An anthology edited by Zeke Caligiuri et al.
November 14, 2023 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 320 Pages • 978-1-56689-695-5
Fifteen essays coedited by a collective of award-winning incarcerated writers, featuring contributions from Lacy M. Johnson, Kiese Laymon, Valeria Luiselli, Kao Kalia Yang, and more, with a foreword by Zeke Caligiuri and an introduction by Eula Biss.
“This is a volume edited by the imprisoned, because the history of class has always been written by the powerful.”
This groundbreaking anthology of essays edited by incarcerated writers takes a sharp look at the complexity and fluidity of class and caste systems in the United States. Featuring accounts that include gig work as a delivery driver, homelessness among trans youth, and life with immense student loan debt, in addition to transcripts of insightful discussions between the editors, American Precariat demonstrates how various and often invisible extreme instability can be. With the understanding that widespread recognition of collective precarity is an urgent concern, the anthology situates each individual portrait within societal structures of exclusion, scarcity, and criminality.
These essays write through the silence around class to enumerate the risks that our material conditions leave us no choice but to take. A rendering of the present moment told from below, American Precariat shares stories of the unseen and the unspoken and articulates the lines of our division. In doing so, it offers healing for some of the world’s fractures.
About the Authors
This anthology was edited by twelve dynamic writers. They have worked as an economist, a farmer, a janitor, an activist, a cook, a musician, a wind-turbine laborer, a law student, a Navy vet, a courier, a restoration ecologist, a health aid, a teacher, and more. They are not only writers, they are visual artists, guitar players, drummers, football players, basketball players, and one former Quiz Bowl letterman. They are Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, pagan, and atheist. They’ve published books including: The Parameters of Our Cage, This Is Where I Am: A Memoir, and The Liturgy of Smell, among others. Their individual work has appeared in the Nation, Poetry Magazine, the Washington Post, Literary Hub, Terrain, Agni, and others. They’ve been anthologized in countless PEN America Prison Writing Award volumes, A Darker Wilderness: Black Nature Writing from Soil to Stars, and Prison Noir. They are from Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Kenya, Minneapolis. Today they live in Minnesota and believe in the power of art to alter society.
Praise for American Precariat
"It’s a powerful, incisive and provocative collection.” —Truthout
“Important stories of the unseen and unspoken that illuminate a growing class in America.” —Kirkus
“The variety of selections impresses, and the stories outrage. The result is a searing overview of how America’s financial and social systems fail ordinary people.” —Publishers Weekly
“Wrenching but ultimately hopeful, the collection suggests that those of us living on the edge in one way or another would benefit from understanding our common condition.” —Booklist
“American Precariat is a vital text, one that I believe will echo through history as a way to highlight the vast, full lives of people impacted by, or witness to, the sometimes violent machinery of a country. I am thankful for the clarity, honesty, generosity, and stunning writing within these pages.” —Hanif Abdurraqib
“The prison industrial complex, the great sea monster at work in America today, is being fed a steady diet of deep feeling tenderhearted write or die human beings. American Precariat, fat and urgent with profound un-incarcerated living truths, slays how it feels to be walking a tightrope in the belly of this beast. Fulsome and incendiary.” —Nikki Finny
“Here are some of our most vital storytellers, talking about justice, violence, home and punishment, their work chosen by writers who’ve learned the true cost of these values in their own lives. American Precariat is a thrilling new model for how to open up a space in which to talk about the America that actually is, not the one of dreams. I am in awe of what they have assembled. This heart-sickening and yet hopeful-making book should be required reading everywhere.” —John Freeman
“American Precariat is unlike any book I've ever encountered, and I am changed by hearing the many voices in this collection. The writers and editors shine a light on precarity from the inside of their own experiences of it, making this book both an incisive social critique and a manual for practicing compassion. This book is revolutionary, and every American needs to read it.” —Grace Cho
“American Precariat is a stunning collection. Varied and yet deeply coherent, broad and yet bound, different and meaningfully familiar. It’s powerful, and the structure of reflections was new and so compelling to me.” —Danielle Sered