Barbara Ehrenreich, author of this year’s Common Freshman Reader selection, Nickel and Dimed, will lecture Monday, October 18, 2010, at 6:00 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center’s Fisher Auditorium as part of the Six O’Clock Series.
This is the fifth year for IUP’s Common Freshman Reader program, one of several initiatives designed to promote first-year student success.
The selected text is distributed free to first-year students before they arrive on campus, and they are encouraged to read the book before beginning their studies at IUP.
The book is selected by a panel of faculty and staff members. To qualify, a book must relevant to today’s students, offer interdisciplinary appeal and provide opportunities for additional and diverse programming.
Nickel and Dimed is Ehrenreich’s personal story of working at or below minimum wage. She traveled across three states working as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart salesperson to help showcase to America the perception of its working poor.
Ehrenreich is widely known as an American feminist, democratic socialist, sociologist and political activist, and a prominent figure in the Democratic Socialists of America. She is a well known columnist and is the author of nearly twenty books, including Blood Rites, Bait and Switch, Dancing in the Streets, and This Land Is Their Land. Her most recent book, published in 2009, is Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.
“Each of these books changed my life in important and unexpected ways,” Ehrenreich said. “Nickel and Dimed plunged me into the nascent living wage movement, traveling to union rallies, picket lines, and organizing meetings around the country.”
Ehrenreich is also a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Harper’s, the Progressive, and Time magazine.
While working on Bait and Switch, Ehrenreich was inspired to start a group for the middle-class workers in 2006, United Professionals, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization for white collar workers, regardless of profession or employment status.”
Ehrenreich was born in Butte, Mont., in 1941. In 1963, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics from Reed’s College in Portland, Ore. In 1968 she received her doctorate in molecular biology from Rockefeller University. She became involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement while still a student at the university.
A few years later she quit her teaching job at the State University of New York in Old Westbury to become a full-time writer. Ehrenreich writes essays, opinion pieces, and book-length projects and has worked on activism projects.
“People sometimes ask how one can be an objective journalist as well as an activist, but most of the writing I have done has been of the opinionated variety anyway,” Ehrenreich said.
Ehrenreich received the Sydney Hillman Award in 1999 for Journalism and an honorable mention from Brill's Content for a chapter of Nickel and Dimed.
Throughout her career she has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the 2004 Nation Institute/Puffin Foundation Prize for Creative Citizenship, a Ford Foundation Award for Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Society in 1982, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1987 and 1988, and a grant for research and writing from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1995.
She shared the National Magazine Award for Excellence in Reporting in 1980 and has received honorary degrees from Reed College, the State University of New York at Old Westbury, the College of Wooster in Ohio, John Jay College, University of Massachusetts Lowell, and La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.
In 1998 and in 2000 she taught essay writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ehrenreich, who lives in Florida, has two grown children.
IUP’s other Common Freshman Reader selections, listed by academic year, were as follows: Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, 2006–2007; Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change, by Elizabeth Kolbert, 2007–2008; The Power of Thinking without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell, 2008–2009; Make the Impossible Possible, by Bill Strickland, 2009–2010.