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At Festival of Books, Jewish writer to spotlight the 99 percent

Barbara Garson
Barbara Garson

The Tucson Festival of Books, now the fourth largest book festival in the United States, returns to the University of Arizona campus March 15 and 16.

One of the many Jewish writers presenting this year will be Barbara Garson, whose latest book is “Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession” (Doubleday 2013).

In 1966, two years after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Garson wrote the popular play “MacBird,” an anti-Vietnam War satire of Macbeth. “MacBird” gave her enough of a name to call Harper’s magazine for an assignment, says Garson, who then covered an auto workers’ strike in Lordsburg, Ohio. “They were a bunch of young guys trying to humanize the job. They were hippy auto workers. It was an extension of the ‘60s,” which, she says, “started out with the belief that the world was going to get better.”

By 1972, the United States began experiencing 40 years of lower wages and greater productivity, says Garson, who lives in New York City. “Workers weren’t benefiting. The real difference over the years was the [increased benefits] to investment companies, not to labor.”

Her first book, “All the Livelong Day: The Meaning and Demeaning of Routine Work,” was written in 1975 and revised 20 years later.

In addition to four books, Garson is the author of more than 150 articles in such publications as Harper’s, The New York Times, Newsweek, Ms, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times and The Arizona Republic.

Revering the written word is “part of the Jewish road to maturity, when you read out of the Torah, or when you first read a book,” says Garson. “I’m part of that Jewish tradition. I’m a proud Diaspora Jew who closely observes what’s going on around me.”

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