Sarah Jaffe

  • Mourning Routine

    What does it do to us to lose someone? What does it do to a family? Can we separate our private devastation from the broader world that created the conditions under which we suffer loss? 

    These are the questions that haunt Namwali Serpell’s The Furrows (Hogarth, $27). While her previous novel, The Old Drift, is a sprawling epic that manages to make the colonization of the place now known as Zambia something we feel, The Furrows is a more intimate book, yet the questions at its core are no less troubling and demanding. The story at first appears to be straightforward: it’s about a big sister

  • politics March 23, 2021

    Steel Away

    The past few years have seen the resurgence of the working class as a topic of interest, with pundits passing judgements and Ivy League–educated politicians posturing for proletarian clout, though all too often without any input from the workers themselves.

    If working-class people are present, they often get the Hillbilly Elegy–treatment. Real people are reduced to caricatures or abstractions; “the workers” become a catchall scapegoat for backwardness, racism, unwillingness to change, and, almost always, as a proxy for whiteness. Trump’s rise is blamed on the working class, an act of misrecognition

  • The Living Is Easy

    WHEN THE PANDEMIC FIRST HIT, “social distancing” was exactly what I wanted: I was exhausted and in a deep brain fog and all I could imagine was lying in bed for weeks reading trashy novels and watching bad TV. But with death all around, I felt the need to find something to do, so back to journalism with me, talking to essential workers and the laid-off and the homeless moving into vacant homes. As the crisis worsened, I found myself bargaining: I won’t miss touch if I can just look someone I love in the eyes; I don’t need restaurants open if I can just see friends. If my friends stay safe I

  • Automatic for the People

    In the downstairs bar of a Brighton comedy club, I sat with sixty or so activists clustered around tables to discuss the four-day workweek. They were participating in The World Transformed, a radical gathering held alongside the Labour Party’s annual conference, where the party’s left wing hashes out proposals that it hopes Labour will adopt. Indeed, by the time this panel met, a shorter workweek had already been announced by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell in his floor speech. The people in that club, then, were thinking about implementation, as well as dreaming about what they’d do with more

  • A World to Win

    Capitalism isn’t working. We know this deep in our bones even if we live in one of the few cities where life is bustling and busy and we can pretend that this situation can continue. Yet even in those cities, the signs are everywhere. They are in the ubiquitous homeless population sleeping in the door-nooks of closed stores or in tent cities. In New York, where I live, they are in the crumbling subway system, its stations jam-packed with frustrated commuters trying to get to work even as the city begs to give tax breaks to Amazon for the honor of hosting its new campus. The system is broken.

  • Whose Streets?

    WHEN THE RESISTANCE BEGAN at Standing Rock, in April 2016, few Americans could tear their eyes away from the unfolding drama of the presidential campaign. Faith Spotted Eagle remembers arriving to take part in the prayers on the day a camp was set up, in still-wintry weather. Opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), she told me in September, was the next step in a fight that had started more than two years earlier with the successful attempt to block Keystone XL. This time, though, the battle would be led not by big green groups in urban centers but by a few hundred Native