[Barbara Ehrenreich] ñ Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America [underground-railway PDF] Read Online ✓ 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.
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.
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 SurvivalMillions Of Americans Work Full Time, Year Round, For Poverty Level Wages In , 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 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 IndoorsNickel 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 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 requiredtime 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 , 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.
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, andso 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 BrysonNext review Six Degrees a public service reviewOlder review Perfume The Story of a Murderer only two sentences, but not a putdown Previous library review The Millionaire Next Door Next library review Future Scenarios 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.
, 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.
Ehrenreich, a woman who has a Ph.
, 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 expos 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 itThere 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 waitressSometimes 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.
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.
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 keepperishable 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.
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.
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 muchintense 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 beingbrutally 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 minterested 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.
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.
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 muchinteresting if she d actually committed to the premise a littleEspecially because she was there such a short time I know that working minimum wage jobs isn t fun, but couldn t you commit tothan 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.