Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

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Henry Holt and Company, Apr 1, 2010 - Social Science - 224 pages
284 Reviews

Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity.

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 a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.

 

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User Review  - caanderson - LibraryThing

Well written, smart, and brings the stark reality of the working poor to the surface. It addresses the common misconception of the poor, welfare recipients, and immigrants. It brings in the history of how the US dealt with the poor and offers insight into the discussion. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - nx74defiant - LibraryThing

I had mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed reading the experiences. She annoyed me when she talked about the advantages for the Client of dealing with an agency for maids, but not getting the ... Read full review

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Contents

Getting Ready
1
One Serving in Florida
11
Two Scrubbing in Maine
51
Three Selling in Minnesota
121
Evaluation
193
Nickel and Dimed
223
A Readers Guide
241
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel and Dimed, Blood Rites, The Worst Years of Our Lives (a New York Times bestseller), Fear of Falling, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and eight other books. A frequent contributor to Time, Harper's, Esquire, The New Republic, Mirabella, The Nation, and The New York Times Magazine, she lives near Key West, Florida.

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