Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream
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Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  1,118 ratings  ·  258 reviews
Adam Shepard graduated from college in the summer of 2006 feeling disillusioned by the apathy he saw around him and incensed after reading Barbara Ehrenreich's famous works Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch—books that gave him a feeling of hopelessness over the state of the working class in America. Eager to see if he could make something out of nothing, he set out to p...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Harper (first published November 30th 2007)
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Mer
Mar 03, 2008 Mer rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ayn Rand, Rush Limbaugh, Frat Boys Sitting in Their Orthodontist's Waiting Room
Shelves: ugh, wtf
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'cos when you're laid in bed at night
watching roaches climb the wall
if you called your dad he could stop it all yeah
You'll never live like common people
You'll never do whatever common people do
You'll never fail like common people
You'll never watch your life slide out of view
and then dance and drink and screw
because there's nothing else to do


~Common People
PULP


I'll preface my opinions by stating that I believe wholeheartedly in th...more
Cheri
Right upfront, this book is poorly written by an arrogant young white male just barely out of college. As a "rebuttal" (and I use that loosely, considering the authors lack of writing skills) to Nickel and Dimed, the book fails miserably.

The author starts out with $25 and proceeds to milk the system for a year until he "pulls himself up by the bootstraps" and ends up with $2,500, an apartment, and a run-down truck. Along the way he remarks that all the other poor slubs he meets should be able t...more
Cameo
Pretentious drivvel. Making your way through life, starting from 'nothing' might be an interesting excercise, but not legit when you start with an ivy league education, excellent health care your entire life, and an escape to mommy with a quick phone call.

This guy is a joke and only slaps himself on the back and reinforces the idea that anyone in any situation and background can get ahead. - I'm not convinced that's so.
Erica
This book resonated with me as my family firmly believes in the "American Dream". To start out with nothing, then work your way up to a house, car, to be able to afford children then ultimately the ability to give them opportunities that you never had yourself.

After reading other peoples reviews I had to say, at least Adam Shepard had the guts to go out and live in homeless shelters and to experience poverty on the ground level. All the personal criticisms that other reviewers gave (too white,...more
Wendy
I'm giving this book a 5 star rating not because it's elegantly written, or that the story is so gripping I couldn't put it down. On the contrary, I read it piece-meal over the course of 3 weeks.

This book deserves a 5 because I REALLY liked the guts and determination this guy showed.

I scoff at you Goodreads reviewers that gave him a 1 star because of gems like this: "Thank you for telling me that a single, white, college educated (even if you don't put it on your resume) male, who is heterosex...more
Denise
Not the Nickel & Dimed rebuttal I was hoping for. This young man is a go-getter, but his book, his approach and his viewpoints are so much of what is expected from a young, healthy white male, fresh out of college with a loving, supportive family at home. He has concern for those in more dire situations, but his expectations of them to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps is not realistic. Also his expectation of those more fortunate to make sacrifices for those less fortunate so that...more
Beth
I don't recommend this. It's a quick read, but the author didn't put a lot of thought into his experiment (and I disagree that this makes him "unbiased," as he claims). He is described on the back as "earnest," and I think that's a nice way of explaining that he seriously overuses the exclamation point. Every chapter ends with basically the same thing: Now I'm on the road to success, because I have the right attitude (unlike the working poor)! Not a fan.
Elliot Ratzman
This is the douchebag’s Nickel and Dimed. Recent college grad—who completely missed the lessons of Ehrenreich’s experiment in low wage work—decides he’s going to “prove” the “American dream” is still possible by starting with $25 and pulling himself up by his bootstaps in Charleston, SC. He lives in a homeless shelter for a few months while taking some hard, dirty jobs. Soon, he’s employed—with interesting tidbits about the daily lives of movers—and has settled into an apartment, bought a truck...more
Jim
The best part about this book was its premise . . . what if all you had to your name was $25.00 and the clothes on your back? Could you survive? Thrive? Work your way up and achieve the American Dream? Adam Shepard decided to try it and wrote this book about his experiences.

Unfortunately, his experiences just weren't all that interesting. He does a good job describing what life was like in a homeless shelter, and starting at the very bottom of the workforce as a day laborer. He takes you with hi...more
April Hedges
"Gee whiz everybody! If I just try my hardest, and never give up, I can be anything! All I need is a can-do attitude!"

That's the tone of this entire book.

I read this book after reading Nickel and Dimed, since it is supposedly a rebuttal to that book, and Ehrenrich even mentions it in her afterword. It is not, in any way, a rebuttal to Nickel and Dimed. There is nothing in Scratch Beginnings that resembles journalism, sociology, research, or anything of the sort. It is a memoir of a naive, conce...more
Terrie
In the interests of full disclosure, Adam sent me a copy of his book when he saw it was on my to read/wishlist. I really enjoyed it. The pacing and style were good, and he has a real ear for dialogue. Definitely laugh-out-loud funny in a few places. All but the last chapter is a straight up narrative of his experience, so it's engrossing. It's pitched as a contrast to Nickel and Dimed, which I read several years ago and was interesting in terms of her experience but not so much the conclusions,...more
Felicia
I read "Nickel and Dimed" while in college and, like the author of "Scratch Beginnings," found it to be very disheartening. This author does one better by starting out in a homeless shelter and trying to work his way to independence. The home point is that the American dream is still possible, but it depends on the determination and initiative of the person seeking it. An interesting read.
Annie
Shepard says he did this experiment and wrote the book as a counterpoint to Barbara Ehrenreich's books about the failure of the American Dream. Well, he did it -- started with $25 and the clothes he was wearing, ended a year later with a pick-up truck, living in a furnished apartment, and having saved over $5,000. It was a brave experiment, and he contends that with the right attitude anyone can do it. Luckily, he acknowledges that many people live without achieving even the basics of the Dream...more
Daniel
Sep 02, 2008 Daniel marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Please see the bottom of my review
Adam Shepard is, in my opinion, not too different from what I call “Nomadic Trustafarians.” Picture this, young rich brats, usually just out of college (as Shepard) from areas of socio-economic deprivation like Lincoln and Duxbury, MA; most of Fairfield County, CT; Scarsdale and Great Neck, NY; Alpine and Summit, NJ; the “Main Line” near Philly, etc.

These rich, college educated, but very naive people temporarily “go native” in many third world countries, notably Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Thailand...more
Madison J
Scratch Beginnings
Adam Shepard

Scratch Beginnings was a very easy read and a very eye-opening novel. This novel is the story of a young, college graduate who gives up his privileged lifestyle to prove a fellow author’s theory on life wrong. Barbara Ehrenreich’s books Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch are both two novels that give society no hope or courage of changing their societal situation, and Adam Shepard wanted to to prove her beliefs false. Adam Shepard started with basically the cloth...more
Elizabeth
Jul 15, 2008 Elizabeth rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who read Nickel and Dimed, whether they liked it or not
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Kent
Shelves: non-fiction
Kent let me borrow his copy of this book. I have good and bad things to say about it. Shepard read Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich, didn't like it and didn't agree, and set out with nothing but $25, the clothes he was wearing, and a goal. He wanted to have a car and a set amount of money in a set amount of time. He does it. And in way under the time limit. He definitely showed it is possible. I applaud him for that.

What kept me from liking it more has little or nothin...more
David Robins
A rational response to Nickel and Dimed showing that you can get by if you make good use of what's available; and chief among what was available was a private shelter/kitchen, Crisis Ministries (although some names were changed in the book, Crisis Ministries is real). Lots of great content; people content to just get by, and on the other hand those with a plan and a goal that managed to reach it through hard work and perseverance.
Dave
I heard about this book through an interview with the author on the Get Rich Slowly blog. It sounded interesting and my library didn't have a copy, so I emailed Adam Shepard and he sent me a PDF of the book. How cool is that?

The book itself was an excellent read. I mean, it's not an instant classic or anything but if you approach it with the attitude that this guy is conducting a social experiment, it's really fascinating. As I read it I related it to my own life and the luxuries that I have. We...more
Molly
I was unimpressed with this trite, arrogant look into poverty. Thank you for telling me that a single, white, college educated (even if you don't put it on your resume) male, who is heterosexual, and healthy, finds it pretty easy to get a job, apartment, and generally succeed. Wow, I didn't know that. My final thought is that the $5,000 that he ended up with at the end of his one year stint could have easily been donated (in part) to the homeless shelter where he spent 70 days. C'mon, let's all...more
CMolieri
Another life of privilege, another slum-cation! As in Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Shepard decides to embark on a poverty project, only his premise is that he can prove that the American Dream is alive and well and that anyone can make something from nothing. The book is far too preachy, maintains a false sense of humility while covertly seeking praise, and overlooks the classism and white privilege that plays a role in carrying him toward his one-dimensional goals.

This kid said it right towar...more
Kent
Mar 25, 2008 Kent rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone and anyone
Just heard about this new book about a college-educated young man who purposely started as a homeless person with nothing and tried to achieve a modest version of the American Dream.

Very good book, but not much drama. He makes it mostly on bull-headedness and attitude. I couldn't have done this.

But it is real, and the lessons learned are applicable to us all.

scratchbeginnings.com

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Starr
Adam, you can't claim that your thesis needs no research (just experience will do, eh?), and then make sweeping recommendations on what will help poor people rise up from the chains of poverty. At least, you can't do that and expect to be taken very seriously.

You're an educated white guy who enjoys great health (physical and mental). You don't understand drug addiction, mental illness, or even the problem of being unattractive (yeah, that can hold people back, too).

I'm afraid your condescending...more
Terry
I'm impressed that this young man set out on a project to prove to himself that anything is possible in America if you set your mind to it. Barring mental or severe physical impairments, he proves that we can improve our condition with the right motivations. One of his findings, however, was that sad fact that some people choose to continue living in unpleasant situations. I bought this to give to my boys since they are young men with their future to plan for...but it is a great reminder to me t...more
Steph Patt
I read this book as an assignment for a diversity and tolerance class I am taking. It was not my first choice in the line of allowable readings, but my second pick. It is a true story of a man, Adam Shepard, who decides to prove to the world that with a little hard work you can achieve the American dream. Adam sets off on a bus to Charlotte, NC and begins his journey. Right away he finds room at a homeless shelter and begins working his way up through the chains of poverty. He makes up a false...more
Scott
Adam Shepard started from an excellent springboard to achieve the American dream, including a stable, middle-class family and a college education. He decides to jettison those advantages and hop a train with just $25 in his pocket to start again on the lowest rung of society. It's a bootstrap experiment with a one-year deadline. His adventure starts in a strange town, in a homeless shelter, and we follow his journey through a series of unfortunate events, jobs, and quirky characters.

Adam's stor...more
Liz
I was intrigued by this book when I read about it because of the experiment the author conducted by setting out with $25 and seeing how far he could get in a year. Not only was the experiment and social study of the book intersting and inspiring, the story itself and the characters were very intersting and I found myself engrossed in the book as I would in a novel rather than just a "documentary." It's an inspiring book about how people's attitudes can shape so much of their lives.
Christopher Bergeron
I found the book very exciting and was able to finish the whole thing during today's AP exam which was nice since I was reading it because the class is going to be doing some work with it starting next week. The book is a nice counterpoint to "Nickeled and Dimed" and I found it to be very inspirational. A anyone and everyone can do it. I also liked how several times he mentioned he couldn't have make it through without the library.
Constance
This book is okay. There are some interesting ideas but it gets boring after a while when the author is just talking about the people he met rather than sharing exactly how he was saving and spending money. Also I didn't like the misguided rant at the end about people showing initiative.
Miketuttle
Kudos to the guy for setting a goal, intentionally strapping on ankle weights, and learning something. But where did he get? Still out there hustling with his hand out for a job from someone else.

Even within the premise of the book, I would have liked to have heard more about his inventive budgeting. All we got was 1) don't spend more than 30% of your take-home on housing; 2) eat cheap, unhealthy food; 3) get the transmission checked.

All he really had to do was work, eat and sleep. A couple of d...more
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