Michael Arceneaux explores the ’emotional weight’ of student loan debt

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David Wilson for the Boston Globe

Michael Arceneaux’s first book, “I Can’t Date Jesus,” spoke of identity in terms of religion, race, and sexuality; the book is open, honest, raw – and often very funny. Yet writing his second book made him more vulnerable. In “I Don’t Want to Die Poor,” Arceneaux writes about life with crushing student loan debt.

“This book is for me much more intimate than anything that was in my first one. You can talk about sex and pleasure, ”Arceneaux said,“ but money impacts every facet of your life. “

Having precarious finances isn’t just about the numbers, “it’s an emotional burden you carry,” he added. “That’s how much it hurts me as a grown-up to go through all of this and still struggle. Do whatever you were told to do and feel like: what was it for? We have the impression of always being in quicksand.

Our country revere wealth but make it nearly impossible to achieve, especially for the millennial generation born under President Ronald Reagan, who are coming of age in not one but two major economic crises. “I’m so sick of the millennial stories,” Arceneaux said, whether it’s his generation blamed for the deaths of restaurant chains or praised for paying off debts through fundraising. Stories like these never really deal with what it feels like to struggle despite a college degree or even a book on the bestseller list.

“Much of the 2016 election was about economic anxiety in quotes, but I never hear about economic anxiety from people like me,” he said.

For Arceneaux, who lives alone in Harlem, the current situation only exacerbates the inequalities with which we already live. “It’s a moment of introspection,” he said. “A lot of the people I try to reach are the ones who suffer the most. “


Kate Tuttle, writer and freelance critic, can be reached at [email protected]

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