One Nation, Under Stress: Review at the New York Times(!!!!)

Well, wow! Vann Newkirk II reviewed my book for the New York Times, alongside Zachary Roth’s The Great Suppression. It’s an honor.

Necessary Trouble depicts the country as a pot set above the flames of economic discontent, ready to boil over. Jaffe, a journalist and a fellow at the Nation Institute, posits that what agitates these groups is economic injustice, and the book does well to set up the financial collapse of 2008 as the beginning of the great conflagration that set them all in motion. … Necessary Troubleshines in its assessment of why these fault lines exist in the first place. Capitalism, Jaffe argues, promotes instability and class divisions… and her book finds the thread of economic injustice in every tapestry it weaves.


Are We Still Suffering the Fallout of the “New Deal”? Excerpt at Dame

The wonderful people at Dame magazine (including Lisa Butterworth, who I go back to Bust days with) have run an excerpt from Necessary Trouble and I’m really pleased in particular that this chunk of the book made it online–it was a bunch of points that needed making, dots that needed connecting and I was happy with the way I did it. Check it out

The nuclear family that has been the focus of so much handwringing and moralizing in recent years was not a product of human nature but rather of a particular period in U.S capitalism. The family wage, designed to allow a male breadwinner to support a wife and children, was bargained for by the labor movement and accepted, though uneasily, by business leaders during the New Deal period. It allowed many working-class women, as well as their wealthier sisters, to stay home with their children; it built the middle class. The family wage—that is, material conditions—shaped our ideas of the male and female role in the workplace and in the home, in public and in private.

Read the rest at Dame!


The Sweetest Debut: Sarah Jaffe on Social Justice Movements, David Bowie and Hating Hemingway

The folks at Flavorwire have a column for debut authors and it’s a little different from what you might expect from me. For example, you get to learn about how I hate Hemingway (seriously–I like to think that I too would have covered the Spanish civil war but there the similarities most definitely end) and what music I listen to when writing.

Excerpt, read the whole thing at Flavorwire:

What’s your approach: writing it all out in one big messy draft and then editing, or perfecting as you go (or something in between)?

Something in between. Teaching myself to write something imperfect and edit it later has been hard, especially since most of my career has been writing for the web with minimal editing. But as I go along I have built relationships with a few great magazine editors and a wonderful book editor whom I trust to really read closely and help me make something better. So I’ve learned to get something on the page and then clean it up, but it still makes me twitch to write something that I don’t love.


Why Walmart Matters to 21st Century Working-Class Struggle: Excerpt at Truthout

Another excerpt at another of my favorite outlets to write for: the folks at Truthout pulled from my chapter on OUR Walmart and chose yet another section about the intersectional working class. A theme, perhaps? Necessary Trouble is also a Progressive Pick there this week, meaning you can buy the book and make a donation to Truthout to support independent journalism (including my own) in the future.

The image conjured by the term “working class” in the United States has been one of mostly white men toiling in a factory, wearing hard hats and those oft-evoked blue collars. Our labor policy was shaped around those men and the assumption that workers get health insurance from their jobs, have a pension on which to retire, and make a “family wage” that allows them to support a wife, who stays home to take care of the kids and the cooking and cleaning.

Read the rest at Truthout!


Whose Homes? Excerpt at Dissent Magazine

The folks at Dissent, the lovely people who bring you Belabored, ran an excerpt from Necessary Trouble. 

“I tried for many, many years to be ‘Mrs. All America.’” Nancy Daniel said, sitting in a coffee shop in a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. “I married a guy in the military and divorced him. Had two kids. Tried to do everything right, or what I was being taught was right. And it didn’t work that way. It just didn’t.” She’d greeted me with an embrace, telling me, “I’m a hugger,” although we were there to talk about a sobering subject. Daniel, like millions of other Americans, had been struggling since 2009 to keep her home.

Read the rest at Dissent.


Class is not a baseball cap: Jacob Swenson-Lengyel interviews me on Necessary Trouble

I am used to calling Jacob Swenson-Lengyel, of People’s Action, when I need to know what kind of trouble is being stirred up across the country. Their work is featured across Necessary Trouble, and so it was great fun to let Jacob turn the tables and interview me about the book for the Campaign for America’s Future blog. 

An excerpt, but you should read the whole thing:

You write in the book that “Class is not simply one of a list of possible identity categories. It is a relation of power that is shaped in part by race; in part by gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity; and by immigration status, education and even region.” Can you say more about the importance of this intersectional understanding of class and why it’s important for social movements today?

One of the things that annoyed me this election season was this tendency to talk about economic issues as if they only affect white people. In fact, it’s quite often the opposite. . . . If you’re a woman, you make less money. We talk about women making 77 cents on dollar, but actually Latinas make 55 cents to every white man’s dollar and black women make 60 cents. These are in fact things that are shaped by your race and your gender.

We can’t talk about class as an identity that only white people have. There’s this weird perception that if you like NASCAR and wear a trucker hat, then that makes you working class. And if you are a mother of three who works cleaning hotel rooms every night and is trying to get your kids through school and feed them, that you’re not somehow working class.

These are the things that shape your class position, because class is not a baseball cap. It’s power.


Review at In These Times!

Thanks, Shaun Richman, for the lovely review at my old workplace (CWA represent). In These Times was where I worked out a lot of the ideas in this book, so excellent to see it reviewed there. They’ll also be co-sponsoring my Chicago appearance next month–stay tuned for details, it’s gonna be so good.

Something is happening. Socialism is no longer a dirty word (the “S-word”), but something a sizeable portion of Americans tell pollsters is their preferred vision for society. It’s no longer an anachronism to speak of “the Left.” A brave and quickly organized movement for black lives has not only sparked a new civil rights movement but has gotten many of us to see the criminal justice system for what it is: the evolution of Jim Crow. Oh, and a hell of a lot more workers are striking than before.

There have been attempts to describe this emerging movement for social justice in book form before. The latest, Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt by Sarah Jaffe, is the best so far. The Nation Books publication was released Tuesday.

Jaffe, a freelance writer whose work has appeared everywhere from In These Times to The Guardian and The Atlantic, is a leading light in the new generation of labor and social justice reporters.


The Washington Post reviews Necessary Trouble!

With her broader vision of inequality in mind, Jaffe skillfully debunks the “false dichotomy” between social issues and economic ones, so typical in our political debates. The so-called culture wars are not a mere wedge issue but a way of securing economic and political power, she argues. ‘ “Social” issues serve to create and perpetuate inequality, erecting barriers to full participation in society for certain groups. They shape our idea of who is a full citizen, and they also shape the very real material conditions of people’s lives.’

The Washington Post


10 New Books to Read This August — Plus One Surprise Release

Flavorwire recommends Necessary Trouble as a book to read this August.

Tying together threads from different recent mass movements, Jaffe explores the wave of populist organizing that ranges from the Tea Party to the fight for fair wages for fast food workers to Black Lives Matter and Occupy. Want to understand why so many are Feeling the Bern? This book will give fuller context that goes beyond the popularity of any given candidate. Indeed, Kirkus says the book is “an essential guide to forces shaping our nation and the 2016 presidential election.”


Seven Questions for Sarah Jaffe

Nation Intern Emilio Leanza interviewed me about my time as a Nation intern and more.

2. When did you realize you wanted to cover labor, specifically?

I had a lot of lousy jobs and listened to a lot of punk rock. Seriously! I grew up outside of Boston and the Boston punk scene has a lot of proudly working-class bands that sing about unions, the Dropkick Murphys being the most famous. And I worked in the service industry and occasionally staged one-woman revolts over things like scraping gum from underneath tables when we had no customers and I was making $2.13 an hour.

And then when I was in graduate school, the financial crisis happened and everything was moving so quickly, I thought, “Well, I have to figure this stuff out.” When unemployment was through the roof, it wasn’t a great time to want to cover the labor movement, but Max Fraser (then-internship director) and Esther Kaplan and Laura of course gave me early encouragement. And then the Wisconsin protests kicked off in 2011 and suddenly publications wanted labor writers again!

Read the rest at the Nation Institute