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?
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.
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.