The Work of Living: Working People Talk about their Lives and the Year the World Broke
As COVID-19 swept across the globe with merciless force, it was working people who kept the world from falling apart. Deemed “essential” by a system that has shown just how much it needs our labor but has no concern for our lives, workers sacrificed—and many were sacrificed—to keep us fed, to keep our shelves stocked, to keep our hospitals and transit running, to care for our loved ones, and so much more. But when we look back at this particular moment, when we try to write these days into history for ourselves and for future generations, whose voices will go on the record? Whose stories will be remembered?
In late 2020 and early 2021, at what was then the height of the pandemic, Maximillian Alvarez conducted a series of intimate interviews with workers of all stripes, from all around the US—from Kyle, a sheet metal worker in Kentucky; to Mx. Pucks, a burlesque performer and producer in Seattle; to Nick, a gravedigger in New Jersey. As he does in his widely celebrated podcast, Working People, Alvarez spoke with them about their lives, their work, and their experiences living through a year when the world itself seemed to break apart. Those conversations, documented in these pages, are at times meandering, sometimes funny or philosophical, occasionally punctured by pain so deep that it hurts to read them.
Filled with stories of struggle and strength, fear and loss, love and rage, The Work of Living is a deeply human history of one of the defining events of the 21st century told by the people who lived it.