WMU News

WMU is host for 'Nickel and Dimed' discussions

March 11, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Conversations about poverty, prosperity and low-wage life in America are the focus of several Western Michigan University events this month tied to "Nickel and Dimed," the bestseller at the center of Kalamazoo's 2004 communitywide reading initiative.

The book by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich was chosen for the 2004 Reading Together program. The effort, sponsored by the Kalamazoo Public Library and backed by more than 90 other organizations, aims to get the community reading and discussing Ehrenreich's findings when she went undercover to work as a minimum-wage earner. This year's official Reading Together period began Jan. 23, with book discussions and related activities slated to continue through March 31.

While the book emphasizes the struggles and experiences of the working poor, its popularity speaks to a broad audience. The book is selling steadily at area stores and the dozens of copies at the public library and WMU's Waldo Library are in demand. It also is on the required reading list of several WMU faculty members who are using the book as a teaching tool.

"What I've been hearing is that people are excited about the chance to talk about the issues raised in the book," says Joan Hawxhurst, coordinator of Reading Together. "With the local economic problems and jobs leaving the area, people seem drawn to the book and are discussing it."

WMU will facilitate several of those talks and related events, including:

An undergraduate forum from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 17, in the Department of English lounge in Sprau Tower;

A discussion on "Nickel and Dimed in America: Can Public Policy Help?," scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 17, in rooms 128 A & B at the Kalamazoo Valley Community College downtown campus with WMU adjunct professor Michelle Miller-Adams, also a visiting professor at Kalamazoo College, as the speaker;

A brown-bag lunch from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, March 19, in the Career Resource Center of Ellsworth Hall;

A book discussion from 4 to 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, on the third floor of Waldo Library with Reference Librarian David Isaacson and Amy Proni, chairperson of the Library Staff Advisory Board, leading the talk; and

A showing of Michael Moore's "Roger & Me," the 1989 documentary about the effects of massive layoffs after General Motors downsized operations in Flint, Mich., at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 24 in the Little Theater, with James Dexheimer, coordinator of rare book and fast cataloging at Waldo Library, and Dr. Joseph Reish, dean of University Libraries, launching a discussion after the movie.

"In this event, 'Nickel and Dimed' serves as a springboard for a larger discussion of the working poor in Michigan, despite the existence of unions that serve to protect members," says Reish, who also is a member of the WMU Reading Together Steering Committee.

Overall, the "mass read" centered around "Nickel and Dimed" is an effort that brings people together, he says.

"The common currency of the book allows readers of diverse backgrounds to talk about issues, attitudes and aesthetics in one place," he notes. "Since modern life has us going here and there--physically and virtually--Reading Together is wonderful attempt to bring us together around a wide range of talking points."

The WMU events are only a portion of a broader schedule of "Nickel and Dimed" activities. Other public events are scheduled all over the county through March 31. For more information about Reading Together, call (269) 553-7913 or visit the program Web site at <www.readingtogether.info>. To learn more about related WMU events, call Gail H. Towns in the Office of University Relations at (269) 387-8428.

Media contact: Gail Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400