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124 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wake-Up Call for America
America is in big trouble, asserts Ehrenreich. Greed is in the saddle and rides roughshod over democratic principles. The rich are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer; a once-healthy middle class has become an endangered species.

Whether writing of "Chasms of Inequality," "Meanness on the Rise," "Strangling the Middle Class," "Hell Day at Work,"...
Published on June 27, 2008 by Roy E. Perry

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - Not Ehrenreich's best at all
Barbara Ehrenreich's This Land Is Their Land was disappointing for me, particularly as I very much admire two of her other books, Nickled And Dimed in America and Bait And Switch. But unlike those two books, This Land Is Their Land is really just a compilation of her previously published essays with no unifying thread to them. One of the many frustrations of the book is...
Published on July 15, 2010 by Whitt Patrick Pond


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124 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wake-Up Call for America, June 27, 2008
America is in big trouble, asserts Ehrenreich. Greed is in the saddle and rides roughshod over democratic principles. The rich are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer; a once-healthy middle class has become an endangered species.

Whether writing of "Chasms of Inequality," "Meanness on the Rise," "Strangling the Middle Class," "Hell Day at Work," "Declining Health," "Getting Sex Straight," or "False Gods," Ehrenreich pulls no punches, gives no quarter, takes no captives.

The most serious threats to a deep morality, argues Ehrenhreich, are not abortionists, stem cell researchers, or matrimonially minded gays, but those who wage an unnecessary war and ruthlessly oppress the poor.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Pat Robertson will hate this book. Many grossly overpaid corporate CEO's and HMO bigwigs won't care much for it either.

One need not be a devotee of Karl Marx's Das Kapital to perceive (unless one is willfully blind) the dark underside of capitalism, which thrives on the cynical creed: "Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost!"

Is Ehrenreich's book agitprop or solid sociopolitical criticism? The reader's reaction will depend on his or her political stance. I believe This Land Is Their Land is right on point: a devastating critique of capitalism run amok. It's a wake-up call concerning the looting and fleecing of America.

If Ehrenreich sounds angry, outraged, and fighting mad, it's because she is. Hers is a righteous indignation against those who are destroying everything that moral and compassionate people hold dear.

Like an ancient prophet, she issues scathing indictments against plutocrats who trample on the poor. In her book one hears the thunderous voice of Amos: "Let justice roll on like a mighty river and righteousness like an everflowing stream."

An excerpt from the book: "How many 'wake-up calls' do we need, people--how many broken lives, drowned cities, depleted food pantries, people dead for lack of ordinary health care? We approach the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century in a bleak landscape cluttered with boarded-up homes and littered with broken dreams. . . . Why don't we dare say it? The looting of America has gone on too long, and the average American is too maxed out, overworked, and overspent to have anything left to take. We'll need a new deal, a new distribution of power and wealth, if we want to restore the beautiful idea that was 'America.'"
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depressing, but a must read book, July 8, 2008
By 
When I told my husband that Barbara Ehrenreich's This Land is Their Land was a depressing book, he said that's because it's true. He told me not to read reality-based books if it's going to depress me.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed, and Bait and Switch. She can call this book satirical commentary, but it's sad that her points about our government, our health care system, and our work force are actually right on target. Early on, she says that we've changed from a country where we felt we were all in it together, to one where the philosophy is closer to "I've got mine." She actually says, "Let the environment decay, the infrastructure crumble, the public hospitals close, the schools get by on bake sales, the workers drop from exhaustion - who cares?" We're now a nation of the haves and the have-nots, and more and more of us are becoming have-nots.

Ehrenreich points out that people are out of work, losing their homes, losing their health care, and no one is speaking up. Why aren't people complaining? We're letting our government and our businesses, such as Wal-Mart, control the country. And, they do a very good job of distracting us from the bad conditions in this country by pointing us in the direction of side issues, such as gay marriage and pro-life and pro-choice disagreements. She isn't the first one to say that illegal immigration is the latest distraction. "But it wasn't a Mexican who took away your pension or sold you on a dodgy mortgage." We're afraid for our jobs. We're afraid to lose our houses and our health care. It's not the first time in our country's history that a minority group has been selected as a scapegoat to distract us from the actual social conditions in this country.

The dictionary defines satire as "The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc." Barbara Ehrenreich successfully uses sarcasm to do all of those things. She exposes the vices, follies and deceit behind our business practices, our health care practices, and our employment. She does a wonderful job in ridiculing our fascination with business success books, when the only people getting rich are the authors of those trite books. We could all take lessons from This Land is Their Land in denouncing the wrongs in this country.

I hope that Barbara Ehrenreich's This Land is Their Land is as successful as Nickel and Dimed. It's another important book, by a very important author. This book needs to be read, and discussed. Most of all, we need to take some action to change ourselves, and our country, before it's too late.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad But True, August 3, 2008
By 
Rae (Cincinnati, Ohio) - See all my reviews
Barbara Ehrenreich uses sarcasm, anecdotes and humor to discuss the current major problems facing average Americans: The rich getting richer at the expense of the middle and lower classes; corporate greed and how it has created the loss of good paying jobs while making life hell for those still working; the lack of adequate health care for millions; and the way our government uses fear to distract us from these basic quality of life issues.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A message that you won't get from the nightly news, July 17, 2008
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
Politicians and network news anchors delight in reminding us in somber tones that we are a nation "at war." But somehow they never talk about the domestic economic war being waged in downsized workplaces and foreclosed suburban homes where the casualties are kids who can't afford to go to college and families left in the lurch with no health insurance and debt exceeding their assets. This is the war Barbara Ehrenreich covers so well.

The news from the front is bad and getting worse by the day. Unless you are one of the 14,000 American families who earn the top 0.01% of income in this country, chances are you have lost the War on the Middle Class, or are about to lose big time. Prepare to kiss your assets goodbye!

In works of reporting such as NICKEL AND DIMED and BAIT AND SWITCH, Ehrenreich has chronicled the struggle of working and middle class Americans to get by and survive in a land where, oh my, Marx got something right: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer of late. And for many, that means the American Dream is slipping away with the morning mist.

THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND is a collection of 62 of Ehrenreich's short commentaries from recent years. As in all her work, we find her compassion, her sardonic wit and her thirst for social justice. She is the canary singing in our collective coal mine.

For the American middle class, once the mighty economic engine of the world in the years after World War II, something has gone terribly wrong in the early years of the 21st century. The trouble started during the Reagan administration. People know it. Politicians, especially liberal ones, know it but don't know how to talk about it for fear of being smeared with the red brush of "class war." But that is exactly what this war has been. And guess what? Our class got clobbered.

Ehrenreich writes, "The middle class, battered by wave after wave of outsourcing and layoffs, scrambled to meet the ever rising costs of health care, fuel, and college education. The traditional working class, already savaged by deindustrialization, took the low-paying service jobs that were left, trading their hard hats for mops and trays. They crowded grown children and grandchildren into their homes, which they refinanced at usurious rates. They faced speedups at work and cutbacks in pay. When their monthly health insurance premiums exceeded their mortgages or rent, they abandoned the insurance and fell back on Advil."

With little fanfare and little to no coverage from mainstream corporate media, America had entered a Second Gilded Age. The Wall Street Journal noted that the 0.01% of Americans at the top controlled 22.2% of the nation's wealth while the bottom 90% --- 133 million of us --- got just 4%.

Ehrenreich points out, "In fact, the greatest capitalist innovations of the past decade have been in the realm of squeezing money out of those who have little to spare: taking away workers' pensions and benefits to swell profits, offering easy credit on dubious terms, raising insurance premiums and refusing to insure those who might ever make a claim, downsizing workforces to boost share prices, even falsifying time records to avoid paying overtime."

And in the process, America and the ideal of America radically changed. "But somewhere along the line, the ethos changed from we're all in this together to get what you can while the getting is good."

This book is in the tradition of good old fashioned journalistic muckraking, something corporate media in their drive for profits and to give us all the latest important news on the Britneys of the world rarely does anymore.

Ehrenreich presents us with the stories we've missed. For example, she tells us about Timothy J. Bowers, who robbed an Ohio bank of $80, immediately surrendered to cops and asked the judge for a three-year prison sentence, which would take care of him until he reached social security eligibility. Bowers lost his old job and couldn't find a new one. The "compassionate conservative" judge obliged him. Bowers thus becomes the Dillinger for our days.

We learn about the disgraceful hypocrisy whereby we are constantly urged to support our troops, but in San Diego, 500 military families a month have to depend on food banks to avoid going hungry. Furthermore, the administration, which put the troops in harm's way in the first place, once proposed increasing the cost of veteran health care benefits, a move that would have driven 200,000 vets out of the system.

Ehrenreich writes with passion and anger about a health care system where "Florence Nightingale has morphed into Vampira." There is the "criminalization of illness" where patients who can't pay their bill have arrest warrants issued on their sick selves, such as the diabetic Illinois man who ran up an outrageous $579 debt and ended up being arrested for it and held on $2,500 bail. That must have helped his condition!

And then there are the statistics: two million Americans fleeing the U.S. to get their prescription drug fix in Canada or Mexico; a million college grads working jobs that do not require a college degree; 18,000 Americans a year who die from lack of health insurance; and, for the first time in 2006, the average household's debt exceeding its income.

Bad news, you bet. But Ehrenreich has the ability, like the late great Molly Ivins, to write about the bad with a quick, biting wit that makes you smile through the anger.

In 1940, with the Great Depression lingering, Woody Guthrie wrote one of the most famous songs in American history, "This Land Is Your Land." His purpose was to fight what he considered the complacency of Irving Berlin's anthem, "God Bless America." They still sing Berlin's song at ballparks. But the refrain of Guthrie's tune lingers on like a ghost in our collective consciousness as well: "This land was made for you and me."

Was it? Ehrenreich hopes so. She writes, "The looting of America has gone on too long, and the average American is too maxed out, overworked and overspent to have anything left to take. We need a new deal, a new distribution of power and wealth, if we want to restore the beautiful idea that was `America.'"

Journalism at its best speaks truth to power. And that is exactly what Barbara Ehrenreich has done in THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND. May she keep doing it for a long time.

--- Reviewed by Tom Callahan
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Re-energizing dimmed critical faculties, July 22, 2008
By 
Kerry Walters (Lewisburg, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Ehrenreich's latest is a collection of occasional and pithy pieces published in magazines and on her blog. They're not densely argued like her more scholarly books (e.g., Blood Rites), nor sustained like her best-selling Nickel and Dimed. Instead they're intended as shots over the bow (and sometimes shots aimed straight into it!), quick broadcasts that alert the reader to things that ought to be more widely known. They're indignant, angry, sarcastic, and incendiary. But they're also sure to raise your blood pressure, and do something about "our critical faculties dimmed by habit" (p. 6). They're also great fun to read.

Ehrenreich examines social, economic, and political issues that she collects into seven categories: inequality, hard-heartedness (or what she calls "meanness"), the sinking middle class, abuse of the working guy or gal, the health care crisis, sexuality, and religion. Along the way, she compares the astronomical cost of heating your home and the equally astronomical earnings and CEO salaries of the major fuel companies (26-28); reflects on the mean-spirited social tactic of shaming that's become so prevalent(67-69); wonders why the government pundits are only now admitting recession, when 57% of polled citizens knew we were in one a year ago (94-97); exposes the latest trend in corporate "efficiency" of firing well-salaried workers and replacing them with minimum wage beginners (Circuit City in particular comes under fire)(105-07); points out the sheer surreality of spending $10 billion a year on pet health care when our medical response to human kids is so abyssmal (158-160); takes on the shibboleth of family values (197-99); examines the relationship of megachurches to conservative politics (216-19).

The book is subtitled "Reports from a Divided Nation," and if Ehrenreich is correct, we certainly are divided--between haves and have-nots, overprivileged and underpriviledged, socially proper and outcast, right-with-God and infidel. But she's hopeful that the divisions can be ameliorated. As she poignantly says in the Introduction, "I like to think we could find in our hearts some true ground for unity, some awareness of a common condition and collective aspiration" (p. 7).

Well worth reading and thinking about.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Their land, August 4, 2008
Well-written, humorous, on-the-money, fair critical assessment, witty, captivating, enjoyable- definitely recommend. After reading this book, I ordered 2 other books by the author.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - Not Ehrenreich's best at all, July 15, 2010
By 
Barbara Ehrenreich's This Land Is Their Land was disappointing for me, particularly as I very much admire two of her other books, Nickled And Dimed in America and Bait And Switch. But unlike those two books, This Land Is Their Land is really just a compilation of her previously published essays with no unifying thread to them. One of the many frustrations of the book is that there's nothing to tell you when a particular essay was written and where it was published. The only original piece in the book is the introduction, where Ehrenreich does raise your expectations with in a passionate exhortation:

"How many 'wake-up calls' do we need, people -- how many broken levees, drowned cities, depleted food pantries, people dead for lack of ordinary health care? We approach the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century in a bleak landscape cluttered with boarded-up homes and littered with broken dreams. The presidential candidates talk about 'change,' but don't bother to articulate what kind of change. Why don't we dare say it? The looting of America has gone on too long, and the average American is too maxed out, overworked, and overspent to have anything left to take. We'll need a new deal, a new distribution of power and wealth, if we want to restore the beautiful idea that was 'America'."

But after that, there is nothing but a kind of random regurgitation of previously published work. Anyone who follows Ehrenreich's columns will have already read them; anyone who doesn't will be left wondering what the point is as nothing in any essay is ever followed up on. That could have made for something worthwhile. A good example is the column "Pension or Penitentiary" where she relates the following case:

"Talk about a cry for help. On May 1, 2006, Timothy J. Bowers robbed a Columbus, Phio, bank of $80, handed the money over to a security guard, and waited for the police to come and arrest him. In court, he pleaded guilty and told the judge that he would like a three-year sentence -- just enough time to get him to the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits. The judge graciously obliged, demonstrating compassionate conservativism at its warmhearted best.
--Bowers, almost sixty-five years old, is no wacko. He passed a court-ordered psychological exam and explained that he had not been able to find a new job since his old one ended when his employer's company closed in 2003. 'At my age,' he said, 'the jobs available to me are minimum-wage jobs,' adding that 'there is age discrimination out there'.
--Bowers had hit a 'doughnut hole' like the one that plagues Medicare recipients: he was 'too old' for the above-minimum-wage workforce and too young for Social Security.... Leaving aside the obvious disadvantages of incarceration -- having to pee in public, eat gross institutional food, etc -- Bowers made a perfectly rational choice. The minimum wage in Ohio is $5.15 an hour, or $824 a month before taxes, which won't get you much of a dwelling space in Columbus, at least not if you intend to maintain a regular schedule of meals. Prison, on the other hand, offers a free bed, free food, and, however inadequate, free health care."

I would very much have liked it if Ehrenreich had added an epilogue after columns like this, letting us know what became of Mr. Bowers and some of the other individuals mentioned in her columns. An obvious example would've been her "Circuit City Slaughter" column about Phillip Schoonover - the CEO of Circuit City at the time - laying off over 3,400 employees and replacing them with minimum-wage workers. Circuit City went bankrupt about two years later, in part because the quality of their customer service fell through the floor and customers went elsewhere. A book that updated her columns with subsequent developments would've been far more interesting and worth while.

I can only recommend this book for fans of Ehrenreich who may have missed some of her columns and want to read them, and I say this as someone who thinks highly of Ehrenreich. As a stand-alone book, This Land Is Their Land is doesn't measure up to her other work.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, not great, July 10, 2008
About: In this collection of short essays, Ehrenreich, champion of disenfranchised and screwed over folks, takes on aspects of American society (health insurance, minimum wage, faith-based initiatives, self-help books, and abortion to name a few) with her opinionated wit.

Pros: Well written, funny, wide-ranging topics.

Cons: Sources not cited, those who avoid left-leaning material need not apply. Not as satisfying as her longer-length works such as Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scathingly funny-and enraging, August 3, 2008
I laughed as I read this, and also got angry. It will make anyone laugh and cry at the current state of the country. Barbara Ehrenreich is spot on in assessing where the country is going, and how most Americans are not benefiting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Easy Read, August 11, 2008
By 
S. Bordwell (Wellington, CO USA) - See all my reviews
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This book is very informative and a fast read. Every chapter is about 2 pages but filled with facts. It is an easy read and makes a good bedtime book because you can read a few pages and you've covered a few topics. After I read this book, I gave it to my sister to read and she thought it was very interesting and well written. My sister isn't into politics so I think this is a good book that will inform all sorts of readers about what is going on in our world today.
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