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Commentary

Wilkerson: Writers on Work

Isabel Wilkerson Nov 24, 2011

Tess Vigeland: At some point today, the Thanksgiving table conversation may turn to the state of our national finances and what it means to our family finances. This week, we invited authors to share how they are writing about the economy.

Here’s Pulizer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson.


Isabel Wilkerson: I go about writing about work by looking at the hearts and desires of the people who are attempting to fulfill their own dreams for themselves, but then also taking care of their families. So I view it as a people-centered way of understanding perhaps the economy and of whatever crisis we’re in.

And I spent 15 years and interviewed over 1,200 people who had survived the Great Depression. These were children of the Great Depression, these were people who were raising families during the Great Depression. So I tend to take the long view when it comes to how people survive economic crisis. So it’s given me a sense of, in some ways, faith. And, in a way, confidence in the ability of people to remake themselves and to adjust and find ways to survive the worst of times. And I think there’s a lot that can be learned from that.

I find that in times of economic crisis, though, the insecurity and the anxities can still be there. And I just have learned to have great regard for people’s abilities to find ways to make it somehow — even if it means to adjust their own dreams in the short term, so that they can get through those hard times. I think there are great lessons to learn from the compressions that are forced upon us when we have an economic crisis.


Vigeland: Isabel Wilkerson’s newest book is called “The Warmth of Other Suns.” Your thoughts? Write to us.

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