Book Review: I Don’t Want to Die Poor


I bought this book after watching Michael Arceneaux speak at an online event hosted by Midtown Scholar Bookstore. The event link is below.

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/i-dont-want-to-die-poor

This is Houston native Arceneaux’s second book. His first, I Can’t Date Jesus, explored growing up gay in the south among other topics.

This book deals a great deal with student debt. While the exact number is never mentioned, the author hints that it includes six digits and describes in great detail the never ending grind of the payments ($800-1000 a month) and the phone calls from debt collectors at all hours of the day.

He is also forced to constantly justify his career choices. While a talented writer, many, perhaps well-meaning, friends ask him to consider a more lucrative career as a means out of the situation.

Arceneaux stresses in the book and again in the discussion at Midtown that this is a larger issue than one person. Minority and working class students increasingly turn to college as a means of climbing the social ladder only to see themselves saddled with debt that may never cease. The author’s mother also cosigned some of his loans, so the phone calls she receives from debt collectors weigh especially heavy on him. “I worry that ultimately, this experience has been just another way of me disappointing you,” he notes in what I think was the most moving chapter, Mama’s Boy.

This is actually the lightest of the three books I’m reading now in this heavy time. It was interesting to walk in entirely different set of shoes for a weekend.