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So, Why is This Story Important Anyhow?

Two questions. Why should this book be written and this story be told? And why should I be the one to write it?

First, the book should be written because it is a story with many facets and huge implications. In the last depression it was not clear to some that there was a deep intractable problem until it was well under way. It is the same in this depression. We are losing a whole class of citizens, the middle class, the one that provides the backbone of the nation. We are on the cusp of a new gilded age which is causing untold misery for millions of Americans. This is a big story, one that will be told many times and in many ways.

Second,the fact that from the point of view of the new poor it is an untold story provides the moral imperative to tell it. These people need a voice, and this book will provide it. There is a great pent up need to talk about this. The millions of people who have gone from comfortably middle class to poor have each been through a real trauma, but no one is treating it this way. This project will begin to fill this gap in the public discourse.

But, why should I write it? Because I am able to synthesize the data and run it through my mind and pour out words that are easy to read yet convey the complexity. But there is more.

I am one of the “new poor” In 2006 I had been married to a contractor in the wine country of northern California for nine years, and I was in law school getting good grades. I wanted to be an environmental lawyer. The illness and death of my husband intersected with the financial melt-down and crash. There was no money to finish law school. I sold what little was left of my former life. I started a small business to support myself, but it was like trying to dig through rock. The business was professional organizing, and I joined every networking group I could, went to meetings, perfected my pitch, and got a few clients, all of whom were pleased with my work.

A very few clients. The problem was that my potential clients were losing their corporate jobs and not only didn’t need me, they couldn’t afford me anymore. Worse yet, a not insignificant number were becoming competitors. Where organizers had been getting about $70 an hour in my area, suddenly we were lucky to get half that. I started cleaning houses, just long enough to pull out of the hole. In the end I cut all my expenses to the bone, got rid of all services except the phone, stopped going anywhere or doing anything, and started to write. It turns out I am good at this, but freelancing in tough times is even harder than it usually is. I am now looking for completely new solutions to the economic problem that work around the corporate world and mainstream markets entirely.

But, the main reason I am the right author for this book is that I am willing to write it. Which in this case means being willing to undergo a certain amount of discomfort. I am an extremely frugal traveler because I have to be. This will be a rough and tumble journey. As exciting as a road trip can be this is going to be work. But, there is that moral imperative again. There is a great and terrible thing happening to my country. If that is not enough to get me out of my comfortable chair perhaps I don’t deserve to call myself a journalist at all.

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  1. Shirley Newbold
    December 29, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    I am proud to claim you as my cousin. This is so exciting, I want to hear about every step.
    I may have a contact for you in LA area.

    I’m also overwhelmed by your energy. You are definitely the one who can do this. You go girl!!

  2. Skye Hunley
    December 29, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    My sister pointed me in your direction. I say bravo to you.
    I find this interesting since I have been called to do something
    to help bring back the middle class.
    Contact me please.

  3. Shirley Newbold
    December 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    Annabel,
    I want to put in a big vote for you to visit Michigan. We have been one of the hardest hit states, especially Southeast Michigan. We are not recovering yet and I don’t expect we will ever be back to the level of prosperity we have enjoyed in the past.

    Especially interesting is the development of urban gardens in Detroit. The city is razing abandoned homes and encouraging the citizens to plant gardens on the empty lots. Many of the potential gardeners are people who considered themselves in the Middle Class when their families were fully employed. With unemployment way up, the newly poor are scrambling for their survival; raising their own food is just one way.

    Another plan the city is implementing is moving people from sparsely populated neighborhoods to other areas where more people are living, which allows the city to concentrate their dwindling services in the more heavily populated areas.

    The middle class, what is left of it, are afraid of the violent crime which is escalating in the city and the suburbs. Crime and corruption are rampant here.

    Bottom line, I know there are stories here for you and would encourage you to put Detroit on your itinerary.

  4. Jon
    April 25, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Have you read Rose Aguilar’s book Red Highways?

    http://www.amazon.com/Red-Highways-Liberals-Journey-Heartland/dp/0979482275

  5. April 26, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    Annabel: Just wanted to let you know I am supporting you and that blogcatalog.com was a good move on your part. Because of the email they sent me in your behalf, i had the pleasure of meeting you, reading your blog, voting you up for the Scholarship, and donating to your cause.

    Keep on fighting the good fight.
    Don

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