Read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich Online


Reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity--a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival.Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised thaReveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity--a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival.Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6-$7 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the "lowliest" occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity--a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Instantly acclaimed for its insight, humor, and passion, this book is changing the way America perceives its working poor....

Title : Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
Author :
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ISBN : 9780805063899
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America Reviews

  • Carrie
    2018-12-24 08:31

    Dear Barbara Ehrenreich, How do I resent thee? Let me count the ways:1. You are a wealthy, highly educated person who went on a half-assed, anthropological slumming vacation.2. When said vacation was over, you told your coworkers: "Surprise! I'm not a poor person after all! I'm going back now to my comfortable life!"...and then you were surprised that those coworkers were mostly worried about the fact that they'd have to work the next shift with one less person.3. You also were surprised that the aforementioned coworkers were neither impressed nor appreciative that you turned out to be a wealthy, highly educated person writing a book about how hard it is to be a poor person. 4. You were slightly offended that nobody saw through your waitress costume; you assumed that smart people are visually recognizable, and it didn't seem to occur to you that real poor people might also be smart and educated.5. The experiences you had while pretending to be a poor person may have instilled in you some amount of sympathy for poor people, but you will never really know what it's actually like to be poor. It was certainly nice enough of you to decide that you shouldn't judge a class of people until you'd walked a mile in their shoes...but you only managed to walk about three paces before your feet hurt and you decided you had seen enough. A real poor person does not have a couple grand to "start" with, or to stay afloat between jobs, after finding his or her working conditions intolerable and suddenly quitting. Nor does a real poor person, when he or she develops some nasty rash from said intolerable working conditions, have a private doctor who will phone in a prescription for soothing ointment. Since a poor person does not have access to said doctor, he or she has to just suck it up and go to work itchy.I'm glad that this book might bring some much-needed insight to middle-and-upper-class people to whom it had never before occurred that it's actually really shitty to make minimum wage, that people working shitty service jobs have bad attitudes for very good reasons, that a person can work very hard and still be very poor, and that there are myriad external obstacles that keep poor people from pulling themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps.What I am NOT glad about is that this could have been an excellent, enlightening book about the less abstract aspects of our country's economic structure...but it was not. Instead, it was just a nauseatingly narcissistic exploration of the author's personality. What many people seem not to understand is (among other things) that there is not only one kind of poor person (or only one kind of "working class" person), that poverty is not just a condition, but a cycle, and that contemporary poverty is not some ahistorical thing that just recently appeared when people started having poor money-management skills and learned how to make crack. Contemporary poverty is a result of Capitalism, but one doesn't have to be a commie liberal to know that.Sure, there are many poor people who are crack addicts. There are also many, many rich people who are coke addicts. I'm sure that if poor people could afford real cocaine, they would buy that instead of crack, but alas, good cocaine is too expensive for poor drug addicts who make bad decisions. People who are not poor make many of the same decisions that poor people do (like acquiring a drug habit, or having children, or quitting a job). One big difference is that people with enough money can afford to make bad decisions. Another big difference is that your life feels a hell of a lot different when you don't have an easy out. Maybe working as a waitress is kind of fun and interesting and not too stressful if you know you'll only be doing it until you get bored. It's another thing entirely when your only other real, long term option seems to be some other kind of awful service job, and when you know that this is your life, not a break from your "real" job and "real" life. When you feel tired and desperate and angry and resigned all the time, when every day you perform the emotional and physical labor of serving people who treat you like shit and pay you practically nothing, how are you supposed to gather enough energy and hope to seek out a better life? You probably can't. Instead, you probably are going to buy some beer or weed and enjoy the few moments of your life that you can. Maybe that's a "bad decision"...or maybe it's just a survival strategy.

  • Missy
    2019-01-17 12:37

    (warning, a nerve has been touched!)I have experience working with and researching programs that aid the poor and working poor. I hated this book. The only role it could play is as a weak talking piece for starting up serious discussion about the struggles and needs of the poor.Barbara Ehrenreich may have stepped outside her comfort zone and into the world of the working poor, but she did it with an educated background, with money "just in case", with a pompous attitude, and with the requirement of a car at all times.She also did it without many barriers that are very real to the working poor: -a child or children-childcare costs-low IQ or other learning disabilities-an alcohol or drug addiction-an abusive partner-lack of transportation-English as a second language-bad credit-felony convictions-health disparities-no high school diploma or GED-experience as an orphan or in the foster care system-homelessness-no positive support system (like her husband and editor)-depression, PTSD, schizophremia or other mental illness-lack of drive or self-worth, hopelessness-angst for "the system"-lack of basic computer skills-lack of interpersonal skills-lack of personal hygiene or simple lack of clean clothingI live in Minneapolis, where she lived when the experiment ended. In the book she says she was struggling to find housing, but she was postive that she would find it. Fantastic! I hope the housing she would of found had heat paid, because heating costs will break even a middle-class budget when the weather drops well below zero.

  • Cait
    2019-01-13 09:36

    The two sentence summary of this book is: PhD and respected writer decides to find out how the other two-thirds live. To this end she goes undercover as an unskilled laborer at three minimum wage jobs (waitress, Wal-mart employee and Merry-Maid) each in a different city, each for one month.Things I liked:The premise. Things I hated:1. Her shocked tone of discovery. Newsflash! Living on minimum wage is hard/nigh on impossible! Educated people have it pretty easy comparatively! Entry level minimum wage work is kind of demeaning!2. Her colonial-anthropologist-among-the-natives style that came across (to me) as super patronizing. Don't these people understand that easy office jobs are just on the other side of a college degree? Don't they understand history enough to fight for unions?3. Her total shock that no one found her out as an educated person! Working in a diner in the next town over, she was never recognized! Shock!4. This mostly just lost her style points, but she made a point to always have a working car (it wasn't HER car, but she rented a working car in every city she went to) and had a thousand (two thousand?) dollars of start-up capital to pay first and last months rent and eat while waiting for a job. I think her cover story (which again, she was hurt when no one asked for/cared about) was that she was a newly divorced former stay at home wife, on her own for the first time- so I guess it's conceivable she would have had a little cushion- but I would have found it much more interesting if she'd actually committed to the premise a little more. Especially because she was there such a short time. I know that working minimum wage jobs isn't fun, but couldn't you commit to more than a month? What do you find out in a month?5. This is really the one that gets me- at the end of her time with the Merry Maids she "comes out" to her co-workers, telling them that really, she's a PhD! And writing a book! The main response is "So you won't be here to cover your shift tomorrow." Once again she is shocked and hurt! But man, if there was ever a teaching moment, she's been working with these women at back-breaking, soul sucking work for no pay and she's surprised that they're worried about how they're going to get though the next day? AGH.(And also, WTF was she spending money on? I'm also a single healthy person with no debt or dependents and a working car, and I spend less than a thousand dollars a month sustaining my life style. I don't think I live THAT cheaply.)It just seemed like she was writing from this privileged bubble of white upper-crust academia that I didn't know existed. She was presenting as astonishing findings what I assume to be facts of life for a majority of people.So. That is why I didn't like this book. My mom, on the other hand, who has actually worked as a waitress to support herself, loved it.

  • Nandi Crawford
    2019-01-04 10:17

    I'm going to step on some toes here and I apologize if I do. I AM one of the working poor that she talks about here and I DO believe in pulling myself up and making a better life for myself. But what I want to know is this. Unless you have been where I am, how can you comment? How can you also call her a bleeding heart? Is this a country for the haves only? And the have nots just have not? uhh uhh, I just don't understand. We got an election coming up and some folks are fussing about this country even entertaining about health care for EVERY American. So let me ask again, this country is not for the free and brave but for those who just have it? Personally, I found the book factual to a point. On what I make, unless the housing is subsidized, I cannot live there. plain and simple. does that make me proud to say? no, just realistic. You cannot make a living, pay bills and rent and eat on less than $1500 a month much less $1000, unless you really got a little someone to help you here. Her staying in a place didn't seem that realistic to me, although she did make some allowances. but then she had to because after all, you just cannot do it on a minimum wage salary unless you have a roomie or man or both. I have read in Donald Trump and Robert Kiyoski's book that the middle class in this country is shrinking and that we as a people should either stay poor, and that is food for serious thought.FOOTNOTE:I thank each of you whether you were with me or not in this review. that is ok. I never got this MUCH reviews on a book that is interesting to say the least. I am still getting by in this country but Lord knows I am working hard to get away from it. thanks again.

  • Laurie Anderson
    2019-01-05 13:33

    This book seriously pissed me off. Normally I don't write reviews for books that I loathe, but I'm making an exception for this one. It has enjoyed tremendous popularity, and thus has misinformed a whole lot of people.In the late 1990s, the author (I've enjoyed some of her other books) decided to explore the challenges of low-wage American workers by pretending to live and work like one of them in three areas of the country. She gave herself a small amount of cash at the start of each journey, as well as a car. (Her own car in the first city, a Rent-A-Wreck in the other two.) She decided that if she ran out of money & couldn't pay for shelter, she would declare the experiment a failure and go home, rather than try to live and work as a homeless person, as so many are forced to do. She always had access to health care and used it once when plagued by a maddening rash. She found jobs as a waitress, house cleaner, nursing home aide, Wal-Mart employee, and hotel maid, found an efficiency, apartment, or other place to live, and set about trying to make a living.In other words, she went slumming, wrote a shallow book about it, and made the bestseller list.I think this book is voyeuristic poverty porn.It's also an insult to the millions of people she thought she was trying to portray with compassion and understanding. And while many readers and reviews found the book to be an eye-opening experience ("full of riveting grit" -Newsweek), I feel she failed those readers, as well as the people she was working with. She barely scratched the surface of the lives of the poor.First of all, she should have stayed in one place and dug deeply, instead of skimming along the surface for a few weeks and then moving on. If she had done that, she would have had a much better opportunity to get to know the people she was writing about. People struggling in poverty are part of a community. Understanding the strengths and challenges of that community is critical to understanding their world. Getting to know people enough to (with their permission) explore the generational cycles of poverty would have required more time and commitment from her, too. It would made for a truly groundbreaking book, instead of an over-padded magazine assignment.Second, she should have risen to the challenge to not have a car. That is an incredible, rare luxury for people earning minimum wage and it distorted her experiment. Third, she should have sucked it up and gone to the emergency room with that rash if it was so bad. Instead, she took advantage of her privilege and missed the opportunity to explore in-depth how health issues and lack of insurance (not to mention malnutrition) help trap people in poverty.And she never examined the challenges faced by families trying to get their kids educated in school systems that are disgracefully underfunded by property taxes and have been abandoned by politicians.There's more, of course, but I've got to get my blood pressure down or I'll never go to sleep. Thanks for reading through this rant.PS - For the record, I spent several large hunks of my life living in poor, rural areas, saw my parents go hungry to feed us, suffered through having electricity, heat, and phone service shut off, and experienced years of housing uncertainty when I was a kid. I have close relatives who still live in the world this books claims to portray. That's probably where my rage comes from.

  • Renee
    2019-01-10 15:36

    Here's a down and dirty assessment of Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich:First the positive:- Interesting premise: writer decides to try to live on the wages that unskilled workers (waitresses, home/hotel cleaners, department store [Walmart, for instance] clerks) earn to see if she can do it and see if she learns anything in the process.- She exposes some very unethical (even illegal) employer practices such as withholding a worker’s first paycheck until the second pay period.- She notes some of the problems experienced by low-wage workers that aren’t (or may not be) experienced at higher levels of employment (e.g., lack of healthcare benefits, being unable to live in an apartment because of cost-prohibitive security deposits, almost universal drug testing as prerequisite to employment, etc.)- Funny anecdotes about her experiences on “the other side.”- She appears to have done some outside research besides her own experiences and observations.Then the negative:- The reader recognizes immediately that this writer is a liberal, specifically a bleeding-heart socialist. To those of us on the right, this is a red flag: we know what in the end she’ll advocate. Besides, the dreck that comes from that ideology is just annoying.- She makes comments about the nurturing aspects of smoking that I find vomit-worthy. Part of the whole getting-out-of-poverty thing is making some good choices – continuing an expensive nicotine habit isn’t one of them. Ms. Ehrenreich breezes past this obvious expense and instead philosophizes about it. Gaack.- Ditto for children. I never buy the whole thing that poor people can’t (read: don’t have the brain-power or self-control to) limit their reproduction. Children are expensive and in having them (in a marriage or not) without thought to all the costs associated with merely keeping them alive, not to mention THEIR future, people are essentially dooming them to the same life and poverty that they currently experience. I mean, if you as a parent don’t have reliable healthcare it’s one thing, but your kids will definitely need it – so why are you jeopardizing their health? Oh, yeah – Medicaid.- She has a permissive attitude toward drug use – and even admits to “an indiscretion” of that sort during her experiment. She buys and uses products that mask or flush evidence of the drug use. That whole business is not going to lend credibility to your whole argument – whatever the argument is. And drugs are an expense. - She always has a car (“rent-a-wreck” in her words) during her experiment. Expense. Now, some of the locations she works do demand personal transportation, but she purposely steers clear of big cities with public transportation. Hmm.- She never tries to coordinate/share living arrangements and pool resources. After all, she DOES have her limits in this experiment!- The biggest problem with her experiment is that it is just an experiment – she can return to her comfy upper middle class life, while demanding that the government do something about the minimum wage and poverty.Yeah, I could go on, but you get the general picture. I would give this read a C+ - readable, but there are some reservations.

  • Carmen
    2019-01-17 12:27

    Ehrenreich, a woman who has a Ph.D., goes "undercover" working low-paying jobs to see if one can earn a living with such work in America.One can't.She tries to make ends meet on the following jobs: waitressing, hotel housekeeping, Maid Service, nursing-home attendant, and Wal-Mart employee, often working two jobs at a time.This shocking exposé reveals the horrific conditions that the "working poor" toil under. Well, at least they're shocking to someone who's never had to struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table.There's always this niggling knowledge that Ehrenreich can pick up and leave at any time - that this is still an experiment to her. Of course, people who work two minimum-wage jobs and live out of their car do not have this luxury. However, I feel like Ehrenreich realizes this and is respectful of it, not that she's looking down on the poor or "slumming it." There's no way, for example, to pretend to be a waitress: the food either gets to the table or not. People know me as a waitress, a cleaning person, a nursing home aide, or a retail clerk not because I acted like one but because that's what I was, at least for the time I was with them.This book could be brutal and very depressing. Luckily for the reader, Ehrenreich has a wonderful sense of humor that she employs to great effect - and this takes some of the edge off of the horrible things she is relating.There were some folks - mainly managers and bosses - who I wanted to punch in the face after reading this. It's obscene what some corporations get away with and how greatly they take advantage of and exploit their workers.Of course, people in third-world countries probably think the life Ehrenreich is describing is 'easy living.' So it's all relative, I guess.Ehrenreich frequently employed fantasies and daydreams to get her through the hell of her daily life during this time period. For example, when she was a waitress: Sometimes I play with the fantasy that I am a princess who, in penance for some tiny transgression, has undertaken to feed each of her subjects by hand. Or when she is a maid, she thinks about some rich people who pay to go to monasteries and do labor to 'cleanse their soul.'But she almost breaks when she sees people in real, human suffering around her, and realizes she is helpless to do anything to ease their suffering. One of the most crushing scenes in the book is when a teammate maid that she works with breaks her ankle on the job and just keeps cleaning, hobbling around the house and refusing to go to the hospital because she can't afford not to work. It's heart-rending, and Ehrenreich goes through so many emotions, unsure of what to do - or even what she CAN do.There's a lot of this, but that section was the hardest to read about.Ehrenreich is stunned when she realizes that people who work two jobs and have zero luxuries are still in poverty and can't even afford food and shelter. I thought the book was amazing, and highly recommend it for everybody who is an American or lives in America. Or is interested in America. Whether you are nodding your head because you know what it's like to live in this kind of hell, or whether you - like Ehrenreich - are shocked and appalled by what is really going on with the poor in America - this book is a great read.This is definitely a book I will buy - I had post-it notes on almost every single page, and it was brimming with truth, humor, and emotion.P.S. She only touches briefly on sexual harassment, but let me add as a personal aside that there are thousands of women who just 'grin and bear it' and have no recourse but to tolerate this kind of crap on the job because they feel that they have no other choice. Despite what the media would have you believe, not many people care and certainly no one is going to rescue you or take you out of that situation. It is SO damaging and humiliating and degrading and tons of women are just stuck with these kind of working conditions.P.P.S. Again, Ehrenreich only briefly touches on this - but the food provided to the poor by food pantries is NOT fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy stuff. It really grates my cheese when people start hating on fat people of any class, but ESPECIALLY when they are poor people. When my friend (who is morbidly obese) was raising her five kids as a single mom and living on welfare, working two jobs and struggling every day to make ends meet went to the food pantry she was invariably presented with doughnuts, bread, cookies, refried beans, etc. etc. etc. That's just what was available/what was donated - and, like Ehrenreich mentions - many poor people do NOT have refrigerators or freezers to keep more perishable food fresh.The idea that my friend was a.) raising her 5 children, as a single mother b.) working, and c.) trying to educate herself in order to get a better job WHILE facing hatred, prejudice, and judgment for being obese just makes me BEYOND FURIOUS. Really so, so angry.Ehrenreich herself, being a thin woman, exhibits signs of fat-hatred in this book, ranting internally against "corpulent Minnesotans" and bemoaning fat people for being a burden on her and society. I didn't like this.Ehrenreich's thinness and how it helps her in this world is never mentioned, but let me tell you - I think it helped her A LOT and that things would have been vastly different if she were obese and looking for work/performing the same jobs. It would have been eviscerating.P.P.P.S. This is mentioned in passing a few times, but it is SUPER-IMPORTANT to remember that Ehrenreich is white and a native English speaker. She would be living on a lower level of service hell if these things were not true....Of course, if she HAD gone into all this stuff, the book would be about 500 pages and not a quick, occasionally funny read. And it's important that this read comes off as "quick and sometimes funny" because this is an important message that needs to be received by as many Americans as possible. And non-Americans, for that matter.RE-READ: 01/20/2016Everyone needs to read this. So relevant, so important.

  • Trevor
    2019-01-04 15:31

    Very quick explanation of the premise of this one: a woman, who is a writer/journalist, is talking to her publisher about what she wants to write about next and says, “someone ought to write a book about how hard it is to get by on the minimum wage in America.” The publisher says, “Okey-dokey (the book is set in the US so I’m trying to give you a feeling of verisimilitude) you’ve hired.” (High fives all around)Before I started this book I really worried. I mean, I’m a bit of a worrier anyway – but mostly I worried that this would be the sort of book that my mother would hate. The sort of book my mother hates is the sort of book that is written by someone she calls ‘middle class’ (actually, she would probably call them middle-class twits) and these people would then presume to be able to write about what my mum would call ‘the working class’.These people, these ‘middle-class book writing types’ basically give my mother the shits. It is nothing personal, you understand – it is much more intense than the merely personal. So, it was with gritted teeth that I started this one.I’m glad to report that not only did I really love this book, I even think my mum would enjoy it.First of all, Barbara recognises that she is basically an impostor. She recognises that her ‘experiment’ is really only going to be just that – I mean, she is not going to literally endanger her life, health or wellbeing just to make a point. All the same – this is the sort of reality TV program that would never make it to television. Particularly not in the USA.That fact is something that really struck me while reading this book – I mean, even before she mentioned it herself. Early in the book she compares herself to Upstairs Downstairs – that is, a British television show about class distinctions. I thought it was very interesting that she had to rely on a British show for a cultural reference to the ‘working class’. Later she points out that working class people may well exist in America – but they definitely don’t exist on American television. I couldn’t help reflect that films like Dockers, Billy Elliot (particularly the themes around the strike – but also the themes of homosexuality), Brassed Off, or Kes simply could never be made in America. Isn’t that incredibly sad? Now, my dear friend Wendy told me once that in some states the minimum wage can be ‘discounted’ if people earn ‘tips’. It took me a while to believe I had understood what she was saying, but if I’d read this book when I’d first intended to read it – when it first came out – I’d have known this already. Tipping is something I find quite repulsive. I hate everything about it – but then, I don’t like watching dogs beg for food, so I guess getting people to beg in much the same way is only going to make matters worse.What do you think it is about America – I mean, the land that is supposed to believe in equality of opportunity and democracy – that somehow encourages so many people to get off on making people beg and demean themselves? The discussion in this book about the Maids (house cleaners) is illustrative of this. Companies even advertise that they force their workers to clean floors on their hands and knees. I remember my mother talking about a great-auntie of mine who worked for some rich bastard in Belfast. He would expect her to scrub the street in front of his house on her hands and knees. I believe she ended up not being able to walk. Like I said, hard to see how anyone could get off on this sort of humiliation. I believe in the value of labour – that people are better off if they can work and if their work can be valued. I believe we are social creatures and that we only feel true self-worth if we believe we are making a real contribution to the society we live in. So, when we create an underclass of untouchables, a caste that must work themselves into ill-health and who never have any hope of being able to make ends meet or of getting out of poverty – then that is a choice that we make and one that says as much about us as people as it says about us as a society.This book doesn’t offer simple solutions – in fact, besides her suggesting that people join together in Trade Unions and find ways to improve their pay and conditions, she makes virtually no suggestions at all. Even this is not presented as a panacea. If anything she worries that anger and resentment will build to the point where it will become unstoppable. The pre-employment tests given to people applying for jobs are particularly evil and in Australia would probably be illegal. Now, this is really saying something. We have just had the most reprehensible and obnoxiously rightwing government imaginable but even they would have found reason to pause over the explicit anti-trade union discrimination that seems a common place in these employment tests.It is hard to imagine the dice being more brutally loaded against these people.The most memorable line in this book for me was the little girl who pointed to a black or Latino child (I can’t remember which now) and said, “Look mommy, a baby maid”. Aren’t societies with caste systems so terribly interesting?This book constantly reminded me of Margaret Atwood – there was something about the voice, something about the themes, something about the tone. In fact, think of a non-fiction book written by Atwood and this might well be the book you would end up with.This book isn’t nearly as bitter and twisted as this review might make it sound – I’m happy to admit that this is a subject which makes me quite bitter and twisted. Parts of the book were very moving and other bits very funny. She has a lovely way about her – I’m particularly fond of self-deprecation, I find it an incredibly attractive feature. I also find intelligent women nearly completely irresistible. That she is both of these had me falling helplessly (and perhaps even a little pathetically) in love.Barbara produces a list of reasons why the US character would allow this mistreatment of such a large section of its citizenry to exist. All the usual suspects end up on the list – you know, US obsession with ‘success’ and the tendency to blame ‘failure’ on the individual and so on. But one of the things I kept thinking was the way American humour so often seems to come down to a degrading string of insults. Humiliation and insults do seem to play an interesting role in the American psyche and this had me wondering if this is part of the reason why tipping is so embraced there while here in Australia we have no idea what to do in ‘tipping situations’.Before I get flamed – Australia is just as bad, one would only need to go to Bali for proof of that, and we also treat single mothers, Aboriginals, selected migrants and an endless string of others with utter contempt and loathing. I’m more interested in why – in a country that believes it is self-evident that all people are born equal – that such self-evident inequality of treatment could be so seemingly blindly tolerated.But then, as Barbara points out – the fundamentalist Christians she has contact with also seem to exhibit the exact opposite of what one would take their core beliefs to be. What would Jesus do? From the behaviour of his followers one can only suspect he would do the complete opposite of the stuff he said in his Sermon on the Mount. This is a wonderfully thought-provoking book and one that I enjoyed very much.

  • Ted
    2019-01-02 09:11

    Okay, I suddenly got a Like on my non-review of this book, so I'm going to say a few words about it, which I've thought off and on for a while.I've seen very put-downish reviews here on GR about the book, and more so about the author.It's held that Ehrenreich was a fake, had no idea what the working poor face, was just trying to make a buck off them, the book totally discredited because she had money and could just walk away when she was finished, or if she got in trouble, yada yada. This sort of misses the obvious - that her audience was not the working poor. She didn't write a book saying to them, "Hey, look at me! I took on your world and here I am, fine again, with royalties in my pocket."Uh, her audience was people like me, people like most of those walking the streets of Manhattan hurrying and scurrying about their frantic but pretty well-rewarded life.She got to me, that's for sure. In some sense, most people with any knowledge of the world and any empathy at all are not surprised at the hardships that Ehrenreich describes. But until it gets shoved in your face - that these people typically work two jobs, that many or most of them have no love in their lives because they have no time for it, that one sickness or one broken car can spell disaster which could lead to homelessness - you JUST DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND. And once you do understand, there is a brand new thing in your life which you never forget, a knowledge, not from personal experience, but simply from a book written with feeling, that YOU ARE LUCKY and there are way too many people out there THAT ARE NOT. And that it might be nice if the society you lived in would try to do something about this, for example a $15 minimum wage.Thanks for the Like, Teresa.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Previous review: Shakespeare: The World As Stage Bill BrysonRandom review: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer only two sentences, but not a putdown!Next review: Six Degrees a public service review

  • else fine
    2019-01-15 15:36

    When this book came out, I was working in a busy bookstore in a fairly small town. We had a stack of them at the counter, and I read bits on my breaks. While I was glad to see a popular book addressing the problems of the working poor, I couldn't help but feel like she'd taken a vacation in my life and then made a bunch of money writing a book about it, something she could only have achieved because she had already been in a position of privilege. Your average house cleaner, lacking an advanced degree and a publishing advance to live on while writing, couldn't have written it. And while it's unarguably a Good Thing to have anyone speak up for the voiceless masses, did the low-paid workers of America get anything tangible out of it? At any rate, I was standing at the counter one night when a well-dressed couple came in. The woman pointed at the book with excitement. "Look, honey, that's the book!" she said. "The one where she took all those terrible jobs! I heard she even worked as a WAITRESS!" Her tone expressed incredulous horror. Then, in unison, they both froze and ever so slowly looked up at me. I had on my best customer-service poker face, but they looked mortified and fled without buying anything. I've had a lingering dislike for the book ever since.

  • Candi
    2019-01-12 13:08

    I wanted to like this book. I thought the premise was fantastic. But overall, as someone who actually has lived on minimum wage (even supporting a child on minimum wage back when minimum wage was scary low), this book comes up short in several ways.First of all, Barbara Ehrenreich has a horribly privileged, ivory tower view of how poor people must live. While she does talk to some people who are scraping by, she assumes the majority of poor people make the same crummy decisions as the few to whom she spoke.Throughout her anthropologic immersion into semi-poverty, she makes choices that the savvy poor (of whom there are many!) would just never make. She eats out instead of picking up beans and rice at the bulk section of the supermarket. She rents a pay-by-the-week hotel instead of asking around for a roommate. It's true that people do make these choices, but the only folks I know in my town who chose the roach motel route were also doing meth or had lousy rental references from too many parties or property damage. I just think this could've been done much, much better, and it was disappointing. It's sort of like the movie Crash, which I also disliked intensely. A book (or movie) with a message shouldn't bash you over the head with the message. It doesn't need to be over the top to make a point, which can actually turn the reader (viewer) off enough that the message is lost.

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-01-18 08:11

    Onvan : Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America - Nevisande : Barbara Ehrenreich - ISBN : 805063897 - ISBN13 : 9780805063899 - Dar 240 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2001

  • Kristen
    2019-01-10 15:27

    I wanted to hate this book. I bought it with the intention of hating it. Overeducated liberal writer slumming it on minimum wage, to prove what? That minimum wage is not livable? Well who ever said it was? And looking at the reviews it’s clear this book is a Rorschach test for poverty, anyone poor enough to relate to the indignities she describes will invariable feel some resentment at the minimum wage martyr act, flagellating herself with your everyday life. And how easy it was for me especially to seethe with anger when the author repeatedly names my job alone as the one position she would simply not consider, no reason ever given, simply that working at the front desk of a hotel was out of the question, and what a shame as I guarantee that it would have provided innumerable opportunities for the sort of dead-end job self-abasement for which she was searching. Ironically I read this entire book at work over the past two days, on U of M graduation weekend, where more than any other time we are just overflowing with demanding self-satisfied yuppies, so needless to say I kept the cover faced down to avoid ironic pity smirks from smug assholes, in retrospect I should have flaunted the cover openly, hoping liberal guilt might bring in some tips. That the people who actually work these jobs will find Ehrenreich insulting, naïve, and condescending is a given. In the beginning I certainly did, but in the author’s defense at no time did she ever claim this was anything but an experiment, she never pretends to be anything she is not, not to the readers at least. So what’s the alternative then? Actual housekeepers and salesclerks rarely being offered book deals while lunching at French restaurants with editors, the alternative is this book doesn’t get written and this conversation doesn’t happen. Her goal of illustrating the vast income inequality and the nearly inescapable cycle of poverty is laudable and something I agree wholeheartedly with. In the end her failure is her reluctance to follow much of her thoughts to their logical conclusions; she constantly touches on these very powerful moments that ultimately are wasted because she fails to recognize them when they come. In the end I think the scathing reviewer comments at the author’s expense are misplaced. An enjoyable read but sadly it misses its mark quite often. What she does get right is how the criminalization of marijuana is a means of controlling the population. With the ubiquitous drug test favored by low wage employers geared solely towards marijuana, making one feel like a criminal over a little bit of herb, the result is dehumanizing applicants even before their first day. She routinely acknowledges that the only way she was able to fulfill the demands of these jobs is relying on the store good health built up over a lifetime of upper middle class living, not to mention starting out with a car and sum of money not available to her coworkers. She points out how any health or financial setbacks would ruin her completely. I would have liked to see more of a connection made between our demands for cheaper and cheaper goods and the cost paid by the working poor in America and beyond. And that the failure of public services in America to provide even the most basic standard of living are always paid for in the end by the cost of incarcerating more of our citizens than any western nation. A number of times she touches on the deep ontological angst that come from living in such insecurity, but as an outsider looking in fails to really capture its essence. And her assumptions that because she doesn’t see visible anger that people aren’t angry? They are. But simultaneously there is a real disconnect among the working poor who have been sold on the ‘American Dream’ fantasy and reality. The ugly result of people taking this myth too seriously are quite apparent in the most hideous aspects of the Republican Party for sure, but less obviously so in how the author had so thoroughly disassociated herself the working poor she is only one generation removed from. At the heart of this book is the impossibility of existing in such manner, but yet people do. People live their whole lives that way. I read a Chekov short story at the same time, of exiles coping with life in Siberia. One man is unable to deal with his losses and yet still makes one attempt after another to carve out a life for himself continually repeated his personal motto “Even in Siberia people live.” Another man gives up, asking for nothing and so wanting for nothing. At the end a judgment is made by a third character against the man who wants nothing, as it’s better to be miserable than to feel nothing. The story ends with everyone crying themselves to sleep. Ehrenreich should have read that story; it speaks more to the condition of the working poor than her book does. Even in America people live.

  • Doc Opp
    2019-01-19 10:29

    If you're looking for socialist propaganda - full of rhetorical tricks and short on evidence, then this is the book for you. If, however, you're hoping for an unbiased treatment of the life of the poor, a reasonable economic/policy analysis of poverty, or any sort of insight into American culture, then this book will be profoundly disappointing. There are some interesting issues covered, such as wage inequalities and the plight of the urban poor, but that's really all I can say in its favor. The author early on gives up any illusion of maintaining journalistic impartiality. She interprets all behavior of corporations, managers and employers in the least charitable way possible - often straining credibility. Further, she shows hidden disdain for the poor as well - insinuating that the only reason the poor might take pride in their work is because they've been duped by corporate interests, and denying the possibility that the poor might find any value in their jobs beyond their paychecks.The author ignores economic realities and the subtleties inherent in an interdependent system like the American Economy and puts forth ludicrously simplistic arguments of what American policy towards the poor should be. It ranges from annoying to infuriating, and is almost certainly not worth the bother of reading.

  • Barbara
    2018-12-26 09:24

    Welfare reform in the mid-1990s was meant to get people off the welfare rolls and into the workforce. As the U.S. had a strong economy at the time, and jobs were plentiful, this was supposed to work out pretty well all around. The problem was that most 'unskilled jobs' paid minimum wage (which was six to seven dollars/hour at the time) and this just wasn't enough to support a parent and child - much less a larger family. In 1998 Barbara Ehrenreich - a political activist and writer - decided to try to live like the 'working poor.' She planned to obtain low paying jobs and see if she could live on the resulting wages. Ehrenreich then wrote a book about her experiences - this one. As Ehrenreich points out in the book, she didn't really start on a level playing field with the economically deprived. She was well-educated, in good health, and had no small children. Nevertheless her experiences provided a peek at what it was like to be a member of the working poor. Over the span of a couple of months Ehrenreich lived in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota. In each location, she rented (or tried to rent) an apartment, took one or two low-paying jobs, and attempted to live on the wages she earned. The first problem Ehrenreich encountered was finding a place to live. Without funds to pay a security deposit and first month's rent, it was very difficult to rent an apartment - even a cheap crappy one. Thus, some minimum wage earners (including Ehrenreich at times) had to live in shabby motels, which actually cost more than an apartment. One of Ehrenreich's co-workers lived in a van. Ehrenreich describes the various places she lived, most of which were ratty, uncomfortable, minimalist, and sometimes dangerous. On occasion she had no refrigerator or cooking facilities.Ehrenreich's next order of business was obtaining a job or two in each state. This often required submitting applications, going to interviews, passing personality exams (would you steal; would you report a co-worker for theft; do you follow rules; and so on), and getting drug-tested. Upon obtaining a job, Ehrenrich had to buy appropriate clothing (generally slacks and polo shirts) and travel to work and back. Unlike some low-income workers Ehrenreich allowed herself a car in each location, a rent-a-wreck - which also skewed her 'authentic experience' a bit.During her experiment Ehrenreich worked as a waitress; a caregiver for Alzheimer's patients; a hotel maid; a house cleaner; and a Wal-Mart ladies-wear employee. Each job was physically difficult, exhausting, and demoralizing... since the workers were closely monitored and generally not trusted by the employers. While at Wal-Mart Ehrenreich had to make a couple of phone calls to line up a new place to live. To achieve this Ehrenreich had to sneak out of Wal-Mart to her car (using maneuvers similar to Keanu Reaves in The Matrix), get the phone numbers, and use a public telephone. Caught by a manager, Ehrenreich (falsely and nervously) stated she was on an official break. All this would give a person heartburn for sure. Ehrenreich also ate badly most of the time for a variety of reasons: lack of funds (employers routinely held back the first week's wages), no appropriate place to prepare food, no time to eat on the job, etc. Often, Ehrenreich supplemented her diet with fast food. One of Ehrenreich's fellow hotel maids ate hot dog buns for lunch. And a house cleaning mate routinely had a few crackers. In the end Ehrenreich - making less money at Wal-Mart than she was paying for living quarters, food, and necessities - quit and went back to her normal life. I'm sure Ehrenreich had good intentions when she embarked on this experiment but she comes across as a kind of 'dilettante' poor person who was not really playing by the rules. First, a real low-wage worker might line up a couple of roommates to share an apartment, which seems a logical thing to do. Second, Ehrenrich knew about the drug testing but - taking a recreational break - smoked marijuana. This resulted in a few frantic days spent drinking gallons of water (to flush out the evidence) plus the cost of system-cleaning medicine from the drugstore (I don't know if this actually works). Third, Ehrenreich could have packed bologna or PB&J sandwiches for lunch, rather than purchasing (relatively expensive) fast food. Nevertheless, Ehrenreich did bring attention to the very difficult plight of minimum-wage employees in 1998. It was almost impossible for a working single mother, for example, to pay for a place to live, daycare, nutricious food, decent clothing, incidentals, etc. And if a family member needed to see a dentist or doctor they were just out of luck. Moreover, unlike Ehrenreich - who had a cushy upper middle-class life to return to - the economically disadvantaged could only look forward to continued drudgery. They had no hope for a better life. This is truly sad.You can follow my reviews at:

  • Christy
    2019-01-07 11:16

    A classic now in the field, and I've long used an excerpt from this in my Intro. Sociology reader for our week on Poverty in the U.S. Still, I remind students that this is the only author we read that doesn't have the "street cred" of a "real" sociologist, some "union card" (Ph.D., mostly) as a behavioral or social scientist, or social theorist or philosopher of some sort, as Ehrenreich is a...gasp....journalist! (I'm reminded of perhaps my own bias about this as I was critical of the layperson sociology that Vance did in Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.) Still, our own experiences are all we have, and both are attempts at a more objective, systematic study and explanation for the lives of the poor in the U.S. Even as a "reporter" or social critic Ehrenreich uses the social science (anthropological, in fact) technique of "participant observation" as she does "undercover" as a poor person in a number of jobs typical for the poor: dead-end, low-pay, no benefits, no security, harassment (including sexual harassment) and mistreatment to be expected, etc.. As Manuel Castells, the Spanish sociologist of globalism noted way back in The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach in our cities the worst, most dirty jobs will always be "held in trust" disproportionately for women and people of color (interesting he didn't name immigrants, but I suspect he meant them, too) and these are the types of jobs someone posing as one with no marketable skills gets such as a hotel maid and in food services, as Ehrenreich did.Students in my classroom get their middle-class validations of the poor as lazy and of circumstances most entirely of their own making blown up by this reading, and I think it does create authentic empathy for those less fortunate (of course, many of my students come from lives with these types of jobs, and even work them themselves) but also an understanding of how our culture is predicated on somebody doing the "dirty work". Students are particularly taken, and it turns into a great conversation on censorship and parental rights and ideas of "protecting" youth form certain ideas when I share with them the power of this book, as detailed in the links below from six years ago. (In short, a "Tea Party" legislator in NH was horrified when his son brought home a copy of this as a required course read in school, and they both agreed it was "un-American" to study poverty in the U.S.. The principal (surprisingly, doesn't always happen!) backed up the teacher that the students had to read it, and the legislator pulled his kid out of the school (who cares) but actually filed a bill with the House that would have allowed a parent to disallow a school from forcing their child to read any book or curriculum that they found offensive. (Luckily, the bill didn't make it out of committee.) There is also coverage of this by FOX news, although I can't bear to look at it as I know my eyes will burn from the comments section...

  • Diane
    2019-01-03 13:25

    I read this in honor of Labor Day."Nickel and Dimed" has been on my radar for years. It's considered a modern classic in several disciplines, including journalism, sociology and economics. Starting in 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich spent several months working low-wage jobs in different cities around the United States in an attempt to experience what it was like to be one of America's working poor. She wondered how anyone could possibly live on wages available to the unskilled, which at the time was about $7 an hour.In the spirit of science, she set some rules for herself: First, she couldn't fall back on skills derived from her advanced education; second, she had to try to keep the job and not blow off the work; third, she had to find cheap accommodations in each city. When applying for jobs, she used her real name and she described herself as "a divorced homemaker reentering the workforce after many years." She did not put her Ph.D. on the job application, however, and instead only listed three years of college. She did allow herself the use of a car, and she ruled out homelessness."The idea was to spend a month in each setting in see whether I could find a job and earn, in that time, the money to pay a second month's rent. If I was paying rent by the week and ran out of money I would simply declare the project at an end; no shelters or sleeping in cars for me ... So this is not a story of some death-defying 'undercover' adventure. Almost anyone could do what I did -- look for jobs, work those jobs, try to make ends meet. In fact, millions of Americans do it every day, and with a lot less fanfare and dithering." Barbara started in Key West, Florida, waitressing at two different restaurants. In Portland, Maine, she toiled as a maid. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, she was a "sales associate" at a Wal-Mart. In each place, she worked hard and tried to be a helpful and cheerful coworker. Each job had its share of frustrations, and in each job she got a sense of what it felt like to be an "invisible" worker, sometimes degraded and dehumanized. Besides finding a job, she also had to find affordable housing, which was difficult even with the small amount of starter money that she allowed herself. And if the housing was affordable, it wasn't necessary safe. She stayed at a weekly rental place in the Minneapolis area that she described as the worst motel in the country, and it cost her $255 a week. It did not have secure windows or a bolt on the door, and she slept anxiously, on high alert, every night she was there."Sometime around four in the morning it dawns on me that it's not just that I'm a wimp. Poor women -- perhaps especially single ones and even those who are just temporarily living among the poor for whatever reason -- really do have more to fear than women who have houses with double locks and alarm systems and husbands or dogs. I must have known this theoretically or at least heard it stated, but now for the first time the lesson takes hold."While the book sounds grim, it was an engrossing read. It was fascinating to read about Barbara's waitress experience, her housecleaning and maid service, and the weeks she spent at Wal-Mart.* I raced through it in a little over a day, impressed with the writing and reporting. I was actually a bit envious and wish I had written it.After her experiment ended, she wrote an evaluation for herself, and while she gave herself good marks for working hard, she admitted she did not do as well in terms of surviving life in general, such as eating and having a decent place to stay. "The problem goes behind my personal failings and miscalculations. Something is wrong, very wrong, when a single person in good health, a person who in addition possesses a working car, can barely support herself by the sweat of her brow. You don't need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents too high."The edition I read was published in 2011, a 10th anniversary reprint, which included a new afterword by the author. She wrote that the situation has become worse for the working poor, especially since the global recession that started in 2008:"If we want to reduce poverty, we have to stop doing the things that make people poor and keep them that way. Stop underpaying people for the jobs they do. Stop treating working people as potential criminals and let them have the right to organize for better wages and working conditions. Stop the institutional harassment of those who turn to the government for help or find themselves destitute in the streets. Maybe, as so many Americans seem to believe today, we can't afford the kinds of public programs that would genuinely alleviate poverty -- though I would argue otherwise. But at least we should decide, as a bare minimum principle, to stop kicking people when they're down."There is so much to talk about in this book! I understand why a lot of instructors have made it assigned reading in their classes. It's very discussable and brings up many different issues of poverty, society and economics. I highly recommend it.Low-wage workers of the world, unite! Or something like that.*I had waitressing jobs when I was in high school and college, and that work requires so much energy and effort for so little pay that I swore I would never do it again unless circumstances were really dire. Barbara frequently mentioned how grateful she was that her parents worked so hard to help give her a better life, and I felt a similar gratitude to my parents.

  • Paul
    2019-01-06 09:09

    WAA, WAAAA, hoooooWhat was the publisher thinking? Letting a biology Ph.d write an economics book. There are so many economic inaccuracies in this book they are too numerous to mention. The most important theory she mangles is that she thinks wages she should be raised even if there are enough employees to hire at piss-poor wages. She believes that (she eludes to it, but never makes the point clearly) it is the employers responsibility to provide enough wage to make sure everyone is adaquately housed and has non-worker's comp health care...and, if really considerate of his workers, a car. Well, what kind of person gets hired for jobs that are low-paying. Ones who need a job! What kind of person gets hired for jobs that are higher paying...ones who have prepared for those jobs. It's kinda like Social Security. It was never set up so people could live on it. It was a supplement. These jobs are not careers, but I think many of the people who work them think they are. You better get the employer's buy-in on that theory before you start working in these fields. Is that the employee's problem about this misconception?the employers? the goverments (yikes)? society's?The purpose or theme of the book is so unclear that I hope the publisher was not meaning for it to be entertainment...or informative. Was it meant to be a thesis on American economics?? People with low-paying jobs should use this book for throwing it in the fire.But maybe IT WAS meant to be entertaining and informative. Then the publisher should have hired someone who is a bit entertaining and/or a little informative. This author writes this as though nobody who lives above the poverty line has worked a job that supplies the wages to live below it. It is a degrading and demeaning book to everyone who has ever held one of these jobs...and to the ones who currently work these jobs.

  • Zweegas
    2019-01-04 13:34

    So, the author got paid to wait tables in Florida, clean homes in Maine, and organize clothes at Wal-Mart in Minnesota. All right, all of that is completely believable. What's difficult to comprehend is that she also gets paid to write books.She makes a lot of great points, but the style she does it with is totally condescending. She's so pleased with her own concept that she cannot help but remind readers at least every ten or so pages that she's actually very highly educated. "You might think that the tasks of cleaning a house would be easy for someone with a Phd . . ." Oh really now, would I? She thinks this is some grand undercover scheme and that she's some clever spy and is so excited with her own little game because she really does believe that she is somehow better than the other people working in low wage jobs. "It's so difficult to believe that these people don't realize I'm actually educated and upper-class." The part about "Barbara" versus her mean lower-class Wal-Mart alter-ego "Barb" is outright offensive. "I'm really a better person than this." Okay Barbara, just keep telling yourself that. It's liberal elitism at its most annoying. I want someone else to write this book with all the same points about worker justice, except the new version of this book needs to also be well-written in addition to making a bunch of good points.

  • Virginia
    2018-12-31 09:33

    Ergh. I read this book while in grad school, taking an anthropology class.I was also earning a whopping $5.83 an hour, and reading this book just made me grind my teeth.Totally fatuous piece of crap. It STILL ticks me off. I felt like she was so patronizing and rude. It seemed like yet another case of some stupid rich white person talking about the plight of the poor and the downtrodden, all while doing absolutely NOTHING to help alleviate it. Not to mention whining about how hard it is. URGH.Great. I'm so happy that Ehrenreich lived as a poor slob for a few months and then went back to her well-off, wasteful, middle-class lifestyle having learned nothing other than how to write sensational stuff to sell books. Yay. Go you, Barbara.

  • Adrienne
    2018-12-21 08:08

    DISCLAIMER: This is my rant on the “classic Marxist rant” by Barbara Ehrenreich in the form of Nickel and Dimed. REALLY. I am not saying that we should not help poor people. I am mostly just annoyed by the author. If my political ranting will bother you, please don't read this. AND if you do, you are not allowed to think less of me. You may disagree, but know that I actually am a nice, caring, empathetic person. :) Unfortunately, Ehrenreich did not present much shocking or new information in her book. Even if she had, her Marxist cynicism and naive hypocrisy overshadowed her message. Of course, if anyone had been placed in such a situation, she would have been appalled by the tremendous difficulty of the way the poor are forced to live. But Ehrenreich’s obnoxious inclination to think anyone in a managerial position is malicious and purposefully cruel was overbearing. The managers were not in a much better position than those under them, and they have to do a “meaningless” job as well. She even began realizing that she was becoming uncontrollably irate at any moment’s notice. How can she criticize others for acting the exact way she felt because of the degrading circumstances they share? Not to mention, she pretty much had been acting this prejudiced way before this epiphany, but earlier she directed it at those in higher positions instead of her equals. Also, let’s go into her Communist ideals (even though she sort of denied being a Marxist, she quoted him a few times and paraphrased Mao’s words). She is advocating (by implication) a system way worse than the Goliath that is Wal-Mart. She finds it utterly appalling that people have some of their basic rights taken away by agreeing to work for certain companies. (By the way, have you ever worked for a corporation? That's what they do.) However, you have absolutely no rights in a Communist society. Remember Animal Farm? After a while, the pigs look exactly like the human men they had replaced in their rebellion. Plus, she’s complaining about the rich 20% at the top and wanting to help the poor 20% on the bottom, completely ignoring the 60% in between. She just wants to replace the top with the bottom, and then where would we be? Bingo! The same place. Ehrenreich means basically an “inherited kingdom.” Ironic that she feels that the poor should just naturally inherit the country. She wants her kingdom to be like the socialist/communist world because she feels that the United States will not take care of the proletariat. But I don’t know if 80% should give up their rights so that the 20% can rule (oh, and kill everyone else in the process--that's what Communists do).As far as her complaints about “rights” are concerned, let’s look at her previous life. She is UPPER middle class, which is not nearly the same as the average American. Her job is as a journalist, free-lance, I believe. So, she does not have the average structured job, and her job is to speak her mind and say whatever she wants however she wants. Of course she’s going to be upset that she can’t curse in front of customers. Some customers may be offended by such language, but she can’t see that; she only knows that she wants to say the f-word on the job and she can’t. Heaven forbid. She seemed to be shocked by the fact that her employers didn’t want her standing around talking on the job either. I understand that we should allow people to be human and enjoy working with each other. I like to see employees joke with each other and get along, but I don’t like to need help and can’t get any because some “associates” are standing around talking and ignoring their customers. I don't agree with the Wal-Mart "time theft" idea, but she does need to realize she's at work.I feel that the story would have been much more compelling and upsetting if she had just followed a few of the women with whom she worked. Her story just wasn’t interesting. I certainly don’t mean to make light of or ignore such a serious subject, but it could have been done so much better.(Have you seen Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days where he and his girlfriend REALLY live below the poverty line? Now, that's worth seeing.) Also, I would have been interested (and I think it would really have been fair) to give statistics on those living below the poverty line who are on welfare, are illegal immigrants (if they were included), have mental illnesses, etc. Or, I would like to know if that 20% of working poor is all exactly similar to the people has associated with. I just want a complete and honest picture either way so that I’m not wondering what it is. We need to take care of all the people, but we need to know the circumstances. Also, I know that most of the working poor are good, honest, hard-working people, but we know that there are still many who abuse the system, and the way Ehrenreich talks, you’d think that the only ones abusing the system were the managers (“classic Marxist” attitude). Instead of reading her book, maybe some of the people (managers) should read The Female Advantage and learn some managing skills. :)I also would like to know how raising the minimum wage affects the economy. If it helps fix this problem, great. But it would seem that if we raise the minimum wage, then prices will start going up. I’m no economist, so I wouldn’t know, but I would have liked more information about how to help the problem instead of her ideas about getting thrown in prison for protesting. I will admit that I probably have some prejudice attitudes that she addresses in her book, but I don’t feel that she really proved her point. Eating in a healthier manner and not smoking or drinking are not going to solve the poor’s problems, but when people are counting pennies, every one counts. Ehrenreich said that she never got to the point of eating lentil soup, but if she had, she would have saved money (and it would have been healthier). It seems that, just like everyone else, convenience takes precedence over everything else. In the end, the condition of the working poor is an important issue that we all need to work on and try to find more solutions for. I just don’t agree with the way she thinks and her attitudes about some of the things that she found. This book does have some redeeming qualities, but as I said, she got in the way.

  • Carolyn
    2018-12-21 13:11

    I think the entire point of this book was to 'prove' that minimum wage jobs by their very nature and pay scale CANNOT support people, even people with all the advantages she had (and none of the additional disadvantages the poor often have.)I don't see this book as even trying to be any kind of an exhaustive look at all the difficulties facing those truly living in poverty and attempting to get by.What I do see it as is an attempt to prove to middle-income Americans that even with all the benefits she has, even she cannot make it work under the current system, and thus neither would they.I studied poverty and social/welfare systems in university, although I found this book much later, and I have heard people actually using the following arguments to support their views of the Bootstrap theory:"Well, she would be able to make it work if she didn't have out of wedlock children / wasn't a teen mom" (-a child or children, -childcare costs) "Oh, well, he would be able to make it work if he controlled his addiction" (-an alcohol or drug addiction )"Well, she would be able to make it work if she took charge of her life and got out of that relationship" (-an abusive partner)"Oh, well, he would be able to make it work if he just took public transportation." (-lack of transportation)"Well, she would be able to make it work if she just learned English" (-English as a second language)"Well, it wouldn't be a problem, if he hadn't screwed up in the first place..." (-bad credit, -felony convictions, -homelessness etc.)"Oh, well, she would be able to make it work if she just got her GED / took classes." (-no high school diploma or GED, -lack of basic computer skills)and so on, ad nauseum.I think her book is very cogent if you read it for what it is - a lesson to all those smug folks out there who think that it is somehow the fault of the person living in poverty because they are not doing/whatever ENOUGH. Those attitudes are out there, all around us, and this book is a tiny way of showing them that those in this situation can never manage to do enough to 'bootstrap' their way out of it under the current system.

  • Annie
    2019-01-08 14:09

    I picked this up and read it in one day. I also checked the stats for 2007 since the copyright for this was 2001. It really made my blood boil at times and I have "been there and done that" as an employee. I am currently looking for work and even with a B.A., good paying jobs with benefits are impossible to find. Everyone who reads this will hopefully understand the "working poor" and treat them better.Ehrenreich turns her gimlet eye on the view from the workforce's bottom rung. Determined to find out how anyone could make ends meet on $7 an hour, she left behind her middle class life as a journalist except for $1000 in start-up funds, a car and her laptop computer to try to sustain herself as a low-skilled worker for a month at a time. In 1999 and 2000, Ehrenreich worked as a waitress in Key West, Fla., as a cleaning woman and a nursing home aide in Portland, Maine, and in a Wal-Mart in Minneapolis, Minn. During the application process, she faced routine drug tests and spurious "personality tests"; once on the job, she endured constant surveillance and numbing harangues over infractions like serving a second roll and butter. Beset by transportation costs and high rents, she learned the tricks of the trade from her co-workers, some of whom sleep in their cars, and many of whom work when they're vexed by arthritis, back pain or worse, yet still manage small gestures of kindness. Despite the advantages of her race, education, good health and lack of children, Ehrenreich's income barely covered her month's expenses in only one instance, when she worked seven days a week at two jobs (one of which provided free meals) during the off-season in a vacation town. Delivering a fast read that's both sobering and sassy, she gives readers pause about those caught in the economy's undertow, even in good times.

  • Lisa
    2018-12-29 14:14

    Author Barb Ehrenreich's (as in Third Reich) personal politics seem to lie somewhere on the spectrum between Chairman Mao and Charlie Manson. She truly was born too late, missing equally a career dragging rich people from their homes and sending them to prison for no reason, or being a cult follower and writing "rich pig" in blood on the freshly painted doors of a California mansion. How on earth did this steaming pile of lunatic hypocrisy ever get published? Unless the publisher read it and instantly feared crucifixion from the feel-good people. You know, white Liberals, like the author herself. Her White Liberal Guilt is the size and whiteness of the mariner's albatross. But she lives in Key West, and not in a tar paper shack on the beach. Yet, during her saintly sojourn as a maid, actually berates those who have had the unmitigated gall to escape poverty and live like Rich People. That bothered me a lot. She pokes fun at and analyzes their books. Who the fuck does this twat think she is, pardon my French??? In the course of the book, she manages to make fun of Christians and Christ Himself, rich people, Wal-Mart shoppers, Wal-Mart employees, Latinos, the elderly, and a person in a wheelchair. She openly calls things like Revivals and people-watching the poor her "entertainment". She's a complete and utter moron, stating she doesn't care if her coworkers get high in the parking lot at work, or if they steal. Wow. Hopefully, the person doing your lab test to see if you have cancer isn't tweaked, Barb. Or the pilot of your next plane. She thinks quite highly of herself, noting that when asking a sensitive question of a person from Maine she "takes into account the deep reserve of rural Mainers, as explained to me by a sociologist acquaintance". Kinda like Margaret Mead in Papua, New Guinea. Are these people a sub-species to her? She's a pro-smoking Atheist with a savior complex. She's a wacko, mistakenly believing that low-wage workers are all there by the Fickle Finger of Fate. No, some are there because of Felonies. Or horrifically stupid choices. Or Saying Yes to Drugs. None of this is ever mentioned. She blanketly assumes all workers (Of the World, Unite)are touched by some higher being, but doesn't believe in one. She thinks her presence is a gift to them, a gift of, of.. Agape! Which is pure love. Not like agave, from which you get pure tequila. And is really love, not to mention a better gift. I just felt bad that at the end, she didn't get to mow down a Czar's children and thus make the world a better place for all those Wal-Mart employees.

  • Jessaka
    2019-01-18 11:35

    Nickel and Dimed, the play“When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The 'working poor,' as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”What can I say about this book. At first, I was not impressed because of her listing all the things she had to do on her jobs, which can be tedious to read. I put the book down, but then I began wondering how she was getting along, so I picked it back up and finished it. It was good.The author was asked by her boss to go into the work field at a minimum wage job and to see if she could make ends me, and this she did, knowing all along that it wasn't forever. She found that she could not afford rent on just one job, but instead needed two jobs. She got an extra job, but she still could not make ends meet because rents were too high. Perhaps, I thought, we need rent control in the U.S. like we had in Berkeley, California when I lived there. The book takes you to her jobs as she listens to her co-workers and tries to struggle with working a 16 hour day. She tried being a waitress, a maid, and working at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart seems to be cultish to me as they do their best to control their workers, not allowing them to visit with each other and on and on. The greed in America is such that companies don't care if you have to live in your car, sleep in a rundown motel, or live with a friend. They don't care if you get sick, just be at work. Medical care? Forget it. As I sat and watched the republican debates last night and heard how people were protesting outside for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 an hour, and then listened to a republican say that if he were president there would be no wage increases, I shuttered. The author of this book couldn't live on $7 an hour, and when she worked 16 hours a day, I would say that she made the equivalent of $15 an hour that a person would make on a 8 hour day and yet she couldn't make it. So what are they talking about? $15 an hour and working only 8 hours a day or still working 16 hours a day to make a living?Of course if the wages went up wouldn't Americans find that their own expenses went up as well? Wouldn't landlords then increase the rents, stores their prices, and wouldn't the low wage worker find themselves in the same spot? I don't know, but I have lost all confidence in Americans to do the right thing. In our country, few do things because of morality or compassion for others. Human rights have had to be fought for by the dispossessed and the few who cared to stand along side them. When I look at the reviews of this book, I wonder why people bothered to read it when many were just complaining about the book, the author, and just didn't like what they were hearing. Many were college students who had to read it. Are these students among the wealthy who just don't get it or don't care? And then there are the bosses who just lord it over the employees, controlling everything they do. People actually have to live with this? Seems very Dickensian, not just the bosses that people have to contend with the slave wages. I remember reading how Charles Dickens lectured to people about the poverty, but no one listened. Then he began writing books, and that changed things in England. We have those books now, they are filled with new information, but it doesn't change a thing, except on Christmas when people give to the poor.What does it mean to not be getting by to this author? She means that you can't afford an apartment, and I don't mean a fancy one, but just a decent one. She means that you can't eat decent meals, instead you having to eat prepared junk food because you don't have cooking facilities at the motel or in your car. She means not being able to get sick leave without losing your pay because it would put you further in debt, it would get kicked out of your apartment or motel room. Forget going to a movie; they can't afford it. Forget doing anything fun. Forget cable TV. Forget even having a TV. Forget living. Forget trying to move up in the world because you couldn't afford to even try since it would take time off your job to even look for work, not that there are a lot of high wage jobs waiting. Then without these workers who would serve your meals at a restaurant, wait on you at Wal-Mart, or clean your house, just to mention a few. “There seems to be a vicious cycle at work here, making ours not just an economy but a culture of extreme inequality. Corporate decision makers, and even some two-bit entrepreneurs like my boss at The Maids, occupy an economic position miles above that of the underpaid people whose labor they depend on. For reasons that have more to do with class — and often racial — prejudice than with actual experience, they tend to fear and distrust the category of people from which they recruit their workers. Hence the perceived need for repressive management and intrusive measures like drug and personality testing. But these things cost money — $20,000 or more a year for a manager, $100 a pop for a drug test, and so on — and the high cost of repression results in ever more pressure to hold wages down. The larger society seems to be caught up in a similar cycle: cutting public services for the poor, which are sometimes referred to collectively as the 'social wage,' while investing ever more heavily in prisons and cops. And in the larger society, too, the cost of repression becomes another factor weighing against the expansion or restoration of needed services. It is a tragic cycle, condemning us to ever deeper inequality, and in the long run, almost no one benefits but the agents of repression themselves.”“But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth.”“Everyone in yuppie-land — airports, for example — looks like a nursing baby these days, inseparable from their plastic bottles of water. Here, however, I sweat without replacement or pause, not in individual drops but in continuous sheets of fluid soaking through my polo shirt, pouring down the backs of my legs ... Working my way through the living room(s), I wonder if Mrs. W. will ever have occasion to realize that every single doodad and objet through which she expresses her unique, individual self is, from another vantage point, only an obstacle between some thirsty person and a glass of water.”

  • Sandi
    2019-01-01 10:36

    Once upon a time, I was a low-wage worker. I worked long hours in retail for too little pay. Even as a store manager, I made about $10,000 per year in the late Eighties. If I hadn't been able to live with my parents, I don't know how I could have been able to afford rent and childcare, much less food on what I made. Because I was working, I didn't qualify for anything like subsidized childcare or food stamps. The waiting list for subsidized housing was endless. Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America explores the world of low-wage workers in Florida, Maine and Minnesota. Surprisingly enough, Minnesota was the toughest place to get by. It sounded almost as bad as California. While I did find this book to be very readable and was compelled to keep turning the pages, I often found the author's attitude smug and condescending. Her introduction and conclusion were fairly inane and didn't offer any real insight or solutions other than the usual provided by those who neither struggle to keep businesses running with a modest profit nor are caught in the struggle of trying to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. She also didn't look at the feminist aspect of this. Now, I'm no big feminist, but even I can see that the big problem is that the low-paying jobs the author explored were ones traditionally held by women: waitressing, nursing home aide, maid, and retail worker. These jobs are not only low paying, they don't offer much room for advancement or leave them with much time or energy to pursue other options. I don't think she even noticed that she was surrounded with a lot of women and not very many men who weren't making it in America.

  • Skylar Burris
    2019-01-15 11:15

    Raise your hand if you have ever worked a minimum wage job. (It wasn't pleasant, was it?) Now, keep your hand raised if you STILL work a minimum wage job. Whoa. A lot of hands just went down. A LOT. And that is the point Barbara Ehrenreich doesn't entertain. While Nickel and Dimed is interesting and in some ways eye-opening, it isn’t a particularly well-researched or well-argued economic or social commentary. It’s more of a journalism feature with some editorial opinions thrown in. The rhetoric is well turned, even poetic in parts, and liable to excite emotion. Sometimes it made me feel guilty, sometimes angered, sometimes compassionate. Barbara Ehrenreich attempts to describe how difficult it is to get by on minimum wage by taking on such jobs herself, but with several advantages – a car, a $1,500 starting fund, and a lack of dependent children. (I don’t mention her education because she doesn’t use it when applying and higher education may actually prove a disadvantage if you are trying to work minimum wage jobs.) Thus, if it’s difficult for her, you can imagine how difficult it must be for people without those advantages. Her narrative, which is an easy read, does expose readers to the struggles of “wage slaves” as well as to the unique life stories and personalities of the eclectic people she encounters. Her experiment lacks realism, however, not just in the advantages she begins with, but also in the disadvantage she gives herself – she quits every job after a month and starts another, often requiring a different skill set, from the bottom. This approach ignores two facts. One, that most people don’t drop from the sky into a new town and start from scratch. (She admits this: “True, most of my fellow workers are better cushioned than I am; they live with spouses or grown children or they have other jobs.”) Two, the fact that hardly anyone who *sticks with the same job* for more than a year will stay at minimum wage. Small but regular raises are not uncommon, and assistant managers and managers are generally promoted from within the ranks of wage laborers (she does mention this fact, but without much thought about it). A more realistic experiment on getting by would have involved her sharing rent with a friend or relative and working for a full year at one job and then filing for the EITC with her taxes. She never mentions the EITC. She speaks of how hard it was for her to get a food voucher (multiple phone calls, travel, etc.), but nowhere speaks of the largest wealth transfer for the working poor in existence in the U.S., which is obtained annually via a refundable tax. (Unless I missed it?)The thing is, like most writers on the subject of pop econ, she doesn’t make a firm distinction between the temporarily poor and the permanent underclass or delve deeply into what divides the two. We like to talk about “the bottom 20 percent,” without considering that, of the people *currently* in the bottom twenty percent of income earners, 95% probably will not be there sixteen years from now. (We see this trend when we look at the income of actual individuals over many years rather than merely drawing conclusions from categories, which do not represent people, because people move between categories over a lifetime.) Some people who are minimum wage earners today will even be in the highest quintile sixteen years from now – more, in fact, than will still be in the bottom quintile. And their children will likely spend less time at minimum wage than they did because they will be given advantages by their parents, as this author was. Ehrenreich mentions her own father who “somehow” went from the mines to the suburbs, but she never seems to consider that his experience might be anything other than exceptional or that it might have something to say about what enables people to escape poverty. The book is primarily focused on the issue of wages. However, raising the minimum wage to a “living wage” is highly likely to lead to inflation (if not higher unemployment coupled with a larger black market for illegal labor), which will mean that the new living wage will eventually cease to be a living wage and have to be raised again, and the same problem will recur in endless cycle. There are a variety of factors that make it extremely difficult for people to get by on minimum wage beyond the wage itself. The largest contributing factor to poverty – which we see again in again in the anecdotes in this book - is the disintegration of the family. Divorce, out of wedlock birth, and single parenthood are all expensive propositions. It has been said that the surest way to steadily move upward economically is to get married and, most importantly, to *stay* married, because of the economies of scale and division of labor made possible by marriage and, alternatively, the division of assets and (often) single parenthood resulting from divorce. We also see the effects of the disintegration of extended family, which is a huge contributor to the lack of affordable housing, because multi-family homes become less common. There are obviously many more contributors to poverty, but she focuses primary on hourly wages and on criticizing managers and employers (people who were often themselves low-wage employees five to ten years ago). What would truly be interesting is to see where *all* of the people she worked with during this time are today. How many are still earning minimum wage? How many are assistant managers? How many managers? How many in jail? How many in college? I haven’t read the 10th Anniversary Edition of this book, but I’m guessing she’s going to be talking about people *currently* in this “wage slave” category, and not the same people she worked alongside ten years ago and where they are now. I do not think this book is a “Marxist rant” as so many have categorized it, but it does put forth the standard liberal political solutions to the complex problem of poverty without really examining the long-term effects those policies would have and whether or not they would actually achieve their stated goals.

  • Mike (the Paladin)
    2019-01-07 11:34

    First reviewed Oct.1, 2009. I found and corrected a the dtae changed.I find sometimes that people are surprised that I would recommend this book (albeit with a couple of reservations). Somehow the fact that I'm a political conservative is supposed to make me unable to identify with low income workers or those called the working poor. Why? I struggled with long periods of unemployment...with a family. I've flipped burgers in several restaurants and several times. I've worked in family restaurants, fast food restaurants, factories, I've worked part time, temporary and "whatever I could get". I respect and feel for those who struggle against the odds to support themselves and their loved ones.This book does lay out a lot of the experience. The life of a waitress (who doesn't have to be paid minimum wage because she gets, tips. Of course if the amount of the wages and the tips fail reach the amount of minimum wage the restaurant is supposed to pay the difference. I've never been anywhere the management posted this information or bothered to tell the employees of the fact.) Read the book, learn the lesson, especially if you haven't been there. It takes a deal of courage and self respect to work at a low paying job and to support your family. If it's all you can get you don't quit, you work and do your best turning in a good job, even in a (so called) menial job.What are my reservations about the book? Well the author could never actually be what she was going "undercover" to portray herself as. She could always quit and go back to her "real life". This of course slanted her view..and (please forgive me if you don't get this...or if you're Barbara Ehrenreich) it seemed to me that her "voice" was always a bit condescending about the people she was dealing with, the ones she was concerned about. Do these people need "more government intrusion" or simply fairer treatment, a fair day's work and a fair day's wage. The book holds up an actual view of life even if a bit skewed.

  • Abby
    2019-01-21 13:33

    In this book, the author moves to three different cities, pretends to be a homemaker re-entering the work force, and tries to survive on minimum wage jobs. It's not easy. She works as a waitress, at a nursing home, as a cleaning lady, and at Walmart. She lives in motel rooms and eats fast food when she has no where to cook. I really enjoyed this book, partially because it was like a serious flashback to my own life. I went with Dale to South Carolina for 4 months in the fall of, I don't know, probably 2005, when he had a military school to attend. We lived in a hotel room the entire time. I had my college degree, but due to the brevity of our residency, I applied for low end jobs (including Walmart, a process she describes) and worked a couple - one as a cleaning lady, just like in this book - and got to know a cleaning woman at our hotel very well. (She helped me hide my cat in my room from management. :-))That fall, I was working for pennies, cleaning people's pee off of the walls, and sweeping up dead cockroaches from behind their toilets. The managers at the apartment complexes where I cleaned treated me a certain way. They seemed to look down on me, the lowly cleaning lady. It didn't really bother me. I was pretty sure I was way better than them in my head.A mere six months later I was back in Utah, working a high end sales job that I kind of accidentally plopped into. It turned out to be a perfect fit for me, and I began making obscene amounts of money. (Seriously, obscene, like more than brain surgeons get paid.) Side note: I still can't believe they paid me as much as they did because, 1. I just sat and played games on my cell phone all day while talking on the phone to clients, and 2. I so would have stayed and done the same job for $75,000 a year. Or $50,000. Or less. Anything was a big step up for a girl who was a cleaning lady 2 months earlier!Anyways, after two years at that job, being rewarded, respected, and getting plaques on the wall in honor of moi, I turned in my high six figure income to be a stay at home mom. Now I have no income, no awards, no high bonuses, and nothing to show for my work other than the silliest monkey of a child on earth. (Which is way better compensation, anyways.)I have never thought so much about my experience of going from low wage, to high wage, to no wage in such a short period of time before. I think I should write a book about it. I have so much to say!Anyways, I enjoyed almost the whole book here, until the end where the author did her evaluation about how we should become a socialist country. Okay, so she didn't exactly say that, but I bet she is voting for Barak Obama, if you know what I mean.Here is why I think she was a little overdramatic:1. Your first few weeks at a job are always the toughest. I remember that from the cleaning job, the day I was given a hideously dirty 3 bedroom to clean. I almost sat on the floor and cried, realizing that just scrubbing the floor in the utility closet could take hours alone, and I was paid per apartment, not hourly. But I also remember the first couple months of my sales job being super stressful, in a different way. I came home one evening and crumpled to the floor of my pantry, sobbing. I just could only handle the pressure of the job so long before I lost it. You get used to your jobs after awhile though, and it doesn't phase you anymore. It happens no matter what, I think, you just can't expect it to happen in the first few weeks, or even months.2. You always start at the very lowest rung on the ladder of success. It sucks, because everyone steps on your head and drops stuff on you. But typically, if you work hard, you will move UP that ladder and get to step on other people instead. Stepping on people is better than being stepped on. You just have to stick around more than a few weeks to get that opportunity.3. You can be happy in any job. It's all attitude! For reals. I have worked sucky jobs. SUCKY SUCKY SUCKY jobs. And I was happy, generally.One other comment section: I think I forgot to put this somewhere in my review, but I don't remember where I was going to say it. So it's just an end note now:I got to know the cleaning ladies at the hotel I lived in. Particularly, I became friends with a black lady named Delilah Green. She helped me keep my adopted kitten Romeo (now a grown up cat) under wraps from the evil management who banned pets in the room. She had one grown daughter and a granddaughter who lived in Florida. She and her boyfriend and some of his family shared an apartment across town, and she'd ride the bus in. Occasionally I would give her a ride home when she missed the bus, and I got to see where she lived. She'd been a drug addict for years, until she sobered up and found Jesus about two years prior. She was working hard, and working her way back into a real life. Other soldiers from Dale's class didn't like her, and swore she was stealing their beer from their fridges. It ticked me off. They were drunk at 3 AM enough for me to be pretty well aware of who was drinking their alcohol. Anyways, whenever I read about these poor working class blue collar women, I picture my friend Delilah. Granted, she had a lot to learn. I gave her a $50 tip and she told me that she used it to buy food and beer for her old druggie friend who had just got out of jail. She was thrilled to be able to help someone, but I was hoping not to have my tip go to buy a prison reject alcohol. My point is, the people who are in poverty often have a reason. They are in their own way. Maybe they use drugs, or they sleep with lots of different men, unprotected, and not married to any of them. Surprise, they get four kids with no dads to help support them. I KNOW this is not the case with every welfare recipient or low wage worker, but often there is blame they need to shoulder. I liked that Delilah took responsibility for what had happened to her, and was grateful for a second chance. I would really like to read a book that tells the other side of this argument, not just her socialist-esque opinion. It has me thinking a lot.PS. Finally, I would like to say the following: there were approximately 579 other things that I read in this book that made me think, "Oh wow - I totally want to comment on that in my review on". This was a very brief (okay, actually it is super long and only my sister will probably read the whole thing, but brief in comparison to what I was THINKING about), and random (because it's what popped into my head while I was typing tonight) discussion of my feelings on this book. Does anyone want to join a book club and read this book then discuss it with me? Please please please? For reals, I just had to stop typing because my review got too long, but this is a fascinating topic, and very interesting book that you can't put down.

  • Madeline
    2019-01-06 09:24

    For the most part, this is a really eye-opening read. It describes an experiement by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich where she takes a series of minimum wage jobs (waitress, hotel maid, housekeeper, nursing home aide, and Wal-Mart employee) and tries to survive on the earnings from those jobs. "Surviving," it turns out, means living in crappy hotels and eating fast food while trying to keep two jobs. Her descriptions of the dirty secrets of the jobs she takes are really interesting - when she cleans houses, she describes how the maids essentially just wipe away dirt without actually bothering to disinfect surfaces - but I'll be honest, I was a little disappointed by how few explosive behind-the-scenes revelations she gives her readers. Also, she's really reluctant to tell exactly which restaurant, maid service, hotel chain, and nursing home she was employed by, although she had no trouble name-dropping when it came time to work for Wal-Mart. I wanted to know exactly which restaurant that was "part of a well-known national chain" (called "Jerry's" in Ehrenreich's book) makes servers prepare salad with their bare hands and usually doesn't have soap in the employee bathrooms. As muckrakers go, Ehrenreich is a bit of a wimp. She also can't seem to shake the whole "I Am A Fearless And Noble Journalist Who Sacrifices Everything FOR THE PEOPLE" mindset she starts out with. When she quits each minimum-wage job to move on to the next one, she makes sure to tell her fellow employees that she's (gasp!) NOT actually a divorced woman with no college education, she's actually a JOURNALIST with a PHD who's INVESTIGATING THIS ESTABLISHMENT FOR A BOOK!!! Ehrenreich is clearly expecting her fellow employees to be shocked and awed by her espionage skills and applaud her for pretending to be One Of Them so she can write a best-selling tell-all, but that doesn't happen. Every single time Ehrenreich reveals her true identity, the response is an overwhelming, "Um...good for you?"And it is hilarious. Read for: Surviving the American Dream