“With Picking Up, Nagle joins the likes of Jane Jacobs and Jacob Riis, writers with the chutzpah to dig deep into the Rube Goldberg machine we call the Big Apple and emerge with a lyrical, clear-eyed look at how it works.”—Sydney Brownstone, Mother Jones “War correspondents routinely embed with military units, and it’s only appropriate that Robin Nagle embedded with the people who daily go to war against New York’s city’s unimaginably unending flow of trash. In gripping and often harrowing detail, Robin Nagle shows us the unbelievable amount of crap the Strongest go through (and put up with) to keep a city clean, navigable and safe, all times of year, especially winter. Thanks to Nagle, you will never think about snow the same way again.”—Robert Sullivan, author of Rats and My American Revolution“Gamely braving ‘indications of unwelcome,’ Nagle – bad-ass and brilliant--insinuates herself inside sanitation garages to decode the folkways of a vast, and essential, city bureaucracy. Scholarly and funny, Picking Up is an irresistible work of participatory journalism and cultural anthropology.”—Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land“Robin Nagle’s brilliant book does not simply teach us about a reviled occupation. It serves as an inspiration to open our eyes to the unnoticed and unmarked experiences of city life.”—Mitchell Duneier, author of Sidewalk“Picking Up eloquently conveys the human stories behind the dirty work of trash collection. With a literary sensibility, Robin Nagle gets inside the guts of one of the largest rubbish hauling systems in the world, and, in doing so, reveals the dignity of these filthy, at times demeaning, always brutal labors. This book will change how you think about the people who haul away your trash.”—Heather Rogers, author of Green Gone Wrong and Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage“Robin Nagle’s Picking Up brings a necessary ‘bottom-up’ approach to the chronic problems of collection and disposal of municipal waste. The very human quality of the book should remind us that sanitation workers are not faceless drones, but public servants taking on tasks that any of us would shun. Nagle shows us that solid waste service might be a mundane task, but without it we couldn’t even step out of our houses without a sensory and environmental assault. Picking Up is a fine corrective.”—Martin V. Melosi, author of The Sanitary City “Nagle worked as a garbage woman to better understand her subject, and that experience, combined with years of research, results in an intimate look at the mostly male work force as they risk injury and endure insult while doing the city’s dirty work. She also provides a fascinating capsule history of the department and the city’s 400-year relationship with waste.”—Publishers Weekly
Robin Nagle has been anthropologist-in-residence at New York City’s Department of Sanitation since 2006. She is a clinical associate professor of anthropology and urban studies at New York University, where she also directs the Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought.