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Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  5,286 ratings  ·  905 reviews
We in America have certain ideas of what it means to be poor. Linda Tirado, in her signature brutally honest yet personable voice, takes all of these preconceived notions and smashes them to bits. She articulates not only what it is to be working poor in America (yes, you can be poor and live in a house and have a job, even two), but what poverty is truly like—on all level ...more
Hardcover, 195 pages
Published October 2nd 2014 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published January 1st 2014)
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Bill Abbott Being a poor person in America. It explains from her point of view how poor people think and act, why they don't take advantage of health care and why…moreBeing a poor person in America. It explains from her point of view how poor people think and act, why they don't take advantage of health care and why many of them smoke or eat badly. It confronts and explains from the "front lines" what life is like on the economic lower rungs.(less)

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La Petite Américaine Cash App: $Covid2020sucks
Sep 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: The illiterate
It amazes me how much I have in common with Linda Tirdao.

I, like Tirado, had a caring family and a relatively privileged upbringing. I, like Tirado, spent my 20s taking low-paying jobs and making shitty financial choices while living an ideal existence in Europe. And as with Tirado, shit got real when I had a child.

But there, alas, our paths diverge. I returned to the USA and turned my writing into a side business while I went to graduate school. When shit hit the fan during my second year of
Dec 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book just ticked me off. The thesis statement seems to be "Why bother trying" As someone who has a background not dissimilar from the author's, I'm mad that she feels she is explaining my life to "rich people" By her own admission, she has a diagnosed anger management problem for which she has refused treatment. She wants a doctor who she can call when she feels like it, won't demand to see her in person and will write prescriptions on demand. She claims "rich people" have that option. Spoi ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
I was prepared to be humbled by the harsh reality of this woman's life but instead I felt judged by her and her shitty attitude towards anyone who isn't living paycheck to paycheck. As if anyone not barely scraping by is a selfish, self-absorbed asshole who has no idea what stress is.

Tirado can write, I’ll give her that. She's an excellent and very funny writer. But she wrote the book to counter stereotypes about poverty and in combatting judgement, she judges harshly everyone who is not like h
Oct 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Before I review this book a brief account of my bona fides are in order. I am a child of privilege and I have really always lived in privilege. There have been times when "money was tight" but that was because of mismanagement of resources, not because the resources weren't there.

I worked as a volunteer with battered women in the mid-80s, professionally at a food bank in the mid 90s and then more recently again as a volunteer for residential program for homeless men and for a feeding program fo
This is a tough book to review. I almost feel like any opinion I express will make someone mad. Since I have mixed opinions I might be able to tick off nearly everyone. :-)
First of all, this was a courageous book. It takes a lot of nerve to write a book like this. It is also an angry book, and a very defensive one. This author is poor, very ticked off about it, engages in a lot of self-destructive behavior, spends a lot of time justifying that, and telling "rich" people what they ought to do. (H
Alex Givant
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poverty, economy, audio
It's hard to be poor and this book is vivid example of stuff poor people need to deal with that other don't. She clearly shows that been poor is constant pressure to be homeless if you miss work for a week (or even couple days). ...more
Aug 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway and the cover stated, "Uncorrected Proof For Limited Distribution". I rated this book one star, but it did not deserve even that. The class envy and irrational fury was palpable from page 1. Though the author stated a couple of times that she was speaking for herself, on nearly every page she was definitely attempting to give the impression that her bad temper (her description) and nasty attitude were nearly universal among poor people. I was bor ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Imagine the angry comedian Lewis Black (or if you remember him, Sam Kinison) telling you, at length, what's the matter with this country that he's stuck in low wage work and has little hope of ever improving his situation. That's Linda Tirado -- angry, funny, erudite, working poor.

Ever heard someone ask why poor people eat so much junk food or why they don't take better care of themselves or why they make such bad life decisions. Tirado has answers and she doesn't hold back. She stays angry beca
Martin Rose
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
I wasn't going to review this book, looking over other reviews and gleaning a bit from social media, it feels vaguely counterproductive. But I'm still writing, so let's give it a shot and I'll explain why the reticence:

Basically, Linda Tirado finds herself propelled onto bookshelves everywhere when a random post she wrote about living an impoverished life goes viral, and wrote a book that's essentially that same post, but with several hundred pages stuffed into it, a preface by Barbara Ehrenreic
Oct 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Well, I was going to give the book two stars, but I just returned from my public library's book club where the author was supposed to Skype in, but guess what? She was a no show. Didn't call, text, phone....nothing. Just a no show. Surprised? Nope. Here is what I was going to ask the author:

1. Could she elaborate on how exactly she found herself in poverty after a decent upbringing. All we get in the book is one paragraph that she got there "in a pretty average way." That at age 16 she left for
Julie Ehlers
I don't want to discourage anyone from reading this book. The fact is, if you live in the U.S. and you've never given any thought to how minimum-wage workers survive in our culture, you need to read something to educate yourself, and this book is better than nothing. It's a fast read and it definitely makes some good points (see my status updates for examples).

Unfortunately, though, Hand to Mouth's many problems prevent me from recommending it wholeheartedly. Foremost among these: the writing. I
Aug 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
** I am adding this update 6.16.15 regarding poor in America. If you have a urge to learn more about the struggles of the poor, I recommend this book It offers an amazing, readable overview of America's welfare system while following several current day case studies in various parts of the country. **

There is too much of a backstory that seems to be left out for a full understanding of Linda Tirado's POV. I still don't understand how someone who has no ti
Kyle Nicholas
Nov 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'd feel more sorry for this author if it weren't for the fact that she seems to make way too many totally avoidable mistakes and then blames "rich people" or society for them. Seriously, you're going to apologize for having kids you can't afford because you didn't want to bother taking a daily birth control pill? This after admitting two chapters back that you were a daily pill-popper? Oh, and you don't want to hear my lecture about the fact that you smoke and that's contributing to the fact th ...more
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
I hadn't realised, until I went to a seminar called 'How to Thrive During Your PhD' a few months back, that the self-help industry was completely hooked into academia...or vice versa. The psychologist presenting it had the gall to show a pie chart which suggested that a lot of how you feel is your own damned fault. 

Sorry, I can't be bothered trying to put pictures on GR. Rest of it is here on my blog.
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
This was a very engaging and entertaining book. The content is terrifying and depressing and enraging. The humor really helps. I had a hard time putting it down and an easy time reading it. If I hadn’t been concurrently reading a novel, I’d have finished it in one or two days. It’s thought provoking and I hope it might be a contributing catalyst for some social and political, and personal, change.

I’m grateful that even though she is writing about poverty in general, she is clear that she is spea
Tom Currier
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a terrific book, certainly among the better non-fiction books I've read lately. I probably enjoyed this particularly because it portrayed much of my life and the lives of many people I know so I was able to relate particularly well.

I also think that this book should be required reading. Not because it's a literary masterpiece, or even that it's well written. Because this book tells a story in very plain words (often interspersed with colorful language but appropriate to the st
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Very candid, honest, and raw testimony of what it is like living "hand-to-mouth" in the 'Land of Plenty' and home of the "American Dream". While her voice and experience may be heard and mildly validated in more ways than, say, a minority "complaining" about their lot in life, I doubt seriously that this will make a dent in the thinking or conscience of those to whom it is directed.
Well written, artfully, and heart-fully told, but file this firmly under the "Preaching to the Choir" section of y
Dec 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
Ugh. Could not finish. Millennial hell.
Oct 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one. there have got to be better books on this subject
Linda Tirado’s book Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America should make intelligent readers crazy angry, especially if those readers have ever experienced financial hardship. Tirado is the wrong person—and this book is the wrong book—to help anyone understand what it is like to be working poor. Shame on the gullible left-leaning media for hailing Tirado as some kind of savior and truth-teller for the poor. She’s not. But let’s also give the finger to the right-wing media for using Tirado’s le ...more
Waited 5 months for this book to come in on order at the library. Was well aware of the questionable authenticity of Tirado's original essay.

After reading a mere 20 pages, I have to wonder how many of Tirado's problems are less due to the actual plight of the poor and more because she has a piss-poor attitude. Years ago I worked at a tax office, and some of my hourly co-workers would bail as soon as the immediate bread-n-butter jobs (returns) were finished, even if there were hundreds of papers
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
May 27, 2015 marked it as i-want-money
Review by Vollmann ::

"Under the Wheel of Capitalism: The 1 percenters who demonize the poor have always followed Hitler’s strategy of the big lie"

If she had stopped at the very honest and explicable “I just don’t see what’s in it for me anymore beyond my little paycheck,” I would have liked the book more.
As it is, I still admire it, and her.

The answer is still the same one the Wobblies provided back in 1905 :: Education, Organization, Emancipation.

Nancy Steinle gummel
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado. is a first reads win and I am giving my honest review. To me, this is a sad book. It all depends in perspective. I was homeless once. I was too sick to notice being put up in Motel6. At least I had insurance. The plight of Ms. Tirado was very dire at time. She handled the situation satirically.
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Over the last two years, there has been a steady but not entirely unprecedented rise in public attacks on Americans who are poor, unemployed, and underprivileged. This is in part due to the 2012 presidential election, in which supporters of Mitt Romney were forced to defend his opinions on the "47% of Americans" who receive government assistance--those on Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and so on, all of whom Romney's supporters derided as "takers"--but was in retrosp ...more
Oct 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: current_events
This book is a repetitive, foul-mouthed rant by a woman who blames everyone else for her circumstances. She constantly states that she is an intelligent, well-read person, but then goes on to say such things as she didn't know signing a release of liability form would allow the company that caused her car crash to get out of paying for her dental damage. And another time, she states that she and her husband had counted on his veterans benefits to raise their living standard, but when it comes ti ...more
Cynthia Corral
Oct 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm not really sure what to think of this. I listened to the audiobook. I have been poor, I have been as poor as the author. I understand every single thing she says. I am just not clear on what the author wanted to accomplish with this book. At first I was following along, and I thought she was trying to explain to "those who have" what it is like to be "one who has not". But she keeps sidetracking into kind of a comedic bit. And then she kind of just goes with that stand-up comedy bit and runs ...more
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
OMG!!! I don't know if I've ever considered a book a Must-Read, but I think this one is...and by anyone who CAN read, regardless of income or social status. I've never lived at a subsistence level...not even close, but I thought I had at least an idea of how life must be for the poor in this country. Well, this was an education. I do believe that income inequality is evil, and I believe what Alan Greenspan suggested is true....that it is the greatest danger facing our country right now. Linda Ti ...more
Dennis Fischman
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Out of curiosity, I looked at other Goodreads reviews of this book before writing my own. The negative reviews were evenly divided between the people Tirado would call rich who were offended by being called out about their ignorance of and disdain for poor people...and the people Tirado would call poor who said, in effect, "Your attitude is your problem, Linda. Don't pretend to speak for me."

Well, to paraphrase Mae West, I've been rich (by Tirado's definition: I have health insurance and nobody
Oct 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Another Goodreads reviewer wrote that it's easier to admire the book than to like the author. She's SO belligerant and lecture-y that the tone becomes grating after a while, overshadowing the excellent points she makes about not judging poor people for their "questionable" habits, or about inhumane work policies in the service industries, or about the difficulties finding health care.

However: I don't care is she writes 18 more chapters defending it, I'll still think it's stupid to have children
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are people in the United States who can aptly described as whiners. Such people attack the poor for receiving government assistance toward which the average taxpayer puts about $41 a year while ignoring the government assistance given to major corporations, for which the average taxpayer pays over $4,000 a year. Linda Tirado is not a whiner.

Nor am I a whiner. I get cyberbullied regularly for refusing to take a burger flipper job when I have a master's degree, scoliosis, L4-L5-S1 herniated
Cody Sexton
Jun 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Every so often a book comes along emphasizing issues that have been highlighted in other books long before it. Poverty is a perfect example of this. It’s one of those issues we seem to keep forgetting about. Mostly because in America we have this long running myth that if you deserve it, you will have it. We’re afraid to look at our downtrodden because it undercuts that myth. Which is a fear of the poor that, regretfully, is uniquely American.
A number of years back, books about what it was like
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Linda Tirado is a completely average American with two kids and, up until recently, two jobs. Her essay, “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or poverty thoughts” was picked up by The Huffington Post, The Nation, and countless others, read more than six million times.

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“I am not, for all my frustration, opposed to capitalism. Most Americans, poor ones included, aren’t. We like the idea that anyone can succeed. What I am opposed to is the sort of capitalism that sucks the life out of a whole bunch of the citizenry and then demands that they do better with whatever they have left. If we could just agree that poor people are doing the necessary grunt work and that there is dignity in that too, we’d be able to make it less onerous.” 9 likes
“I think the sorts of people who honestly think that service workers should be more smiley and gracious just don’t get it. They don’t get it because they can take so much for granted in their own lives—things like respect, consideration, and basic fairness on the job. Benefits. Insurance. They’re used to the luxury of choosing the most aesthetically pleasing item on the shelf, of caring what color their car is rather than simply whether it runs or not. They don’t understand how depressing it is to be barely managing your life at any given moment of the day. So forgive me if I don’t tell you to have a pleasant day with unfeigned enthusiasm when I hand you your fucking hamburger. You’ll have to settle for the fake sort.” 7 likes
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