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Paperback Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America Book

ISBN: 0805063897

ISBN13: 9780805063899

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

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Book Overview

In this now classic work, Barbara Ehrenreich, our sharpest and most original social critic, goes undercover as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity. Millions of Americans... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

9 ratings

super real

Just a real and raw story, amazing book.

Nickle and Dimed

I think everyone should read this book and let go of politics to understand what Barbara is really saying. I worked with House the Homeless for 22 years and even though I learned about homelessness having been homeless several times when trying to escape a violent spouse, I also learned those 22 years that homelessness and abject poverty can happen to any one of us regardless of how well off we are now. And one thing I also learned is that poor people are not all drug addicts, they are not all mentally ill-although sleeping on the cold concrete night after night can make one mentally ill-, you can be so settled and then your wife has another beautiful baby, and then 2 weeks after that she is diagnosed with a rapidly terminal cancer, loving you wife so much and the mother of your now four children you miss work to take care of the kids and you use up every penny of savings to save her. Then you bury your wife, the mother of your four children, you lose your job for missing work, you lose your house so you have no place to live. And the world can be rough even in the midst of tragedy. You end up homeless with four children and one of them a baby. I helped a man who had this happen. I worked with him for 2 years to get some semblance of his life back. Two years later he was able to get a good job again. Many employers would not hire him because he missed so much work on the last job he had. It made no difference in the circumstances. During those 2 years, I helped him get transitional housing and even watch his four children while he looked for work and full time when he finally got a job. I did not charge him either. I helped him get food stamps and all the other things he needed for his children. I also helped him overcome the shame so many people in this country feel about being poor. I got to know this man like I would know a brother. And when he got remarried 2 1/2 years after I first started helping him, I was invited to his wedding. And I was really honored to go to this event in his life. He knew his new wife could not replace the children's mother. But now they were a family again and the children called the new wife-Mom two. I think the hardest part for this young man outside of losing the mother of his children was the shame we put on poor people in this country. I know I dealt with the first time I had to have food stamps. I got just enough stamps to buy one pizza per week. I am skinny to begin with and that gave me the most calories per dollar. One pizza last me the whole month until my doctor then noticed I was losing a lot of weight. That was during the years when every skinny woman was getting diagnosed with an eating disorder. Fortunately, this wise doctor asked me how much money I had for food. When I told him the amount of my food stamps was it. Rent and basic utilities took everything else. I did have a phone that was allowed just for local calls. And that was it except for basics like soap, laundry, and toilet paper. He said on my income that was ridiculous and he then called the food stamp office. I got 100 dollars worth of food stamps two days later. And he asked me if I was hungry. I said yes. He ordered me a whole pizza and watched me eat it. I also have serious disabilities and was on social security. I think this country really needs to learn how God expects us to treat poor people and persons who need help. As it says in the parable that Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew--what you do unto the least of these, you do unto me (meaning Jesus). Jesus does not care how fancy your church is and He would never punish you for being poor or sick. But He definitely is not happy with how our society treats the poor, homeless, and the sick.

Life isn't fair

It actually was mildly interesting. The premise of willinging living a low wage life really doesn't prove much though. It's a cute as an ethnography.

Like it says, it's about "Getting By"

and getting by on the low wages some workers are paid is about all they can do. I personally know one single mother who worked three jobs at a time to house and feed her two young boys and herself. I went through the low wage getting by, too, trying to figure out how to get us through the month and maybe have a $5 bill left over. You buy the cheapest brands at the grocery. Kids' hand-me-downs are a blessing. You know every hamburger and pasta recipe there is. It's been some years since reading this book, but I've never forgotten it. And I've never forgotten what it was like to live through those years. If you are one of the lucky ones who never had to face the kind of life Nickel and Dimed tells about, you might like to know what it's like. If you've been there, you'll understand.

Tough as Nails

If one can say she enjoys a book about other people's difficult lives, then, yes, I enjoyed this book. It brought me up to date on what it's like to be truly poor. I haven't been in that situation since the late 1970s when I had to live on AFDC because I had two little kids and was in business school, training to become a court reporter. It was tough but doable, doable because health care and child care were paid for by the State of Iowa as part of AFDC benefits. My check for about $380 a month was considered 80 percent of need. Rent was about $180 a month, and $150 worth of food stamps cost around eighty to a hundred bucks (which I could never afford). I bought all my clothes and furniture at secondhand stores and made all my food from scratch - no convenience food items at all. I saved enough so that about once a month I took the kids to McDonald's to "eat out." And I had one credit card for a local department store, on which I charged one bottle of perfume once a year. Other than that, I used no credit. It wasn't a bad life. I learned how to live frugally and fairly well. But then I did have the advantage, as I said, of subsidized health and child care. Without that it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to make it. In today's world, I probably wouldn't make it as well as I did then. I feel a real affinity for those who are trying to survive on minimum wage. It would be good if everyone read this book to get at least a basic understanding of what it's like to live at the edge of life. Very tough. Thanks, Barbara Ehrenreich, for an enlightening book.

Surprised How Much I Enjoyed, and Was Alarmed/Saddened By, This Book

I wasn't inclined to be head over heels for N & D because it's an avowedly political take and the author's views are a lot further left than my own (that was the case when I first read this in 2002 and I don't think she's more conservative, or I'm more liberal, today), but the subject was interesting to me so I began reading a copy at my local library. I ended up reading the whole thing in a day, then re-read it, and then bought my own copy. The subject of poverty in this country is one that most people don't like to think about or are left throwing up their hands in despair over its intractability, and indeed there aren't any sweeping solutions to the poverty crisis in this book--what an interested reader will get is A) that there IS a genuine crisis, and one that's only gotten much worse in the face of the current brutal recession and B) what it feels like to work long hours for little pay in a country that does nothing to ameliorate these effects and much to magnify them. The book sides with labor and makes few efforts to present management as more than petty tyrants and/or slobs, but it's hard to sympathize with anyone other than the men and women (mostly women) who do so much and receive so little in return. The author clearly likes the women she's doing her undercover work alongside, and so did I. The details are clear and sharp, the logic is impeccable, and whichever way your policy wings spread it cannot be denied that this is a superb work of investigative journalism. 5/5.

Facinating read.

I didn't grow up with much money and I know how hard it can be to get things started which is one reason I wanted to read this book. It's a facinating read about a woman who travels around and tries to live off lower paying jobs. Sure, she's doing it to write a book and devise a social study, but, boy, does what she writes resonate. I can't say enough good things about this one. If for nothing else, read it for the story of her and the vacuum cleaner, when she works as a maid. It was hilarious! This is a good read, as well as----Fast Food Nation.

Inside experience of the agony of minimum wage

The most unsettling aspect of Barbara Ehrenreich's eye-opening foray into the world of the working poor is that the situation hasn't improved. In fact, it's gotten worse. The U.S. economy was booming in the late 1990s when she began her project, working anonymously in various minimum-wage jobs and reporting about the experience. Though she steps in and out of the lives of the minimum-wage workers who befriend her, she is a very powerful, effective advocate for them. In her book, she shows that living decently on about $7 an hour (still the minimum wage in most states) is impossible. However, Ehrenreich gives it a try in three cities, working as a waitress, housekeeper and Wal-Mart clerk. She reports from the front lines, where the working poor eat potato chips for dinner and sleep in fleabag motels, and she does the same. She finds that minimum-wage workers lead a dreary existence, toiling away in obscurity day after day with little hope, just getting by as long as they don't fall ill, need dental work or get in a car wreck. The terribly sad part is that many see no light at the end of the tunnel. getAbstract finds that Ehrenreich is a gifted writer with keen perceptions and a wry sense of humor. Her narrative flows effortlessly as she enlightens, educates and entertains. If only she had a magic wand.

Invisibility & Transcendence

I found Barbara Ehrenreich's book particularly fascinating because it overlapped my own experience--as a chambermaid, a nanny, a transcriptionist, a retail sales clerk, and even, to some extent, as a technical writer (work which is said to require a college degree but in fact does not). Except for the chambermaid's job which I held one summer in college, all the rest of these ( & several other jobs I won't mention) were my lot as out-of-work college professor in the years of the so-called Reagan prosperity. Like Ehrenreich, I, too, had a Ph.D. (mine was in English) and expected that my philosophical view of the world, analytical skills, and advanced vocabulary would draw attention to me as a person educated beyond the requirements of the job. In fact, these qualities were invisible to co-workers, customers, clients. Like her, I became a "girl" whose image for others was shaped by the preconceptions they had about the job and what kind of person would be working it. Anyone who thinks the patriarchy is dead (brought to the mat by Women's Liberations) need only take a job in any field dominated by male managers, entrepreneurs, or professionals. I could only be grateful that I was too old to be subject to sexual harassment, but the psychological put-downs know no age limit. I most identified with Ehrenreich's initial fear that someone would notice she didn't quite "fit in" with her co-workers and must be (as she in fact was, I wasn't) some sort of spy. Her relief and chagrin when no one noticed, when in fact she became as invisible as her co-workers, were emotions I shared. After all, I needed to be working and I didn't want to "stand out"! Though her approach to her self-assigned task is one of apparently total candor, the one thing Ehrenreich does not mention that makes all the difference in the world is that one is WRITING IT DOWN. In my case, I kept a journal throughout my working life and on my last job, as a retail manager, wrote 120 poems about my experiences. Knowing that I was going to write it down gave me a means of transcending the almost-daily humiliations, which, coupled with the physical exhaustion of some of these jobs (not to mention the boredom) would be enough to bring some people to the brink of suicide. I'm sure that Ehrenreich often had the experience, as I did, of looking gleefully at some stupid person who had just tried to "put her down" (like the woman who chided her while she was scrubbing a floor on her knees) because this person had just provided her with a choice bit for that night's journal entry and, ultimately, in her case, for her book. In fact, I believe Ehrenreich would agree that the chief virtue of an education is that it gives you the skills you need to analyze what is happening to you and write it down. This is your means to transcendence and in her case at least, triumph. I've no doubt that her book will make a difference in the lot of working women in America, and, believe me, the

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

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America in Remembering Barbara Ehrenreich
Remembering Barbara Ehrenreich
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 08, 2022

Barbara Ehrenreich never tired of asking the tough questions. The journalist and activist, who passed away on September 8, was the author of more than twenty books and dozens of articles and reviews. Learn about her life and legacy.

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