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  • Allie

No Insouciance for the Indigent

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Woot woot it’s Wordy Wednesday! 

The words for today come from the non-fiction book Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The authors, both journalists, zoom in on the town Yamhill, Oregon, where Kristof grew up, as a microcosm of working-class America and the plights of its residents. First telling the stories of individuals and families, the authors then present data to illustrate the larger patterns impacting blue collar communities and the nation as a whole. 

Kristof and WuDunn argue that

  1. “Working class communities have collapsed into a miasma of unemployment, broken families, drugs, obesity, and early death” (17).

  2. “Suffering in working-class America was not inevitable but rather reflects decades of social-policy mistakes and often gratuitous cruelty” (18), e.g. the war on drugs, insufficient healthcare coverage, and tax cuts for the rich. 

  3. These “challenges are not insurmountable, and we can adopt policies that are both compassionate and effective” (19). 

The authors’ argument is strengthened by a nuanced discussion of the interaction between personal responsibility and the real effects of policy. Their interpretation of data is sensible, the interviews they report, unsentimental. 

About 100 pages in, I have to say I feel quite glum about residing in a country that is even more messed up than I thought. I’m looking forward to the pages that cover the hopeful third part of their thesis. 

The purpose of Wordy Wednesday is to identify words that are new or unfamiliar and incorporate them into our vocabulary. Some of the words I select I’ve seen many times, but don’t understand them well enough to use myself. First I cite the sentence in which I find the word, then I provide its Oxford definition, and finally I write an original sentence using the word myself. Feel free to write your own sentences and share them in the comments! (The more outlandish, the better!)


“There’s even a fee for an indigent person applying for a public defender, even though the indigent by definition can’t pay” (63).

Adjective: poor; needy.

Noun: a needy person. 

Covid-19 has both impacted the indigent to a greater extent than the general population and has pushed more people into a position of indigence.


“For an armed robber and lifelong drug abuser, Keylan brims with charm, intelligence, and insouciance” (121).

Noun: casual lack of concern; indifference.

The teacher’s concern contrasted the student’s insouciance over his failing once again to do the homework. 

Thanks for joining me in Wordy Wednesday! What have you been learning from your reading life? Share in the comments!



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