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As COVID-19 swept across the globe with merciless force, it was working people who kept the world from falling apart.
Deemed “essential” by a system that has shown just how much it needs our labor but has no concern for our lives, workers sacrificed—and many were sacrificed—to keep us fed, to keep our shelves stocked, to keep our hospitals and transit running, to care for our loved ones, and so much more. But when we look back at this particular moment, when we try to write these days into history for ourselves and for future generations, whose voices will go on the record? Whose stories will be remembered?
In late 2020 and early 2021, at what was then the height of the pandemic, Maximillian Alvarez conducted a series of intimate interviews with workers of all stripes, from all around the US—from Kyle, a sheet metal worker in Kentucky; to Mx. Pucks, a burlesque performer and producer in Seattle; to Nick, a gravedigger in New Jersey. As he does in his widely celebrated podcast, Working People, Alvarez spoke with them about their lives, their work, and their experiences living through a year when the world itself seemed to break apart. Those conversations, documented in these pages, are at times meandering, sometimes funny or philosophical, occasionally punctured by pain so deep that it hurts to read them.
Filled with stories of struggle and strength, fear and loss, love and rage, The Work of Living is a deeply human history of one of the defining events of the 21st century told by the people who lived it.
“A magnificent scholar… \[with\] a powerful vision and a subtle analysis at the same time… So much to offer.”
—Dr. Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice, Union Theological Seminary
“Maximillian Alvarez doesn’t just report; he listens like an organizer, and pulls the fundamental challenges of humanity from the people he interviews so that it’s never just about storytelling or setting a narrative. It’s about finding what really binds us together in those struggles so that we can fight our way forward with real love and solidarity.”
—Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
“Maximillian Alvarez is a once in a generation talent. Brandishing his pen like a Machetero brandishes a machete, he combines journalistic integrity and revolutionary fervor in a way that strikes right at the heart of the oppressor. His writing not only gives voice to the voiceless but paints their dreams and aspirations in a clear and vivid way, leaving the reader reborn and baptized in the historic global struggle for solidarity and justice.”
—Kooper Caraway, President, South Dakota Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Maximillian Alvarez is the Editor-in-Chief of The Real News Network in Baltimore and the host of Working People, “a podcast about the lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles of the working class today.” Prior to joining The Real News, he was an Associate Editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education and graduated with a dual-PhD in History and Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan. His work has been featured in a range of outlets, including The Nation, In These Times, Boston Review, Truthout, and The Baffler.
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