Heather Ryan has a great essay in Salon this week about taking her kids to a soup kitchen. Ryan is a writer with a master’s degree and three children. She’s also broke and divorced. She doesn’t ask for pity, or wallow in purple descriptions of her shame and desperation. She just explains how it sucks to not be able to afford food for her family. She also admits her desire to spoil herself with little treats-like a $3 wedge of brie-to remind herself that she deserves better. As Jezebel points out, some Salon commenters fail to empathize with Ryan. They accuse her of choosing her writing career over her kids’ well-being and chastise her for splurging on that French cheese.
Jezebel says: Should only the wealthy and their offspring be allowed to make art because they can afford to? I think we’ll be missing out on a lot of exceptional writing if that’s the case.
Ryan’s essay itself is a good example of why we should encourage non-married, non-rich writers to take a risk or two. How often do we here first-hand accounts of what it’s like to struggle with money? Barbara Ehrenreich is awesome, but she’s just one example.
I think I come from a similar background to Ryan, or her kids. I grew up without much money, but always knew I deserved better. I endured the horrifying embarrassment of walking to the front of class to get my purple ticket for a free lunch. And I never went along on the trips to collect government cheese from some skeevy food pantry. I was horrified whenever we had to pay for groceries with food stamps. Still, my dad made me eat brie and sushi and I think that probably had something to do with my own, perhaps ill-advised, decision to go into the very lucrative field of journalism.