Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America
In his critically acclaimed book Dirty Work—named one of the best books of 2021 by Publishers Weekly—author Eyal Press offers a striking, urgent, and compelling new narrative on social and economic inequality today. Especially relevant in the aftermath of the pandemic, Press’s masterfully reported and beautifully written book describes, with “great empathy,” (The New York Times) the lives of the workers we rely on. More than that: it explores how we all participate and benefit in this system, and how, by acknowledging it, we can finally build the fair and equitable world we desire.
“Press’s lucid narrative is studded with gut-wrenching scenes . . . This deeply reported and eloquently argued account is a must-read.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review) of Dirty Work
Eyal Press’s fascination with the intersection of morality and politics has informed his writing on everything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to urban poverty to America’s abortion wars. In his most recent book Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America, he explores work that society deems necessary, but would prefer not to see: jobs that disproportionately fall on low-income, undocumented women and people of color to carry out, and which come with trauma, shame, and PTSD. The New York Times, which chose Dirty Work as one of its 100 Notable Books of 2021, writes, “It’s a testament to [Press’s] insight and vision that in spite of the ugliness to which he exposes us on almost every page, he still makes us want to set aside cynicism and pessimism and join him in finding ways to strengthen the moral bonds between us, however flawed we might be.” Acclaimed writer Rebecca Solnit affirms that, “though the moral injury impacts the workers first, it belongs to us all,” declaring that ultimately, this is a book “about human sacrifice and the forces that disguise it.” We can no longer look away or ignore the plight of those who we used to take for granted in our society—Dirty Work ignites and propels a necessary conversation about how we can create a kinder, better world.
Press is also the author of Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People, a powerful exploration of what impels ordinary people to defy the sway of authority and convention. As a speaker, he aims to challenge and inspire audiences by probing vexing dilemmas that play out in all of our lives. How far should a person go to keep his or her conscience clean? Where should the line between personal conviction and professional duty be drawn? Eloquent and engaging, Press navigates such questions with the grace and subtlety that has distinguished his essays, articles, and books.
His earlier book, Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict that Divided America, chronicles the anti-abortion threats that his father—a local doctor—received in his hometown of Buffalo, and investigates how hard-line convictions on certain issues have divided America over the past three decades. Both a personal account of a family in distress and a social history on America’s most contentious question, Press paints a picture of the social and economic roots of America's volatile internal conflicts. He is a past recipient of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.