Nomi Prins on 'Black Tuesday' and Occupy Wall Street
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When Nomi Prins bursts into the room, you feel enormous energy and the fresh air of freedom. When her feisty spirit runs up against injustice, you immediately feel the power of her outrage. And these days, like the rest of us, her outrage is directed against Wall Street, a place she knows all too well, having worked for over a decade in global investment banking, including as a managing director at Goldman Sachs, before quitting to make a more honest living.
In her 2009 book, It Takes a Pillage, Nomi Prins skewered the Wall Street practices that took down our economy. Unlike so many unfocused accounts, she helped us understand that Wall Street, and no one else, caused the crash and continues to cripple our economy.
But in her new work of fiction, Black Tuesday, Prins chooses a different mode of expression to deepen her critique. She dives into the eternal verities – love, power and money -- to build the core of the story. She chooses the 1929 stock market crash as a backdrop to an improbable romance between a Wall Street banker and a Russian-Jewish immigrant young woman, who, like Prins, is bursting with talent and courage. As Prins moves us from the Lower East Side to Park Avenue and back again, we feel the tensions of class and the ways our humanity can break through them. But these are not cardboard characters. Nor is this novel a rerun of agit-prop novels from the 1930s. Rather, the characters are alive with contradictions, weaknesses and valor. I’m not going to give away the plot, but rest assured, there are plenty of thrilling twists that will prevent you from putting the book down.
Just as she pointed out that the CDO and credit derivatives markets were time bombs in her first book, Other People’s Money, and argued for Glass-Steagall to prevent the combination of bank speculation with commercial activities, she appears equally prescient now. When Prins starting writing Black Tuesday, nothing much was happening in terms of taming Wall Street. It was business as usual for the elites who were again raking in billions. Meanwhile the nation was arguing about what we should sacrifice in order to pay for the gigantic debts created by the Wall Street crash.
Politically, the country seemed to be suffering form financial Alzheimer’s as we forgot about how the Wall Street casino caused both our mass unemployment and our debt problems. Yet, as Black Tuesday is published, all hell breaks out in the streets as Occupy Wall Street takes off. It’s a perfect match. More importantly, the book lends crucial spiritual support to the occupying young folks who know something is rotten in finance and refuse to buy mealymouthed political excuses for doing nothing about it.
At its core, Black Tuesday is about the 99 percent of us who get screwed by the big boys, and about the kind of courage it will take to reclaim our country and our own humanity. Prins doesn’t give us any elaborate blueprints or phony cheerleading. Rather she conveys the essence of what she has to give – the spirit of defiance. The people who are currently lighting the fires of resistance will love reading about another time and place where a similar outrage took place and about how leadership set a new course.
AlterNet caught up with Prins to hear what she has to say about her novel and what’s happening in the streets:
Les Leopold: It seems amazing that Black Tuesday is coming out just as Occupy Wall Street is emerging. Is there any connection between your novel and what's happening on the streets right now?