Why Our Families Can't Afford America
It can be hard to live truly outside the mainstream. But Alissa Quart, author of Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers and Rebels, argues that renegades are the key to a more creative, innovative, and competitive society. She speaks about what passionate amateurs, free thinkers, and artists can teach us, and how they may be the key to our future.
“[Alissa Quart] unmasks the assumptions we make about what counts as normal, and marshals our sympathies for people who want to control their own destinies in a world that insists that they can’t ... she makes a persuasive case that medical and scientific institutions must change if we’re to move mainstream culture in the right direction.”— The New York Times
In eye-opening and inspiring talks, Quart speaks about the people she’s interviewed on the very edges of American life who are becoming increasingly visible, organized, and effective, in part due to the Web. She argues that looking to and welcoming these outsiders will help everyone be more efficient, self-actualized, and innovative—and even experience the personal and sometimes financial benefits to staying unique.
Quart is the author of acclaimed books Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child and Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers. Her latest, Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, is an analysis of the rising cost of parenthood and what that means for the middle-class. She has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Newsweek, O Magazine, Marie Claire, and Reuters, among many others. She is also the author of the poetry collection Monetized. She was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University and has taught at Columbia University Journalism School.
Alissa Quart has interviewed hundreds of mavericks: the neurodiverse who believe they are wired differently rather than being simply autistic, people who track every aspect of their lives and are known as “self-quantifiers,” Occupy Wall Street’s “alternative bankers,” and many others. She has published their stories in a number of publications, from The New York Times to Newsweek to O Magazine. The people she writes about often start out on their outsider path when authorities or institutions have failed them, and have to fall back on their own intelligence to survive. In this talk, Quart offers a profoundly important and also fresh perspective gleaned from her perceptive reporting on people with unusual talents, personalities, and disabilities. She argues we may succeed due to our wayward qualities and affinities rather than in spite of them.
In Republic of Outsiders and her keynotes, Quart explains how inclusion of and identification with the edges of our society can help all of us. She asks her audiences to come up with the sentences that describe what they think of as their weaknesses and strengths and, by the end of her talk, shows how connected these two seemingly opposing characteristics are. She maintains that some of the edgiest concepts promoted by rights movements or independent artists have inspired the mainstream—and can inspire us personally.