a few highlights below and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction. Lisa shares her journey of writing this book, her research methodology, and what drew her to investigate prohibition. We discuss the strange bedfellows that found themselves supporting and then enforcing prohibition. We also touch on the electoral realignment that that took place after prohibition took effect, and discuss some of the lessons that were missed in prior examinations of the failure of prohibition. Listen to our fascinating start here:


In this next clip Politics for the People, you will hear book club member Michelle McCleary share her emotional reaction to reading Lisa’s book and ask how the revelations Lisa came to in conducting her research impacted on her.

Arizona P4P member Al Bell asks what Lisa hopes people will take from her book and how they might apply it’s lessons to the war on drugs. Lisa explains that supply side eradication strategies have failed in the past and are likely to do so again in the future, and gives us an alternative by focusing on harm reduction strategies. Hear their exchange below.

Steve Richardson then delved further into the idea of law enforcement as social control and asked whether fear based government control was a phenomenon that pre-dated the prohibition movement or was it something entirely new? Lisa thinks it’s a bit of both, as you will hear in this clip:

New Hampshire P4P member Tiani Coleman touched on chapter 8 which focused on the repeal of prohibition. She raised the issue of government regulation, and quoted McGirr when she said that “by lining up in favor of repeal, opponents of reform saw a chance to turn back the clock.” How did they succeed and fail in that regard?  And what happens after the pandoras box that is the ‘newly muscular federal power’ has been opened?  

New Yorker Lou Hinman provides some thought provoking modern parallels he sees with governments enforcement of prohibition, and asks Lisa to reflect on the growth of the penal state since the repeal of prohibition. Listen here:

Closing out our Q&A session was New York Attorney and P4P member Harry Kresky.  He talked about the extent to which regulation is used to transform the movements and freedoms of particular segments of the population and makes analogies to modern social regulations such as New York City’s outlawing of over sized sugary drinks. Where does one draw the line between productive and destructive regulation? And who gets to define that?

You can listen to the entirety of our fascinating call with Lisa McGirr below. It was a spirited, thought provoking and enlightening conversation and I hope you will enjoy it as much as we all did. Happy listening.


Stay Tuned

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Politics for the People

We will be hosting a lively exchange of our favorite political poems and some original poetry by our members as well.



The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America’s Democracy 

By David Daley

We will be kicking off this selection in April.

Our conference call with the author will be on Sunday, June 4th at 7 pm EST.




Highlights of P4P’s Conversation with Ellen Feldman



On Sunday, Janaury 22nd, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Ellen Feldman about her book, Terrible Virtue which is a fictional biography of Margaret Sanger.  I am sharing a few highlights of our conversation below and you can listen to the entire recording at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Ellen, a look at what drew her to the story of Margaret Sanger, a discussion of the controversy surrounding Margaret’s pioneering activism, and discussion of the increased scrutiny Ellen came under when news of her novel’s movie deal went public. Take a listen:

In this next clip Dr. Jessie Fields shares her fascination with the ways by which we access history.  Why is it that Ellen chose this format, a fictional novel that is firmly routed in fact, to explore the inner workings of a historical figure like Margaret Sanger?    Here Ellen’s explanation below:

Independent activist Richard Ronner juxtaposed his impressions from the novel that “to be a visionary or make profound change, to be driven in such a way as to spend all of one’s life doing it, is ultimately a lonely and isolating experience” with his own experiences, sharing that what allows him to remain engaged and active is being part of building community. Give a listen:

Kerry Malloy, an actor and member of the national team, asked Ellen to talk about the experience of selling the rights to the novel to a become a movie. Give a listen to their exchange:

Juliette Leak spoke with Ellen about the history of contraception being illegal in the US in the clip below:

Attorney and Independent activist Harry Kresky touched on the ferocity of opposition to contraception, and how long it took for it to be legal for anybody. Was that a religious issue or was that the result of American puritanical attitudes towards sex? Ellen thinks it is both:

Activist and P4P member Juliana Francisco struggled to understand why margaret got married – more than once no less – given her apparent aversion to the institution, and was intrigued by Sanger’s relationship to the suffragettes at the time.  In giving voice to suffragette opposition to Sanger and her outspoken approach to female sexuality, Ellen said they wanted to avoid being painted as morally questionable, “we don’t want to dirty our skirts with that, the vote is all that counts.” You can listen to their exchange here:

As we neared the end of the call I asked Ellen to touch on Sanger’s relationship with the African American community, as we talked about her work with under represented female communities.

You can listen to the entirety of our fascinating call with Ellen Feldman below. It was a timely treat to explore Margaret Sanger’s life and work with all of you.

Stay Tuned

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Politics for the People

We will be hosting a lively exchange of our favorite political poems and some original poetry by our members as well.



The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America’s Democracy 

By David Daley.

We will be kicking off this selection in April and our conference call with the author will be on Sunday, June 4th at 7 pm EST.



Highlights from P4P Conversation with Matthew Desmond



On Sunday, October 23rd, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Matthew Desmond about his book, EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City.  I am sharing a few highlights below and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Matthew and an exploration of his process, his examination of poverty as a relationship between rich and poor, and how that framework brought him to look at and study the eviction crisis. I also talked with Matthew about the destabilization of New York City’s public housing taking place under the NextGeneration plan. This section ends with some of Matthews most surprising discoveries meeting people living in poverty across the country and the ways in which they refused to be defined by their hardships.  Have a listen:

Ramon Pena shared his personal experience being evicted in New York City after “20 years of having never missed a rent payment.” He goes on to share his journey through homelessness, the shelter system and finally to a home out of state. Ramon and Matthew explore what our elected officials should be held accountable for. Hear their interaction below.

Sarah Bayer found out she is a Cambridge, Massachusetts neighbor of Matthew’s as she delved into a fascinating exchange on her 25 years of work within the family shelter system, what she describes as our nations’ own “internal refugees”, and the unique financial constraints placed on a city like Boston. How does Matthew see the role that the shelter system plays in the eviction crisis?

Tiani Coleman, president of New Hampshire Independent Voters talked about her days of working in the court system in Salt Lake City,

“I did pro-bono work for my church community and was able to see first hand the impact of lack of representation for families that were facing eviction. I had to handle some evictions, and even had opposing council get rather annoyed with me and tell me I was unnecessarily complicating things… What do you think is the biggest impediment to getting the eviction crisis and the representation issue in housing court addressed?”

Matthew began his answer by acknowledging the important kind of community investment Tiani spoke of, “Thank you so much for your work, you were slugging it out in housing court… When folks have a lawyer by their side their chances of keeping their home go up dramatically irrespective of the case.” Hear their interaction below:

Attorney and Independent activist Harry Kresky shared his observations since moving to New York city to attend Columbia in 1962. Throughout his time here and through his work on the NYCHA housing crisis he’s seen that increasingly “so much of the face of New York is now for the wealthy people…. A lot of the focus is on so called ‘affordable housing’ which deals with middle class people and union members and people that have political clout,” but troubling to Harry was the absence of a coming together of “the affordable housing people,” and “the people living in intractable poverty and fighting to save public housing.” Matthew And Harry explore why that might be:

 As we looked forward, Arizona P4P member Al Bell asked Matthew whether he had heard of any members of congress who truly understand this issue of eviction and could potentially become an advocate. Matthew shared some encouraging updates with news of happenings on ‘The Hill’ since the publication of Evicted.  Give a listen:

Michelle McCleary helped take our perspective from the macro to the micro-level. “If I knew someone was hungry, I’d buy them a sandwich. If they were cold, I’d give them a coat” she shares, “What is our personal responsibility to our fellow man?!’ “I personally think this is where the conversation has got to go if we are going to make any lasting change…” Matthew replied. “By 2025 about 1.6 billion people will live in substandard housing or unaffordable housing… climate change and housing are the biggest issues facing humanity.”

You can hear Matthew and Michelle’s conversation below.

You can listen to the full conversation with Matthew Desmond below, ENJOY.



Next Politics for the People Selection:

Terrible Virtue


by Ellen Feldman

Our conference call with the author

will be on January 22nd, 2017 at 7 pm EST





Highlights from P4P Conversation with Megan Marshall

On Sunday, September 20th we spent an hour in conversation with Megan Marshall, the author of MARGARET FULLER: A New American Life.   Here are a few audio excerpts.   You can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.

(Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come over to the blog.)


Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Megan, an exploration of how Megan came to write Fuller’s biography, the impact the Conversation series Fuller founded had among women who participated and more…  Give a listen.


For many Politics for the People members, reading the book was our first introduction to Margaret Fuller.  Caroline Donnola asked Megan why Margaret Fuller seemed to disappear.


June Hirsh asked Megan to share the impact that writing the book had on her own life and what were some of the discoveries she made in her research.

Megan shared with us how she views the work of a biographer, “In writing biography I often feel a bit like the accompanist with a soloist. I played the piano a lot in my youth and did a lot of accompanying and chamber work,  so I feel- sometimes even as I am writing – I feel as if I am hearing their voices – in the case of the Peabodys, three woman, or Fuller – kind of singing,  there’s some line that I am supporting with what I’m doing as a writer,  I’m giving them the stage.”


Dr. Jessie Fields and Megan Marshall explored the role of Greek and Roman Mythology in Margaret’s life and how transcendentalism was important in her development.


In his dialogue with Megan, Harry Kresky shared, “I came of age in the 60’s and the Women’s movement and the gay movement were very very radical and over the years became very much a part of the traditional, or at least the existing political framework. What attracted me to – and I’m not a feminist; probably for that reason maybe other reasons as well – but what attracted me, what I loved about the book and about Margaret fullers  that she seemed completely “un co-optable” and so un-politically correct and yet was maybe the country’s first feminist, so I was wondering if you could share some of your thoughts about that aspects of her, and her life and her attraction.”  You can hear Megan’s response below.


We covered a lot of terrain in our conversation with Margaret.  I think you will enjoy this rich conversation.

Below is the full recording of our P4P conversation with Megan Marshall



Highlights of P4P Conference Call with Jerome Charyn


Jerome Charyn and Cathy Stewart


On Sunday, February 15th, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Jerome Charyn about his book, I Am Abraham.  I am sharing a few excerpts and you can listen to the entire conversation at the end of this post.  (Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Our first audio clip includes my introduction of Jerome and an exploration of how Jerome decided to write the novel and find Lincoln’s voice.  This section ends with a fascinating conversation between Jerome and Dr. Omar Ali about history, facts and fiction.  Give a listen.


Dr. Jessie Fields asked Jerome Charyn how he made the choice to put the assassination of Lincoln in the preface of the book.

In his response, Jerome shared, “I knew that I wanted to end the novel in Richmond because I thought it was the most important day in Lincoln’s life. Here was the conqueror coming to the conquered people, not as a conqueror, but as someone who was a peace maker…”


Jessica Marta asked : “You pay a lot of attention, in the book, to Mary Todd Lincoln’s decent into madness… I was wondering why you made that choice?”

Jerome responded: “Well, what I wanted to do was show that women in the 19th Century had so few choices. For example, she was much better educated than any of the men around her, certainly much better educated than her husband. But she could not enter public life in any fashion at all. And he never would have become president without her. She was his general… But as soon as he inhabited the White House, he sort of thrust her to the side… You take a very intelligent woman with a very political point of view and you give her nothing to do… she begins scheming. What I wanted to do was try to deal with her madness with as much sympathy as I could.”


The conversation explored much about the author’s writing process.  At one point Warren Liebesman asked Jerome to talk about how he developed the deeply evocative and poetic voice in the book.  Jerome talked with us the story of the last line of the book as one example. “You don’t know where it comes from and that’s what’s so perverse. For example, if you look at the very last sentence of the book…”

I piped in: “Is it? … and I held him as close as I could?”

 Jerome continued, “No, exactly. You put an extra ‘as’ in there. Now, I wrote that sentence ‘I held him as close I could.’ Now, the copy editor thought, ‘Who is this damn guy? What is he talking about?’ So he or she put in that second ‘as.’ So I didn’t notice it the first time around… then I said ‘Wait a minute. I would never write that sentence. There’s something much more intimate about the lack of the grammar there than it would be if you put in that second ‘as’.”


Below is the full recording of our P4P conversation

with Jerome Charyn.



Highlights from Book Club Conversation with Danielle Allen


Danielle Allen and Cathy Stewart

Danielle Allen and Cathy Stewart

On Sunday, October 19th, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour talking with Danielle Allen about her book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.  I have pulled out just a couple of excerpts from our conversation. You can listen to our entire conversation at the end of this post.  (Note: if the audio links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

Here is my introduction of Danielle Allen and the book.


In my opening question to Danielle, I ask her to share with us what she thinks the Declaration of Independence offers us today.  At a moment where many Americans are grappling with the rising level of political and social crises and a paralysis and political gridlock.  We face a failing education system, poverty rates that have not budged in decades, environmental and health care crises, and the list could go on… And we’re at a time in our country when 42% of Americans are independents–have left the two major parties that control so much of the apparatuses of our government.  I think you can make a serious case that we are at a moment where the consent of the governed is eroding to a very alarming point.  And–as I said on our call–the two parties have become, perhaps tyrants that have erected many barriers to the full participation of the American people.  I asked our guest if she thought the Declaration was a guide in these times, and what does it suggest the American people should do.  Give a listen to her thoughtful response.

Dr. Jessie Fields and Dr. Allen had a rich conversation about the compromises on slavery in the Declaration.

Here is an excerpt of what Danielle had to say:

“It is important to understand precisely where the compromises are in the document.  There are two compromises. One was a compromise that went in favor of the anti-slavery party and the other was a compromise that went in favor of the pro-slavery party….They did embed a contest in the document. This is where I get to the sort of general point about compromise and democracy. Is it a structural flaw or is it actually a valuable way of working out the hardest problems. So here’s what happens when you have a compromise of this kind.  Both sides think that the tools that they have built will let them get what they want. Only one side can be right about that. So, the virtue of the compromise is that it slows down the process through which people go about figuring out at the end of the day, which side’s tolls are right for the whole country. So although it meant that the struggle would be ongoing, they weren’t going to resolve the issue then, it did mean it was actually possible eventually to resolve the issue in a way that was not possible at that time….It’s one of the hardest and most important questions and I give you this answer, but do I feel that I’ve come myself to rest entirely in thinking about this question, I wouldn’t say so.  I think it’s one we all have to wrestle with perpetually.”

Harry Kresky,’s general counsel asked Danielle a fascinating question:

“What happened…? How did we become disconnected from the process, the activity, the democratic coming together that the Declaration embodies? Is it just a question of periodically having to recharge our democratic batteries or did we… did a series of things happen which has caused us to lose this connection from the activity?”  Give a listen to her answer.

Harry’s question sparked a conversation, one to be continued for sure!

Danielle shared some of her thoughts in response:

“I do think that professional political parties have not helped all in all, and certainly the power of big money has made it harder, I think, to engage people in grassroots activity.  I think all those things are true.  I think that in the academy there’s been a sort of disinterest in some of the core texts that, at least in the American context and tradition have helped sustain an understanding of democracy. That’s something that needs to be rebuilt.  The last thing I would say is that there’s a part of me that thinks that one of our challenges is simply going through another major demographic transition.  Economists talk about the demographic transition of the early 19th Century where populations had been quite stable around the world until the industrial revolution hits and then you have this huge population boom.  The structure of economies generally changes and there’s a period of revolution, upheaval, and social strife and that sort of thing….I wonder about the current population explosion we’re experiencing all around the world and whether or not there’s a sort of scale shift that means we actually have to think afresh about how to build the institutions of mass democracy under different demographic conditions.”

 Here is the full book club conversation with Dr. Allen.  ENJOY


And stay tuned–

we will announcing our next selection soon!

Highlights from Book Club Conversation with Isabel Wilkerson

Many thanks to Isabel Wilkerson for joining us on the Politics for the People conference call this past Sunday!  We had an energizing, rich and thought provoking conversation about The Warmth of Other Suns.  You can listen to the full call at the end of this post.  (Note: if the links do not appear in the email version of this post, just click on the email to come to the blog.)

I wanted to share three sections of our conversation.  I hope they will inspire you to listen to the full call.  The first clip is my introduction of Isabel and our opening conversation.

Isabel Wilkerson (l) and Cathy Stewart

Isabel Wilkerson (l) and Cathy Stewart


In my opening question to Isabel, I asked her to talk some about her 15 year process and how she selected Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling and Dr. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster to be the central characters through which we experience the Great Migration.

She conducted an extensive interview process, meeting people at AARP meetings, senior centers, clubs, etc and shared that she selected these three people

“…who together compliment one another so well.  You get a sense of the socioeconomic differences between them, you get a sense of the different circumstances under which they left and more importantly you get a chance to, hopefully fall in love with people, or get to know these people who were flawed in human, deeply human ways but did a very brave thing. In that way, I think they are people anyone can relate to.”


Jessie Fields

Dr. Jessie Fields

As Politics for the People blog readers know, Dr. Jessie Fields has been keeping copies of The Warmth of Other Suns at her office in Harlem to share with her patients, as many of them were participants in the Great Migration.  Below is Jessie and Isabel’s back and forth from the call.



Jessie asked Isabel the following question– “It seems to me that entrenched poverty and social isolation in the inner city have become the new Jim Crow. And that there are still great journeys for the country as a whole to make for African Americans to fully enter the mainstream of America and your book, the Warmth of Other Suns, can help us all to make those new journeys together.  What do you hope people will discover and take away from the book that can be of help for the challenges that we face today?”

In her response Isabel said,

“…one of the things that I had hoped would come out of this book is that people would discover by experiencing both the hardships, the heartbreak, the courage and the fortitude of the people in the Great Migration, they would also see and connect with the fortitude and the heartbreak and all that went before them that their ancestors may have experienced if they came from other migration streams.  And that they would also see that ultimately we all have so much more in common that we have been led to believe.  That means that if you can cut through the divisions and the socioeconomic larger forces that have torn people apart in this country…all of these forces, the larger caste system as I describe it in the South and also a caste system that formed in the North, particularly after the migration was underway.  These divisions separated us in ways that we have yet to recover from.  In fact, maybe never have actually truly dealt with.  I would hope that people could see one another in these stories….”


Dr. Omar Ali

Dr. Omar Ali

Dr. Omar Ali joined the call from Columbia in South America, where he is vacationing with his family.  Give a listen to his exchange with Isabel exploring the similar experiences of participants in the Great Migration and other immigrants to the United States and also the unique experience of the African American community.

Two comments Isabel made in this part of our conversation stand out for me:

“The common experience that all poor and underprivileged migrants experience is first arriving and being seen as the other, arriving adn being resented and feared upon arrival.  Also coming in with the same desires, hopes and dreams of making it it in this new alien place….Around the world there is a turning against, a fear of people who are immigrating….” On the unique experience of the African American community and the Great Migration: This was “…the only group of people who actually had to act like immigrants to be recognized as citizens in their own country…. These were not people relocating from one job to another.  These people were actually seeking political asylum within the borders of their own country….”

For those of you who would like to pull up a chair and listen to our full conversation with Isabel, here it is!  Enjoy.

In closing, I want to share what the judges of the Lynton History prize wrote about The Warmth of Other Suns:

“Wilkerson has created a brilliant and innovative paradox: the intimate epic…. In powerful, lyrical prose that combines the historian’s rigor with the novelist’s empathy, Wilkerson’s book changes our understanding of the Great Migration and indeed of the modern United States”

The Politics for the People book club certainly agree!


STAY TUNED, I will be announcing our next selection soon!    


Independents Rising Book Club Call

Last Tuesday, the Politics for the People book club network from across the country spent an hour talking with Jacqueline Salit about her book, Independents Rising: Outsider Movements, Third Parties, and the Struggle for a Post-partisan America.  

If you missed the call, you can listen to the recording here.

ANTI-CORRUPTION-130We kicked off the call asking Jackie why she decided to write the book at this juncture.  Let me share a little of her response:

“It really came about because there was an increased attention being paid to independent voters, to the power of the independent  vote and to the future prospects of where this movement in the making might go.  Given that was happening, it was very, very important to write a book…that told the history of that movement from the inside.  So much, in fact 95% of what is said or written about independent voters is written or stated by beltway insiders, by political pundits of one kind or another and largely who we are and the things that animate or motivate us, and even actual events that have taken place in which independents have been involved are often just not accurately represented.  So I just really wanted to write a book that could set the record straight and could lay out in some detail how this movement has developed over time.

In a way there’s two things happening simultaneously.  One is that the number of independents in the country is growing, and now it’s at 40% or 42% depending on which poll you look at.  That’s huge, just absolutely huge!  But that mass of Americans is unorganized but the attraction of being an independent is growing.  And, at the same time though, there is an organized independent movement that has grown up over time, over the last 25 to 30 years that has a relationship to that developing but unorganized part of the population.  And so I tried to give a characterization in the book of  those two aspects of the changing conditions of American political life.  To really present a really unvarnished picture of what’s gone on in the independent movement.  It’s been very messy.  It’s been very unorthodox.  It’s been filled with risk, filled with blowback, filled with successes that we’ve had and also with efforts to derail us, or to contain us, or to take us over, or to point us in a particular direction rather than where we want to go.

So, I thought given the juncture that things had come to, and it was clear to me and I feel very positive about this, the story of independents and the future of independent voters was going to become much more of a factor in American political life.   We needed to have a book that came out of our history.”

Stay tuned for further excerpts from our conversation.  If you have a question or comment, please post it.

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