- Hardcover: 221 pages
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company Inc; First Edition edition (31 May 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805063889
- ISBN-13: 978-0805063882
- Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.2 x 22.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,331,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting by in America Hardcover – 31 May 2001
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Essayist and cultural critic, now author of Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich has always specialised in turning received wisdom on its head with intelligence, clarity and verve.
With some 12 million women being pushed into the labour market by welfare reform, she decided to do some good old-fashioned journalism and find out just how they were going to survive on the wages of the unskilled--at six to seven USD an hour, only half of what is considered a living wage. So she did what millions of Americans do; she looked for a job and a place to live, worked that job and tried to make ends meet.
As a waitress in Florida, where her name is suddenly transposed to "girl", trailer trash becomes a demographic category to aspire to with rent at USD 675 per month. In Maine, where she ends up working as both a cleaner and a nursing home assistant, she must first fill out endless pre-employment tests with trick questions such as, "Some people work better when theyre a little bit high." In Minnesota she works at Wal-Mart under the repressive surveillance of men and women whose job it is to monitor her behaviour for signs of sloth, theft, drug abuse, or worse. She even gets to experience the humiliation of the urine test.
So, do the poor have survival strategies unknown to the middle class? And did Ehrenreich feel the "bracing psychological effects of getting out of the house, as promised by the people who brought us welfare reform?" No, even in her best-case scenario, with all the advantages of education, health, a car, and money for first months rent, she has to work two jobs, seven days a week and still almost ends up in a shelter.
As Ehrenreich points out with her potent combination of humour and outrage, the laws of supply and demand have been reversed. Rental prices skyrocket, but wages never rise. Rather, jobs are cheap in comparison to the pay that workers are encouraged to take as many as they can. Behind those trademark Wal-Mart vests, it turns out, are the borderline homeless.
With her characteristic wry wit and her unabashedly liberal bent, Ehrenreich brings the invisible poor out of hiding and, in the process, the world they inhabit where civil liberties are often ignored and hard work fails to live up to its reputation as the ticket out of poverty. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'A superb book' -- Decca Aitkenhead, Guardian
'An extraordinary Orwellian testimony to how tough American working life is for the bottom 20 per cent' -- Will Hutton
'An extraordinary achievement...surely one of the most gripping political books ever written' -- Observer
'Brilliant, gripping and extraordinarily timely, this is a book about collective blindness that will change the way you see' -- Naomi Klein
'This book is about the kinds of relationships we have with other human beings...a book that must be read' -- Geoff Dyer, Independent on Sunday
'This is a book about collective blindness that will change the way you see' -- Naomi Klein, author of No Logo
'We have Barbara Ehrenreich to thank for bringing us the news of America's working poor.' -- New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I have read some harsh criticisms of the book. However, the author was aware of many of these problems and she does not hide her faults. She is only 'visiting' the world of the poor, she does write more about herself than those she meets and she does make some decisions that, in some cases, make her ordeal needlessly worse whilst others make it easier.
Accept her failings as she does, and read a book that says a lot about US society and has many points that are transferable to the UK.
I am unable to call this book eye-opening, because I know just how difficult it is to make ends meet, and I was working in what is rather condescendingly referred to as the "pink collar" sector. Even with my "middle-class" earnings, I was never more than a paycheck or two away from being in real financial trouble, and I did NOT live lavishly by any stretch of the imagination. It is no surprise to me at all that $6-8.00 per hour is not enough to keep body and soul together. Especially in America, where necessities of life (health care, food, housing) are, for some people, luxuries, this is a frustrating situation.
What Ehrenreich does is open her own eyes to the drudgery and difficulty of daily life in this grind. She has no pat answers for solving the deeply-entrenched problems that the working poor face; she is only able to shed a light on them.Read more ›
For most of a year Ehrenreich attempted to join the underclass. She took low-paying jobs as a waitress in Key West, Florida, a maid in Maine, and worked as a Wal-Mart "associate" in Minnesota. She also did a stint as a nursing home aide. Her chronicle of those efforts mainly concentrates of the sheer economic impossibility of doing low-pay work, and having even the barest modicum of a decent life (and yes, forget about health insurance, so one is always truly, living "on the edge.") Her job changes over the year limited her ability to develop true relationships with her co-workers, but there are those occasional snippets of insight from their lives, and I thought the portion where the maids really did not clean the houses of the upper class, as they should, particularly noteworthy for the small acts of defiance from America's "lumpenproletariat."
Ehrenreich efforts are flawed, as she partially admits in the book. First of all, she never really was part of the "down and out" workers, say, in the sense of Jean Genet or George Orwell or Henry Miller, who were not pretending, and therefore were able to render truer accounts.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book that counters the argument that somehow low-paid workers are lazy or undeserving of better pay and working conditions.Published 14 months ago by Mr Andrew D Griffith
It’s a strangely unsatisfactory read. I found Ehrenreich rather got in the way of the real story. On two counts. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Woolco
This book is viewed as an undercover expose to most who will read it but is, in fact, just an account of normal life for many, many more who won't even know that the book was ever... Read morePublished on 2 Jun. 2015 by Janie U
This journalist, presenting herself as a woefully unskilled home-maker returning to the job market, spent three months, each month in a different city, trying to earn enough to... Read morePublished on 26 May 2014 by Clare O'Beara
Even through is about a decade old, the experiences Im sure are no different if repeated today in the USA or UK to a similar degree. Read morePublished on 25 Mar. 2014 by johnny
After hearing so much about this book at uni, I decided to purchase it. It offers a great insight of the journey of millions of AmericansPublished on 3 Nov. 2013 by Isabelle G.