Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich, 2 March 2018 at her home in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo: Stephen Voss, for the Guardian)

Barbara Ehrenreich is one of my favourite authors. She has written (at least) three important works: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America (2001);Welcome to Cancerland (2001) ; and, Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer (2018).

Cancerland can be found here: .

To research Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich engaged in a three-month experiment surviving on minimum wage as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart clerk.  Her book reports on the difficulties low wage workers face, including hidden costs for shelter and food. The work requires a wide variety of attributes, including stamina, focus, memory, quick thinking, and fast learning. Workers risk repetitive stress injury, have degrading and uninteresting tasks, and have to deal with managers who demeaned and interfered with productivity.

In Cancerland, she described a breast cancer cult, which “serves as an accomplice in global poisoning — normalizing cancer, prettying it up, even presenting it, perversely, as a positive and enviable experience.”

In 2014, at an age of 72, Ehrenreich realized that she was old enough to die. She did not want to waste the time on preventive medical tests or restricting her diet in pursuit of a longer life. She would seek help for a health issue, but would not look for problems. A wellness industry, a cult of mindfulness and food fads elude people into believing that we are in control of our bodies. But with her Ph.D. in cellular immunology Ehrenreich argues that this is not so. The immune systems can promote rather than prevent the spread of cancer cells.