Thursday, June 28, 2007

Get to Work: A Manifesto for the Women of the World (Linda Hirshman)

Genre: Nonfiction
Year Published: 2006

Get to Work is the kind of book that shakes the world, or at least the country, and makes believers in Hirshman's thesis hope that we can actually make radical change in this day and age (while critics hope things just settle back down). Hirshman's idea: that privileged, educated women are doing a disservice to themselves, their families, and their fellow countrywomen by dropping out of the workforce to have children.

Hirshman's critics far outnumber her supporters, and their arguments run along many different lines, the most strident being 1) "you shouldn't tell women how to live"; and 2) "women should be homemakers." If you find yourself nodding your head, dear reader, at either of these statements, you will hate this book, unless you are one of those rare souls whose openmindedness knows no bounds. Hirshman doesn't spend much time trying to convert her opposition; she just states her facts and opinions and leaves us, the readers, to either grab hold of them or reject them in her wake.

This is probably not the place to throw my lot in with Hirshman (though I'd do it in a heartbeat), but I will say that when I brought this book to work with me to read on my lunchbreak (it's very short; it can be finished comfortably in one day), one of my coworkers with whom I'm very close asked me what it was about. She's an immigrant to this country who started a degree at a prestigious university but was forced to leave school when she found she couldn't work enough hours to keep up with the tuition payments. That was twenty years ago; she's never managed to earn her Bachelor's.

When I told her what the book's about, she expressed anger and frustration that anyone who had the chance to get a great degree would give it all up to stay home for the rest of their lives. She's having her first child this fall, but she's determined to keep working after her baby girl is born, and then begin the classes that will enable her to finish her degree. I'm hoping with all my heart that she succeeds. In the meantime, she's borrowed my copy of Get to Work. Thus I can say with complete honesty that I have personally seen this book resonate, and not just with my white, privileged agemates.

Recommended? It's bitchy, preachy, and . . . brilliant. Only you know whether you can handle it.