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

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
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Nov 06, 2007

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Read in January, 2004

For all the author says about the greatness of the American blue-collar worker (she even brags about her husband being one), she seems to think the work is beneath her. It seems like she is trying to shock her readers by exposing the harshness of poverty. But is it really that shocking for her employer to tell her she missed a spot when she's working as a cleaning woman? Sure, there are bad bosses out there, but you can't expect your boss to overlook your bad job cleaning a house just because you have a good education. Also, although I agree life can be desperate on a minimum wage, the author makes her own situation more desperate by refusing to share a room with someone else. It also strikes me as a little unrealistic that there are no assholes among the ranks of her heroic underclass, only among the bosses. Come on. Maybe I am just jaded because I feel like she has only written this book to communicate to other wealthy people who just CAN'T IMAGINE being poor, while my life is somewhere in between hers and the people she writes about.

Now, there are probably TONS of first-person stories written by people who are poor or were poor. "Angela's Ashes," anyone? They were literally starving. Even the writer of "Shattered Dreams" has only one suitcase full of worldly belongings when she goes off to get married... And she says she remembers helping her mother pour the concrete for their cellar. These are people I'd rather read about. People who are good writers, but don't brag about their intellect; people who experienced hardships, but made them into a damn good story.
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