"American Precariat is a vital text, one that I believe will echo through history as a way to highlight the vast, full lives of people impacted by, or witness to, the sometimes violent machinery of a country. I am thankful for the clarity, honesty, generosity, and stunning writing within these pages."
"American Precariat is unlike any book I've ever encountered, and I am changed by hearing the many voices in this collection. The writers and editors shine a light on precarity from the inside of their own experiences of it, making this book both an incisive social critique and a manual for practicing compassion. This book is revolutionary, and every American needs to read it."
"The prison industrial complex, the great sea monster at work in America today, is being fed a steady diet of deep feeling tenderhearted write or die human beings. American Precariat, fat and urgent with profound un-incarcerated living truths, slays how it feels to be walking a tightrope in the belly of this beast. Fulsome and incendiary."
"Here are some of our most vital storytellers, talking about justice, violence, home and punishment, their work chosen by writers who've learned the true cost of these values in their own lives. American Precariat is a thrilling new model for how to open up a space in which to talk about the America that actually is, not the one of dreams. I am in awe of what they have assembled. This heart-sickening and yet hopeful-making book should be required reading everywhere."
Fifteen essays coedited by a collective of award-winning incarcerated writers, featuring contributions from Michael Torres, Alice Paige, Inara Verzemnieks, Sarith Peou, Kristin Collier, Angela Pelster, Lauren Markham, Lacy M. Johnson, Steve Almond, TM "Redd" Warren, Kao Kalia Yang, Kiese Laymon, and Valeria Luiselli, with a foreword by Zeke Caligiuri and an introduction by Eula Biss.
This groundbreaking anthology of essays edited by incarcerated writers takes a sharp look at the complexity and fluidity of class and caste systems in the United States. Featuring accounts that include gig work as a delivery driver, homelessness among trans youth, and life with immense student loan debt, in addition to transcripts of insightful discussions between the editors, American Precariat demonstrates how various and often invisible extreme instability can be. With the understanding that widespread recognition of collective precarity is an urgent concern, the anthology situates each individual portrait within societal structures of exclusion, scarcity, and criminality.
These essays write through the silence around class to enumerate the risks that our material conditions leave us no choice but to take. A rendering of the present moment told from below, American Precariat shares stories of the unseen and the unspoken and articulates the lines of our division. In doing so, it offers healing for some of the world’s fractures.
About the editors
We’re proud to present an anthology edited by twelve dynamic MPWW writers. They have worked as an economist, a farmer, a janitor, an activist, a cook, a musician, a wind-turbine laborer, a law student, a Navy vet, a courier, a restoration ecologist, a health aid, a teacher, and more. They are not only writers, they are visual artists, guitar players, drummers, football players, basketball players, and one former Quiz Bowl letterman. They are Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, pagan, and atheist. They’ve published books including: The Parameters of Our Cage, This Is Where I Am: A Memoir, and The Liturgy of Smell, among others. Their individual work has appeared in the Nation, Poetry Magazine, the Washington Post, Literary Hub, Terrain, Agni, and elsewhere. They’ve been anthologized in countless PEN America Prison Writing Award volumes, A Darker Wilderness: Black Nature Writing from Soil to Stars, and Prison Noir. They are from Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Kenya, Minneapolis. Today they live in Minnesota and believe in the power of art to alter society.
Fong is an artist and storyteller based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is a celebrated poet—published through the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and Asian American Writers’ Workshop—a beloved painter, and a published photographer. He is a dedicated restorative justice practitioner and enjoys traveling. Fong and his family immigrated to the US as Hmong refugees when Fong was a child, and after his family were displaced from their borrowed homeland in Laos.
C. Fausto is a multi-genre artist and writer incarcerated since 2003. He is co-author, with photographer Alec Soth, of The Parameters of Our Cage. His work has been anthologized in Modern Language Association’s anthology, Teaching in Prison. His poetry, prose, and visual art appears in The Washington Post Magazine,The Missouri Review, The California Quarterly, descant, The Woodward Review (Pushcart nomination), The Colorado Review, The Antioch Review, Puerto del Sol, among others. When frightened as a child, he’d sneak into his mother’s room and sleep on the floor next to the bed. In the morning, she always stepped on him.
Warren has been a marine, a husband, a father, and was a miserable failure at all three; his heart remembers the rolling flatlands of southern Minnesota, and hopes to return to them some day. He has been a member of the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW) since its inception, writes mainly in the Speculative, and has edited several MPWW Incarcerated Writers' anthologies. His work first appeared in So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.
LaVon is a writer whose works appear in Poetry Magazine, Midwest Journal, among others. LaVon, a dog lover, spent his early years training Alaskan Malamutes in Chicago.
Jeffery is a journalist, poet, fiction writer, and memoirist. Jeffery is currently one of two incarcerated law students in the nation through Mitchell Hamline School of Law and The Legal Revolution. His awards include a Pamela J. Caligiuri Broadside Award, a PEN America Prison and Justice Writing Contest award, and more. His work appears in The Minnesota Spokesman Recorder, among others.He moved to Minneapolis from Boston when he was eight years-old, leaving behind cherished trips to cranberry bogs and the ocean, where he collected dead horseshoe crabs.
B. is a poet and member of the Stillwater Writers’ Collective and Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. His poetry has been published in The Nation, Columbia Journal, Cream City Review, among others. He was a 2022 finalist for Milkweed’s Ballard Spahr Poetry Prize for his manuscript DISFIGURED HOURS. B’s first spoken sentence was, “I want a cookie!”
Zeke is a writer from South Minneapolis and author of “This is Where I Am,” published by University of Minnesota Press. He is co-founder of the Stillwater Writer’s Collective, the first of its kind in the country. Zeke’s work has been featured in LitHub, PEN America, and is anthologized in Prison Noir edited by Joyce Carol Oates and “The Sentences That Create Us: Crafting a Writer’s Life in Prison.” He is directly impacted by over two decades of incarceration and is currently helping to build the Re-Enfranchised Coalition, empowering system-impacted people and reinvesting in the humanization of those still stuck within the captivity business. He misses the days riding around Minneapolis looking for pick up baseball games.
David is a writer whose work is forthcoming to Nightmare Magazine. As a child, he loved to carry around a can of spinach believing if needed, it could turn him into Popeye.
M. Altenhofen is a PEN Prison Writing Award winner in fiction and an honorable mention in CNF. He has served on numerous editorial boards, editing The 27th Letter and Words in Grayscale, among others. He is currently working on his second novel and first collection of short stories. As a boy, he once thought it wise to bring a squirrel to show-and-tell.
Will (they/them) is a transgender/nonconforming writer, artist and musician currently incarcerated in Faribault, Minnesota. They are a member of the MPWW Writers' Collective. Their writing has appeared or is forthcoming to Territory, Chatham Review, Stillpoint Magazine, and Ecologies of Justice.
Kennedy is an accomplished visual artist and poet whose work appears in Agni, Bangalore Review, among others. His chapbook The Liturgy of Smell, was published by Red Bird Chapbooks. He has written several books under the pen name Ken Amen. Kennedy is incarcerated in the Minnesota Correctional Facility–Faribault.
Ronald is a multi-genre writer from Detroit, MI. He is a poet by nature and daydreamer by necessity. His latest work is published in A Darker Wilderness: Black Nature Writing From Soil to Stars (Milkweed). He is a long-standing member of Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and is in partnership with The SEEN Project. As a young man he enjoyed eating concord grapes and strawberries out of his grandfather’s personal garden.
Booklist: “Wrenching but ultimately hopeful, the collection suggests that those of us living on the edge in one way or another would benefit from understanding our common condition.”
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