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Sunday, December 04, 2005

cover of Nickel and Dimed

I was challenged by this book. Barbara decides (with the help of a friend and editor) to see what it's like to make minimum wage and try to live on it. She ends up as a waitress in Florida, a house cleaner in Maine, and an associate at Walmart in Minnesota. These jobs all take physical energy, and most were at least 8 hours a day. She had a hard time finding cheap housing (and didn't always feel safe when she did), finding a reasonable place to work, and getting to know the ropes of that new job (because no job is really 'unskilled'.)

The author, undercover reporter of sorts, brings up issues like what it means to be poor – what sorts of demeaning situations minimum wage workers are often in – kinds of food which are cheap and accessible – what her neighbors were like – the stories of her coworkers who weren't going back to her comfortable life at the end of the month. The gap between the rich and poor continues to widen, and we as Americans aren't doing that much to stop it.

Ehrenreich doesn't really present solutions or ways we might address the issues – but does a good job presenting the problems as real situations for real people who may not survive long without being given rights and wages that actually cover a down payment on an apartment instead of just weekly motels. No room for God or grace in this book, but – it does a good job of accomplishing the original purpose and helping to open the eyes of those who read it.

Title:Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
Date published:2001
Number of pages: 221
Notes: Recommended by Amy P., and then John & Jude


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