June, 2020

Three questions with...
2021 Fellow Brian Goldstone

Your Fellows project will be a book about housing insecurity and the dramatic rise of the working homeless in America. Can you share your definition of working homelessness?

By “working homeless,” I mean the growing number of people in the U.S. who are working 50 hours, 60 hours a week but still can’t secure stable housing. These are people who go to sleep at night in their cars, or in extended-stay hotel rooms, or even on the street and head out to their jobs the next morning—often gig work like Uber or DoorDash, or low-wage jobs in the service sector or care economy.

There’s something scandalous, seemingly oxymoronic about the term. But in a country where roughly seven million workers are living below the poverty line and left to fend for themselves in a private, profit-maximizing rental market, it’s not surprising that more and more families are being deprived of a roof over their heads. And now, with the federal eviction moratorium set to expire in a few weeks, the ranks of this population are expected to swell to a truly catastrophic scale.

You have a PhD in Anthropology, how does your academic background inform your journalism?

The reporting for this project has felt very similar to the fieldwork I did as a cultural anthropologist—in fact, it has often seemed more ethnographic than journalistic per se. I’ve now been reporting the book for almost two years, with the bulk of that time spent “embedded” at an extended-stay hotel where three of the families I’m writing about are living. I think my academic training has helped me to appreciate the significance of long, immersive engagement with a social world. You begin to perceive the depth and texture, the ebbs and flows, of people’s lives. Last year, for instance, one of the families received assistance from a local agency and were able to move into their own apartment. They were elated. Then, two months ago, came an eviction notice. What I thought was a happy ending turned out to be yet another moment in a grinding cycle of insecurity.

You have said that the housing crisis is solvable. How do you think your book will contribute to finding a solution?

I believe very strongly that finding a solution requires an accurate appraisal of the magnitude and severity of what we’re facing, and a proper diagnosis of what brought us here. If the problem is a lack of “affordable housing units,” then the solution is simple: build more of them. But if the problem is a fundamentally unjust, dehumanizing, Hunger Games-like rental market—where increased rent can be tantamount to eviction, where a low credit score can keep you and your kids trapped in a shelter or hotel room, where a family can be forced out of their building because their landlord decided it’s more lucrative to sell it—then a different set of solutions will be necessary.

Is housing a basic right, no less vital than education or food or medicine? Or is it a commodity to be hoarded and exploited for maximum profit? It matters who we listen to. Our housing experts are the tens of millions of tenants whose fates are bound up with how these questions are answered.

Hot Off The Press

When the Stars Begin to Fall

A bold, thought-provoking pathway to the national solidarity that could, finally, address the ills of racism in America.

By: Theodore R. Johnson, Class of 2017

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The Extended Mind

The Extended Mind reveals how we can tap the intelligence that exists beyond our brains—in our bodies, our surroundings, and our relationships.

By: Annie Murphy Paul, Class of 2014

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Two Cents

Fellows on how they know when they've found the right editor for their work.

1: I need two things: very close reading and love. — Daniel Bergner, Class of 2021

2: I just found her! Of all the editors I met with Rakia (Clark of HMH) not only clearly got my vision and the importance of my book but offered challenging and generative pushback, expansions, and ideas to my own thinking. I just felt it was the perfect fit in my gut. — Sarah J. Jackson, Class of 2019

3: I know I've found the right editor when they are blunt with me about bad ideas. I'm kind of a scattershot thinker, and rejecting things that aren't entirely thought through or need more time is an important part of the process. — Vann R. Newkirk II, Class of 2020


Three Fellows were nominated for National Magazine Awards;  Vann R. Newkirk II, in the Podcasting category for three episodes of the Atlantic podcast, Floodlines, Katie Engelhart in the Feature Writing category for her piece in California Sunday Magazine. "What Happened in Room 10?", and Rachel Aviv in the Public Interest category for her piece in the New Yorker, "Punishment by Pandemic."

Katie Engelhart has also been named a finalist for the Livingston Award National Reporting for her piece in the California Sunday Magazine, “What Happened in Room 10?".

Joshua Yaffa's book, Between Two Fires, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in Political Writing. 

An excerpt from Clint Smith's fortchoming book, How the Word is Passed, was the cover for the June issue of the Atlantic. 

Nicholas Schmidle published Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut. The book has been reviewed in the New York Times, and was excerpted in GQ. 

Caleb Gayle wrote for the Atlantic about the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Okhlahoma as part of the "Inheritance Project". 

Yi-Ling Liu wrote for the New Yorker about China's "involuted" generation. 

Julia Ott was a guest on On Point discussing the capital gains tax. 

New America Events

The top 3 New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



When the Stars Begin to Fall: Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of America

Join the Fellow Program and the Political Reform Program for a conversation with Theodore R. Johnson, Class of 2017, about his new book with New America CEO, Anne-Marie Slaughter. Learn more


How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

Join the Fellows Program for a conversation with Clint Smith, Class of 2020, about his new book with Adam Harris, Class of 2021. Learn more


Learning at Home While Under-Connected

Join the Education Policy Program for a national forum to discuss new survey data and lessons for the next school year. Learn more

Reading this month

Begin Again is great for James Baldwin fans. 
— Suzy Hansen,
Class of 2020

Learn More

It's fascinating to be drawn back into the political and artistic conversations of mid-century. And it's much easier to read than I expected. 
— Daniel Bergner,
Class of 2021

Learn More

Because it's Pride month and Schulman's writing is clear and powerful.
— Chase Purdy,
Class of 2019

Learn More

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