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.
"Captivating . . . promise that you will read this explosive little book cover to cover and pass it on to all your friends and relatives." --"The New York Times
"Impassioned, fascinating, profoundly significant, and wildly entertaining . . . Nickel and Dimed is not only important but transformative in its insistence that we take a long hard look at the society we live in." "--"Francise Prose, "O, The Oprah Magazine
"Valuable and illuminating . . . Barbara Ehrenreich is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism." --"The New York Times Book Review
"Jarring . . . fully of riveting grit . . . this book is already unforgettable."" --The New York Times"
"Reading Ehrenreich is good for the soul." --Molly Ivins
"Ehrenreich is passionate, public, hotly lucid, and politically engaged." --"Chicago Tribune"
"Ehrenreich's scorn withers, her humor stings, and her radical light shines on." --"The Boston Globe"
"One of today's most original writers." --"The New York Times
"Barbara Ehrenreich is smart, provocative, funny, and sane in a world that needs more of all four." --Diane Sawyer
Captivating . . . promise that you will read this explosive little book cover to cover and pass it on to all your friends and relatives. "The New York Times"
Impassioned, fascinating, profoundly significant, and wildly entertaining . . . "Nickel and Dimed" is not only important but transformative in its insistence that we take a long hard look at the society we live in. "Francise Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine"
Valuable and illuminating . . . Barbara Ehrenreich is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism. "The New York Times Book Review"
Jarring . . . fully of riveting grit . . . this book is already unforgettable. "The New York Times"
Reading Ehrenreich is good for the soul. "Molly Ivins"
Ehrenreich is passionate, public, hotly lucid, and politically engaged. "Chicago Tribune"
Ehrenreich's scorn withers, her humor stings, and her radical light shines on. "The Boston Globe"
One of today's most original writers. "The New York Times"
Barbara Ehrenreich is smart, provocative, funny, and sane in a world that needs more of all four. "Diane Sawyer"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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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 ›
Secondly, surprisingly, her actual prose. She’ll throw in jarringly inappropriate words just for the sheer fun (cleverness?) of it: “I pretend to study my check for a clue, but entropy has been up to its tricks, not only on the plate but in my head…” Entropy is a complicated concept - it’s meaning: 1.(communication theory) a numerical measure of the uncertainty of an outcome; 2.(thermodynamics) a thermodynamic quantity representing the amount of energy in a system that is no longer available for doing mechanical work. It’s clearly not the right word for that sentence. Food on a plate cannot suffer from entropy. It’s a lazy stab at sounding articulate.
Another example: “I was struck by what appeared to be an extreme case of demographic albinism”. She means there were a high proportion of white people in the area - not sufferers of the pigmentation disorder, albinism. They’re not the same thing.
And: “Then Holly starts up on one of those pornographic late-afternoon food conversations…” Pornographic? We’re not talking food-related sexual fetishes - we’re talking common culinary fantasies. Why ‘pornographic’?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not what I expected....just one person's story of finding work. Also a bit 'dated' and not inclusive of other options.Published 19 days ago by F. Richard Wemmers, Jr
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 14 months ago 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.
Good book. Held my interest and attention throughout. The "American Way" , i.e. Corporate America, is again shown in its true light with all its ugly devotion to the dollar. Read morePublished on 18 Sept. 2013 by Philip Mayo
An excellent, vibrant narration of the anxious life millions of low wage workers are obliged to lead. Middle-aged Mrs. Read morePublished on 8 July 2013 by pantelis panteloglou