Quiet Street: On American Privilege (Hardcover)
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A bold and deeply personal exploration of wealth, power, and the American elite, exposing how the ruling class—intentionally or not—perpetuates cycles of injustice
"[A] story about American inequity, and how it mindlessly, immorally, reproduces itself. Unlike most such stories, however, this one left me believing in the possibility...of drastic change." —Maggie Nelson, author of On Freedom
Nick McDonell grew up on New York City’s Upper East Side, a neighborhood defined by its wealth and influence. As a child, McDonell enjoyed everything that rarefied world entailed—sailing lessons in the Hamptons, school galas at the Met, and holiday trips on private jets. But as an adult, he left it behind to become a foreign correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Quiet Street, McDonell returns to the sidewalks of his youth, exhuming with bracing honesty his upbringing and those of his affluent peers. From Galápagos Island cruises and Tanzanian safaris to steely handshakes and schoolyard microaggressions to fox-hunting rituals and the courtship rites of sexually precocious tweens, McDonell examines the rearing of the ruling class in scalpel-sharp detail, documenting how wealth and power are hoarded, encoded, and passed down from one generation to the next. What’s more, he demonstrates how outsiders—the poor, the nonwhite, the suburban—are kept out.
Searing and precise yet ultimately full of compassion, Quiet Street examines the problem of America’s one percent, whose vision of a more just world never materializes. Who are these people? How do they cling to power? What would it take for them to share it? Quiet Street looks for answers in a universal experience: coming to terms with the culture that made you.
About the Author
NICK McDONELL is the author of the novels Twelve, The Third Brother, An Expensive Education, and The Council of Animals, as well as a work of political theory, The Civilization of Perpetual Movement, and four books of reportage on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including The Bodies in Person. He has contributed reporting and essays to Harper’s Magazine, London Review of Books, Libération, The Paris Review, newyorker.com, and TIME, among other publications. His work has been published in twenty-three countries and appeared on best-seller lists around the world.
"An elegant confessional of the excesses of the ruling classes — told in a kind of travelogue through sybaritic circles of hell....the lessons are as familiar as Croesus and Gatsby."
"Rich (pun half-intended) with anecdotal details from a life spent between the Upper East Side, the Hamptons, and all the other playgrounds of the wealthy, McDonell has done what for many in his orbit would have found unthinkable: He says the quiet part loud."
—New York Magazine
"Meticulous...[in] McDonell’s somewhat ironically titled book...it quickly becomes apparent that there’s nothing quiet about the one percent’s deceptively cordial appearance."
—Chicago Review of Books
"Unsparing...Honest...I'm meant to be titillated, and I am."
"In delicate, persuasive, and beautiful prose, McDonell blows the notion of meritocracy sky-high"
"Quiet Street is an exquisitely rendered horror story about American inequity, and how it mindlessly, immorally, reproduces itself. Unlike most such stories, however, this one left me believing in the possibility (and necessity) of drastic change. Nick McDonell writes with a scalpel in one hand, and in the other, a bushel of grace."
—Maggie Nelson, author of On Freedom
“When Nick McDonell published his first novel at seventeen—three years after I’d published mine at forty-four—I was impressed by the book as well as the WTF precocity. Now, he’s almost as old as I was then, and he’s put out about as many books as I have. This one is a bracingly frank, clear-eyed chronicle of his ultra-privileged golden youth in The Bubble, as he calls it, and his ongoing search for how he ought to use or forego some of that privilege now. If everyone this fortunate examined their lives this thoughtfully, the world would be better off.”
—Kurt Andersen, author of Evil Geniuses
"An earnest and piercing examination of the mindset of the upper class"
“Friendships with Upper East Side elites, attendance at prestigious schools like Buckley, Harvard, and Oxford, and travel to exotic locations . . . as McDonell illuminates a rarified world of money, power, and connections, he also offers candidly sobering insight into the systemic cultural mechanisms designed to protect long-standing social inequalities. An eloquent and compelling study.”