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

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
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's review
Apr 17, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: memoir, sociology, non-fiction
Recommended for: anyone
Read in April, 2008

Very thought provoking. The author decides to try to live off unskilled, nearly minimum wage jobs, to see if it can be done. During the 4-5 month attempt, she takes positions as a waitress, elder care facility assistant, WalMart employee, a cleaning associate for The Maids, and a couple others. What she finds is that to survive, she must work two jobs, ignore health issues, and basically be run ragged. Throughout the book, she reminds us (and herself) that she's in the unusual position of being able to dip into her 'other life' to raid the savings if needed.

The stories of those she meets are the more poignant. One woman who sleeps in her car and showers at friends' houses. The couple who live in flea-bag hotels b/c they cannot scrape together the deposit for a home. The cleaning woman who attempts to continue working though she broke her ankle.

The book is an eye-opener and well-worth reading. I'm glad that at least one high-school in the area has made it a required read.

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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Michele (new)

Michele I liked this book also...but to me it felt like there was something she never completely immersed herself in the "life." Nonetheless a worthwhile read - and probably a real eye-opener for someone completely immersed in the middle and upper middle class lifestyle without a clue.

Steve I think that's one of the reasons it took me so long to review the book. Something didn't feel right, or was missing. My guess is that she really couldn't get it right because she always had the financial safety cushion that she could fall back on. I would almost want to see her provide more in-depth information on her co-workers and their perspective as opposed to her own. Of course, she would have really needed to gain much more trust to do that.

message 3: by Michele (new)

Michele Well, not to be unfair - but I think it would have taken a deeper commitment to understanding how these women live. You probably had to be there at one time or another to fully understand, and I suspect she never has. Though it's good that she wrote about it, because the situation deserves attention, it would have taken a "Black Like Me" commitment to fully immerse. By the way, if you've never read that book, I recall it was an amazing story. It's been a long time, and might seem dated today...but it still sticks with me after many, many years.

message 4: by Lee Anne (new)

Lee Anne I've never read this book, mainly because it seemed to have one of those Michael Moore-style agendas of "I'm going to prove my hypothesis, facts be damned." Granted, I was single and childless at the time, but I have managed to live on small retail wages (not B&N, think D.E.)and have an apartment and a car and not eat peanut butter sandwiches for every meal. I think she came at it from a pretty lofty perch.

message 5: by Michele (new)

Michele D.E.?

message 6: by Lee Anne (new)

Lee Anne Drug Emporium

message 7: by Michele (new)

Michele Really? Then you need to write a "how to live on less" book. And now would be a good time to do so!! ;)

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