My literature professor this semester deserves a standing ovation for the collection of books she has had/is having us read.  I read my last recommendation for this course (20th Century American Women and the American Dream), and here comes another one.

Arrogant Beggar by Anzia Yezierska is a relatively quick read that explores ideas and emotions vital for anyone who works in a charitable setting to understand.  More than that, it gives an important picture of ethnic and religious relationships of young women in the post World War I working class, and shows how those factors effected their professional and social development.

What I most enjoyed about this novel is how applicable it is to modern class interactions.  While some might argue that societal classes are less defined now (and some may argue the opposite) there is no doubt that charity is often seen as something done to make the giver feel good.  The implied pity in this reasoning is demeaning and self-righteous selflessness doesn’t allow for the receiver to maintain their pride.

This novel emphasizes over and over that help should be offered in a setting where the giver and receiver remain equals throughout the entire process.

Arrogant Beggar is one of the few books that I would suggest to almost anyone.  However, I most recommend it for those who have ever needed to ask for help or those who have ever given it.

If you can’t find this novel at your local bookstore (which I recommend trying after seeing the price on Amazon), you can buy it here.


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