Books for changing the world
Going for Broke
Living on the Edge in the World’s Richest Country

A collection of compelling, hard-hitting first-person essays, poems, and photos that expose what our punitive social systems do to so many Americans.

Going for Broke, edited by Alissa Quart, Executive Director of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and David Wallis, former Managing Director of EHRP, gives voice to a range of gifted writers for whom "economic precarity" is more than just another assignment. All illustrate what the late Barbara Ehrenreich, who conceived of EHRP, once described as "the real face of journalism today: not million dollar-a-year anchorpersons, but low-wage workers and downwardly spiraling professionals."

One essayist and grocery store worker describes what it is like to be an “essential worker” during the pandemic; another reporter and military veteran details his experience with homelessness and what would have actually helped him at the time. These dozens of fierce and sometimes darkly funny pieces reflect the larger systems that have made writers' bodily experiences, family and home lives, and work far harder than they ought to be.

Featuring introductions by luminaries including Michelle Tea, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Astra Taylor, Going for Broke is revelatory. It shows us the costs of income inequality to our bodies and our minds—and demonstrates real ways to change our conditions.

  • "The subjects' voices jump from the page with pain and hope.  More than that, they’re a provocation to the reader to consider the fine line between the lives of the “middle precariat” and their own, if there is one. Whether it’s the ironies of telling working people not to smoke when the system does precious little to secure basic health care, an underpaid adjunct instructor handing her EBT card to her student clerking at the local grocery store, or a person with hearing impairments whose doctor thinks that hiding her condition as a “surprise” for a medical student is a hilarious joke, the editors position the voices of the disadvantaged as compelling, worth listening to, and valuable." Booklist, Starred Review

    "These emotionally charged and heart-wrenching narratives are both wide-ranging and powerfully rendered.... A penetrating collection that is certain to challenge the readers’ views of those living in poverty." Kirkus

  • "Going for Broke is a gut punch, a collective portrait of precarity, a book of testimony and astonishing courage. This is a book with a pulse. It’s angry, as it must be, and often beautiful, and always brilliant with the illumination of injustice. These essays and memoirs and poems and pictures—this documentary art—is vital, intimate, and necessary. Please, read this heartbreaking, heart-mending volume.”
    —Jeff Sharlet, New York Times-bestselling author of The Undertow and The Family

  • Going for Broke is an illuminating compendium of essays, poetry, photos and illustrations about the impact of inequality, bias, and poverty on the lives and careers of professional mediamakers. These deeply personal accounts deliver keen critiques of fractured and dehumanizing systems, but they also offer unexpected solutions and reveal the depth of human resilience. Going for Broke is ultimately a powerful example of why diversity in media matters—that journalism informed by a variety of lived experiences leads us to a more profound understanding of our disjointed, dynamic world.”
    Bernice Yeung, author of In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America's Most Vulnerable Workers

  • “This moving anthology breaks down the barriers between experience and interpretation. Its contributors explore the underside of American society from many angles. But they do more than document hardship—they show how ordinary people who’ve been exploited and left behind forge understanding and solidarity out of the experience.”
    —Gabriel Winant, author of The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America

  • “What the informative, insightful, nuanced, and gut-wrenching stories in Going for Broke show, over and over, is that the only difference between the haves and the have-nots is opportunity…. An eloquent plea…. As both EHRP and Going for Broke argue, policy and reporting will only be effective when informed by – if not actually driven by – the people that know what they’re talking about.”