I was about to leave my bookshop empty handed when I spotted a money title from an author not male, not middle-aged and not white: “We Need to Talk About Money” by Otegha Uwagba. A rare book indeed! So collectible I bought the pricey hardback. Having read it I have no regrets.
Like Bourdieu, Uwagba is “… concerned with the dynamics of power in society, especially the diverse and subtle ways in which power is transferred and social order is maintained within and across generations.” (wp) . But unlike Bourdieu’s, Uwagba’s perspective is “searingly personal”. Her elegant voice of self-reflective analysis is uniquely fresh and has been much praised by reviewers. Testing the boundaries of authenticity she does not shirk from uncomfortable truths about her own positioning, including the inescapable commodification of this authenticity adding up into improved (self-) capitalisation.
The autobiographical urgency of L. Shriver’s “We need to talk about Kevin” combines with an informative research essay on the (social) psychology of money in a manner slightly reminiscent of N. N. Taleb’s “Fooled by Randomness” . Some reviewers note that money seems to figure less than the title may suggest. Indeed the middle of this “money-moir” is focused on her college and work experiences of elitism, racism and sexism under real existing meritocracy: It’s all about power. And by bracketing power with money she reflects and illustrates the prime equation of the status quo : Money=Power.
This was probably my first book by a barely 30 year old for a long time. It’s accessible, interesting and intelligent. Highly recommended.
Just follow the money…
book and author
4thestate.co.uk “In this unforgettable blend of memoir and cultural commentary, Otegha Uwagba explores her own complicated relationship with money, and what her wide-ranging experiences say about the world around us. An extraordinarily candid personal account of the ups and downs wrought by money, We Need To Talk About Money is a vital exploration of stories and issues that will be familiar to most. This is a book about toxic workplaces and misogynist men, about getting payrises and getting evicted. About class and privilege and racism and beauty. About shame and pride, compulsion and fear. In unpicking the shroud of secrecy surrounding money – who has it, how they got it, and how it shapes our lives – this boldly honest account of one woman’s journey upturns countless social conventions, and uncovers some startling truths about our complex relationships with money in the process.”
waterstones.com “The author of the acclaimed Whites turns her attention to the complex and pernicious world of money – and all the consequences of either having or not having it – through a deft blend of candid memoir and stark socio-political commentary. In this unforgettable blend of memoir and cultural commentary, Otegha Uwagba explores her own complicated relationship with money, and what her wide-ranging experiences say about the world around us. An extraordinarily candid personal account of the ups and downs wrought by money, We Need To Talk About Money is a vital exploration of stories and issues that will be familiar to most. This is a book about toxic workplaces and misogynist men, about getting payrises and getting evicted. About class and privilege and racism and beauty. About shame and pride, compulsion and fear. In unpicking the shroud of secrecy surrounding money – who has it, how they got it, and how it shapes our lives – this boldly honest account of one woman’s journey upturns countless social conventions, and uncovers some startling truths about our complex relationships with money in the process.”
- ‘A beautiful, searingly personal account of a world defined by money, full of courage and truth telling’ – Owen Jones
- ‘In this compelling book, Otegha confronts the British aversion to discussing money and in doing so reveals she is one of the most original and talented young writers we have’ – Sathnam Sanghera
- ‘A brilliant book that moved, amused, challenged and made me re-evaluate my own relationship with money. Otegha Uwagba writes with real intelligence and insight about the things many of us suspect but leave unsaid. A must-read’ – Elizabeth Day
- ‘This brilliant book has made me re-evaluate my money privileges, past and present. A must-read for anyone who thinks their money is just their monthly cash flow’ – Raven Smith
- ‘A riveting, confronting memoir – as beautifully written as it is provocative and thoughtful’ – Pandora Sykes
- ‘Refreshingly honest – Otegha captures the creeping realisation in your twenties that your feelings about what you earn defines so much, from self-image to who we date, who we are friends with to what we will – or won’t – put up with at the office’ – Laura Whateley
- ‘Personal but universal, Uwagba’s story of navigating university and the world of work while dealing with the pressures of class, lack of privilege and misogyny, is illuminating, eye-opening and reassuring’ – The Bookseller
- 4thestate media reviews “One of the most original and talented young writers we have”
- amazon.co.uk reviews and free sample “interesting reflection on class, but this jars with the capitalist vision of success that she seems to hold throughout”
- citygirlnetwork.com/ “anyone with an interest in feminism, culture, and society: this is a book that we need to talk about”
- goodreads.com/ “I found the multiple passages deriding the kardashians to be low hanging fruit”
- graziadaily.co.uk/ “it’s about structural issues that make it so much harder now to become financially secure”
- itsnicethat.com/ “refreshingly honest book about the taboo and yet universal subject of money”
- thebookbag.co.uk/ “one of the most frightening books I’ve read this year and certainly one of the best”
- theskinny.co.uk/ “a relatable, recognisable and brave step towards dismantling the barriers surrounding money”
- waterstones media reviews “great combination of biographic writing and social commentary”
selected review by Megan Staunton
“As a topic, is money the last taboo amongst family, amongst friends? Otegha’s money-moir shares how her relationship with money was formed, has changed, and currently stands. From how her parents would talk Yoruba allowing them to have a private conversation about finances, to the message Otegha absorbed growing up, that money was “something to be wrangled, to be twisted and stretched into place”.
Otegha interrogates the societal constructs and complexities of class, race, privilege and status through not only her critical, self-reflection on her own relationship to money, but also examines a socio-political landscape that thrives on us spending over saving. From exposing conversations with friends who have massaged the truth that they don’t have a mortgage due to family money, to discussing the taxing cost of beauty and the brutality of renting lining someone else’s pocket that takes away any prospect of your future retirement fund. A section that screamed at me with its erudite audacity was Otegha’s musing on how we warrant holidays as time off from the daily grind, rationalising them as a necessary investment in our ability to resume productive work upon our return, which as Otegha states, says a lot about how modern capitalism has colonised even the concept of leisure as being in service of revenue generation.
Savvy, smart and a PSA in my opinion #WeNeedToTalkAboutMoney read like a conversation with a friend who doesn’t judge; instead wants to help you understand more.”
goodhousekeeping.com 7/2021 My life in money: Otegha Uwagba The author and journalist shares her financial struggles and successes.
cherwell.org 6/2021 In Conversation with Otegha Uwagba – Sasha Mills speaks to author Otegha Uwagba about navigating the creative industries, her time at Oxford, and her brand new book ‘We Need to Talk About Money’.
podchaser.com/podcasts/ 8/2021 A culture and ideas podcast covering everything from work and feminism, to race and money, hosted by bestselling author Otegha Uwagba, and featuring interviews with some of the most exciting cultural voices of the moment.
video, articles by Otega Uwagba
theguardian.com 6/2021/ ‘I burst into tears. Then went back to my desk’: when dream jobs become nightmares
vogue.co.uk 7/2021 I Spent The Entirety Of My Twenties Being Cautious With Money. Was It Really Worth It? – Galvanised by the financial crash of 2008, Otegha Uwagba dedicated her twenties to saving money. But, she reflects, at what cost to her happiness? Illustration by Michele Marconi
BY Othega Uwagba
Birmingham Literature Festival Sat Oct 2021
relevant articles updated 10/2021
businessinsider.com 10/2021 Wealthy teens are ruining thrifting for the rest of Gen Z Hillary Hoffower
theguardian.com 9/2021 The economy has shafted millennials: now it wants their offspring too – Yes, we know you can’t afford to have children. But if the economy tanks because of the low birthrate, you’ll be to blame – Joel Golby
newstatesman.com/ 6/2021 How “millennial money management“ sells young people the illusion of financial control – From money diaries to social media tips, finance content aimed at millennials is booming. But what’s the use of a money guide when you have no money at all? By Sarah Manavis
porterhousereview.org 12/2020 We need to talk about money -The centuries-long practice of institutional racism in our country means that the vast majority of generational wealth is held by white families, and it is overwhelmingly people from these families that are pursuing degrees in Creative Writing. by Eddie Mathis
goodhousekeeping.com 3/2021 My life in money: Emilie Bellet – The Vestpod founder and author shares her financial struggles and successes.
gm.pdf.Wiley.PoliticalQuarterly 2020 Introduction: Meritocracy in Perspective. The Rise of the Meritocracy 60 Years On – by David Civil and Joseph J. Himsworth
Abstract: Sixty years after its publication, Michael Young’s The Rise of the Meritocracy remains one of the most important texts for understanding the changing intellectual politics of postwar Britain. Young’s fictional vision of a meritocratic society explores the consequences of a society where each citizen is judged according to the formula ‘I.Q. + Effort = Merit’. The successful meritocrats hoard ever-greater rewards for themselves, crystallising into a rigid and repressive elite who rule over an increasingly powerless and depressed underclass. While the concept has evolved and adapted, the language of meritocracy is one of the great survivors of postwar British politics. In an age characterised by the rise of populist leaders and movements, as well as a backlash against educated ‘liberal elites’, revisiting, reinterpreting and reevaluating Young’s influential satire and the central place the concept of meritocracy occupies in the history of postwar Britain has never been more important.
Keywords: meritocracy, postwar Britain, inequality, populism, New Labour, Michael Young
blogs.lse.ac.uk 3/2020 Book Review: The Meritocracy Trap by Daniel Markovits by Phil Bell
…”Markovits’s The Meritocracy Trap is a radical critique of this logic and the institutions it has created. Meritocracy is seen by many as fair but, according to Markovits, it is more than counterproductive. Indeed, ‘meritocracy has become the single greatest obstacle to equal opportunities in America today.’ The Meritocracy Trap is based on the author’s long-time personal experience of meritocracy as a Professor at Yale Law School …”…
lareviewofbooks.org 2020 The Merit Machine – Review of The Meritocracy Trap – By George Alliger
…”Broad-based and thoroughgoing merit systems may be relatively modern, but they tap into age-old impulses to enhance fairness in outcomes and success in endeavors. Merit, however, has a dark side — and this dark side is profoundly illuminated by Daniel Markovits in his new book, The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite. A professor of law at Yale University, Markovits has studied his professional world closely — one that stretches from college applicant to student to job holder — and what he finds is a disturbing picture of merit gone rather berserk. …
Markovits’s description of the meritocratic machine is quite believable, and it casts an intriguing light on our current inequalities. These inequalities include, of course, income and wealth, longevity and health, hours worked, job security, and the division of jobs into glossy and gloomy — the last catalyzed by technology, as Markovits and others have recognized. In response, the author provides a two-pronged prescription for addressing the destructive nature of the meritocracy: education reform to reenable social mobility and tax reform to support middle-class labor.
As might be expected from a law professor, Markovits’s book reads like a powerful brief, but one addressed to the lay reader. His writing is elegant, imaginative, and compelling. Intriguingly, his harsh depiction of both glossy and gloomy jobs jibes with the “anti-work” theorists who argue that, under capitalism, all forms of work entail serious self-loss. As Frédéric Lordon muses (in Gabriel Ash’s translation) in his 2010 book Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza and Marx on Desire (Capitalisme, désir et servitude: Marx et Spinoza), “[I]t is ultimately quite strange that people should so ‘accept’ to occupy themselves in the service of a desire that was not originally their own.” This precise point is made by Markovits, though in different terms: for him, the trap is the meritocracy itself, while for sociologist Lordon, it is the grinding presence of the “bossing relations” everywhere present in capitalist society.”…
ft.com 16/10/2021 The Pinterest whistleblower leading the charge against NDAs – After breaking a contract by speaking out on discrimination, Ifeoma Ozoma penned a law to help others do the same
Matthew Effect – inequality