Penelope's Reviews > Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
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's review
Jul 11, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: non-fiction, summer-10, memoir
Read from June 27 to July 02, 2010

I enjoyed the premise of this book more than the book itself. As plenty of others have pointed out, Ehrenreich hardly engages with her coworkers on level ground, given the fact that she has a car, a few thousand dollars to start her off in each new city, and at least a few contacts from her upper-middle-class-life whom she can call for help.

Financial inequality aside, I found most of her "discoveries" both dull and unauthentic, since she obviously is approaching the situation from a completely different psychological position than her coworkers. Although she occasionally waxes poetic about what must be the negative effects (both mentally and physically) of working a minimum-wage job, she certainly does not experience these effects for herself, especially since she works each job for such a short period of time.

Overall, I think this book has an excellent premise. Perhaps if Ehrenreich had spent more time interviewing her coworkers and telling THEIR stories, this would be a more nuanced and sociologically valuable narrative. As it stands, however, Nickel and Dimed is really more about Ehrenreich's personal experience than about the working-poor themselves.

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