American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare

American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare

by Jason DeParle
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Overview

American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare by Jason DeParle

In this definitive work, two-time Pulitzer finalist Jason DeParle cuts between the mean streets of Milwaukee and the corridors of Washington to produce a masterpiece of literary journalism. At the heart of the story are three cousins whose different lives follow similar trajectories. Leaving welfare, Angie puts her heart in her work. Jewell bets on an imprisoned man. Opal guards a tragic secret that threatens her kids and her life. DeParle traces  their family history back six generations to slavery and weaves poor people, politicians, reformers, and rogues into a spellbinding epic.

With a vivid sense of humanity, DeParle demonstrates that although we live in a country where anyone can make it, generation after generation some families don’t. To read American Dream is to understand why.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143034377
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/16/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 569,514
Product dimensions: 5.51(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

Jason DeParle, a reporter for The New York Times, has also written for The New Republic, the Washington Monthly, and The New Orleans Times-Picayune. A former Henry Luce Scholar, DeParle was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 and 1998 for his reporting on the welfare system.

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American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jason DeParle is a senior writer for the New York Times, with interests in the welfare reform issues. In his book, American Dream, he follows the drive to reform the welfare state as it impacted one extended, poor family. He attempted to humanize the effects of welfare reform on individuals by tracing the family from the end of the slavery through the close of the millennium. I was first attracted to the book because of the author¿s discussion of my own family history. The family that the author followed descended from a sharecropper that was recruited by my great great uncle, Woods Eastland, to work the plantation that would later be managed by his son, U.S. Senator James Oliver Eastland. I was concerned that DeParle might present my family in an unfairly critical way. He presented the Eastland family honestly and fairly. If anything, he presented Woods Eastland as less of a character than he actually was. DeParle did a great job of personalizing the issues of welfare reform. The family that he followed was not made up of paragons of virtue. DeParle documented theft, fraud, drug use and sale, and extramarital sexual activity among the various members of the family. He also documented a family that struggled to survive in the midst of a world of chaos. He placed the various family members in the welfare reform statistics. He followed them as they responded to the various forces that shaped life and seemed out of their control. DeParle did an excellent job of discussing the welfare reform debate as it affected the individual recipients. His writing style was easy to read and engaging. His endnotes were referenced by inclusios rather than notations in the text. Placing the endnotes at the end of the chapters and numbering them sequentially would have been much easier to use. While DeParle made a good attempt to mediate his personal bias by covering both sides of the debate, he failed to ask the critical question of whether the government should be involved in taking money by force from one citizen to give to another. He focused more on how and when to redistribute wealth than whether it is a legitimate role of the government. His conclusion was the predictable one that a better safety net was necessary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Someone' in my life is fascinated by public policy management / evaluation and welfare reform in particular - so it seemed 'smart' to pick this book up. I admit I was surprised at the clear concise story-telling. the chronolgy of events is well woven, tying in the policy and the human faces he chose to follow. The book gives a face to the debate surrounding welfare reform and makes what could otherwise be dry policy review interesting and compelling (the someone I mentioned earlier has told me that this human element is all too often what is not taken into account). Put into chronological perspective the story of welfare reform is emotionally rich, full of dramatic reversals and its' recipients not necessarily as portrayed in the media. Seeking to debunk the myth, Deparle goes beyond the simplistic bipartisan approach and well- beyond the ¿welfare moms¿ argument. He does so from the very beginning of the book noting how Clinton¿s war cry of ¿ending welfare as we know it¿ was in all truth not only a conviction but also a quirk of fate. The book is well-balanced and highlights lesigislativ developments in parallel to the daily struggles of three women (Angela, Jewell and Opal) and illustrates their ignorance of the greater picture they are a part of. Even though they perfectly fit the stereotype which has been the rallying cry for most of the welfare debate they are ignorant of it and of its¿ implications. Not only are they ignorant but also unaware of such things and as I believe Angela puts it 'don't care' because they're not 'dependent', they're 'survivors', and indeed they are. Ultimately Deparle offers no solutions but that is not necessarily what he meant to do - rather he successfully gives a face to the debates and confronts legislation and policy with real life cases, returning the human element to the place it deserves. Deparle makes no excuses for the choices the three women make AND he makes no excuses for the creators and enactors of welfare legislature. He simply offers an inside glimpse into their reasoning or lack of it, placing both the recipients and the debate in context historically, sociologically, politically and legislatively. Offering no solutions is not a drawback here; rather it is an advantage because without a clear idea of where we came from how can we know where we are going? If we do not know where the notion of entitlement came from how can we hope to elaborate a solution that will break the pattern? I'm glad I picked it up..
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book. I picked it up, expecting it to be hard to read (public policy books usually are), but this was nothing like that because the author shapes the story around the lives of real people, including 3 women in Milwaukee who have been receiving public assistance. What amazed me, after reading the book, was how little changed in their lives even when 'welfare as we know it' ended. Two of them became steady workers, for the most part, but they were still poor, still struggling to buy food and pay the utilities, and still had troubles with the men in their lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Two minutes after cracking open 'American Dream' you realize that Jason deParle is a phenomenal writer. But far more important, he's got an incredible story to tell: the story of how welfare reform took on a momentum never before known in our country and how the changes it wrought impacted the lives of very real women and their families. In his book, deParle asks the difficult questions: Has welfare reform improved the lives of families formerly on welfare? Has the experience of children seeing their mothers going to work had a positive influence on their lives? Has outsourcing the management of caseloads to for-profit companies proven to be a success? What can be done to motivate far more men to pursue well-paying jobs and remain an integral part of their children's lives? DeParle doesn't come up with any easy answers, though he tells the story of welfare reform and its impact in a powerfully compelling way -- from an historial standpoint, from a public policy standpoint and from the personal standpoints of those who sought work after their welfare benefits ran out. What I found most compelling were the very human portraits of the women he profiles -- Angie, Jewel and Opal. I was moved, educated and motivated by this book. Definitely a must buy -- and do go and share it with your friends and family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Emani Smart More than 1 year ago
so not a good book