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Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

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The end of retirement?

From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves “workampers.”

On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Jessica Bruder meets people from all walks of life: a former professor, a McDonald’s vice president, a minister, a college administrator, and a motorcycle cop, among many others—including her irrepressible protagonist, a onetime cocktail waitress, Home Depot clerk, and general contractor named Linda May.

In a secondhand vehicle she christens “Van Halen,” Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying Linda May and others from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy—one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable “Earthship” home, they have not given up hope.

287 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 19, 2017

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About the author

Jessica Bruder

6 books429 followers
Jessica Bruder is a journalist who writes about subcultures and resilience.

For her most recent book, "Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century" (W.W. Norton & Co.), she spent months living in a camper van, documenting itinerant Americans who gave up traditional housing and hit the road full time, enabling them to travel from job to job and carve out a place for themselves in our precarious economy. The project spanned three years and more than 15,000 miles of driving—from coast to coast and from Mexico to the Canadian border.

Jessica has been teaching at Columbia Journalism School since 2008. She has written for publications including Harper's Magazine, The Nation, WIRED, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, O: The Oprah Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Reuters and CNNMoney.com, along with The Oregonian and The New York Observer — where she worked as a staff writer — and Fortune Small Business magazine, where she was a senior editor. Her long-form stories have won a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism and a Deadline Club Award.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,259 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,732 reviews14.1k followers
May 17, 2019
3.5 A month or so ago I read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, and now having read this, I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what is going on I'm my own country.

"At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job and worked hard) everything would be fine. That's no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still send up broke, alone, homeless."

A whole society of seniors, most between Sixty and eighty, who after the recession and housing collapse in 2008, lost everything. Walked away from houses where more was owed than the house was now worth. Watched their 401ks dwindle to nothing. They converted trucks, vans, buses, whatever could be bought cheaply and took to the road. They work at various places, at campsites and National parks, where they are camp hosts. Carnivals, beet harvest, which is a hard job, but it is Camperforce that is the largest employee. Run by Amazon to staff their huge warehouses in the four months before Christmas.

They say they are free, but I know there is no way I could live this life. Mind you, we are not talking about s few people, but literally thousands. I think this country has much to answer for if an eighty year old has to work so hard, after working his whole life. Many of these people had good jobs once upon a time, and I can't help but think this country needs a do over. A book that was very informative, I applaud these people who didn't give up, but found a way that seems to work for them. Still, this book made me angry.
Profile Image for Yun.
513 reviews19.8k followers
May 25, 2022
Being human means yearning for more than subsistence. As much as food or shelter, we require hope.
For many years now, a growing population of Americans have been forced to live in mobile homes and vehicles due to their inability to make mortgages or rent. These Americans, made up mostly of the elderly, have limited choices when it comes to jobs, but cannot afford to retire. So they drive across the country looking for seasonal work to make ends meet and to supplement their meager social security incomes. Nomadland is their story.

In order to do research for this book, Jessica Bruder spent three years on the road and for a time lived out of a van that she purchased. Her detailed research really shines a light on this often-overlooked segment of the population. Her writing style is approachable, and I was swept up in the narrative of these people who aren't able to make ends meet in the traditional sense, but have carved out a nomadic lifestyle for themselves on the fringes of American society.

The seasonal work they find generally pays poorly and has terrible working conditions. It was honestly shocking to read about their experiences with some of the biggest employers of temp workers, including Amazon. They would have 10 to 12 hour shifts in sweltering temperatures, lifting, scanning, and loading packages, and squatting and running on concrete through Amazon's vast warehouses, the size equivalent of 19 football fields. They often have to take pain medication before and after their shifts just to get through it. And they come away with repetitive stress injuries that last much longer than their seasonal employment, all the while being paid at or near minimum wage.

The book also discusses the difficulty and logistics of parking a mobile home or vehicle. Most camping grounds have a time limit of two weeks. After that, you must leave and find a new place to camp that is at least 25 miles away. Police and neighborhoods also don't look kindly upon people sleeping in their cars. As a result, there is fear among these folks of being caught or harassed, and of not being accepted by their family and friends.

Yet, there is a hopefulness that permeates these people. They remain optimistic against all odds, trying to view their nomadic lifestyle as a late-life chance at adventure and freedom. They subscribe to the notion that you don't need material goods in order to live a full and happy life. They form online communities and often meet regularly in person around the country to share their knowledge of this lifestyle and to bolster each other up, often forming lasting friendships.

What an eye-opening read this turned out to be. It was heartbreaking to learn how the social safety net completely failed for this vulnerable group of Americans. And it makes me thankful for all that I have, in particular a home where I am safe and secure.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,149 reviews1,683 followers
November 30, 2022

Amano noi pensionati perché siamo affidabili. Ci presentiamo, sgobbiamo, e siamo fondamentalmente degli schiavi. Dice un workamper (contrazione di work e camper) di settantasette anni.
Sappiamo che avete lavorato duramente tutta la vita e sappiamo che possiamo contare su di voi per portare a termine il lavoro, e siete tra i nostri impiegati migliori. Ha detto l’amministratore di un’agenzia interinale.
Incartata nei vecchi miti americani di libertà, movimento, frontiera, indipendenza, si nasconde una nuova forma di schiavitù.
E un altro vestito della povertà, nella più grande potenza economica del mondo.
E anche se la Cina adesso è forse al primo posto, si tratterebbe comunque della seconda più grande potenza economica del mondo.

Frances McDormand, protagonista e produttrice del film omonimo che ha vinto l’ultimo Festival del Cinema di Venezia.

Ben lontani dal comfort borghese che hanno conosciuto nella prima fase della vita, inclusa quella professionale, sono ora i “portabandiera di ogni disgrazia economica” che ha afflitto l’America negli ultimi decenni. Gente che ha rispettato il contratto sociale, finché gli è stato permesso, e che dalla società, nella sua veste statale, è stata tradita e abbandonata.
Il sogno americano di oggi si configura e concretizza in una roulotte, o un caravan, nella sosta in un’area di parcheggio all’esterno di un supermercato.
La pensione, ogni forma di welfare, una pia illusione.
Bisogna lavorare. E l’occupazione ha la forma di undici/dodici ore di lavoro, venticinque chilometri di media percorsi al giorno, tendinite al dito per uso eccessivo del lettore del codice a barra, e altre amenità del genere, tipo cadute, costole fratturate, occhi neri. Gli straordinari non si pagano, non si registrano neppure. L’assistenza sanitaria è una chimera: se resti a casa perché ti sei fatto male, niente paga.
Forza lavoro usa-e-getta.
Sindacato è termine da terrorista.
E Amazon, la proprietaria di questo sito, ne esce male, molto male.

Chloé Zhao, regista, sceneggiatrice, montatrice e produttrice del film. Questa direi che è la sua consacrazione dopo due primi film ‘indie’: ho visto e apprezzato il secondo, “The Rider”.

Un tema doloroso, drammatico, che Bruder affronta con garbo, delicata ironia, perfino leggerezza.
Al di là dell’argomento, interessantissimo, attualissimo, drammaticissimo, al di là del fatto che Bruder sa parlare a me e di me, l’aspetto che mi ha colpito maggiormente è la qualità della scrittura di questa giovane donna che non dimostra neppure trent’anni, ma credo si avvicini ai quaranta. Bruder sa raccontare: in modo semplice, diretto, chiaro, tenendo sempre alta l’attenzione del lettore, è dotata di un sesto senso sul momento in cui introdurre un nuovo argomento, affrontarlo senza esagerare, allontanarsene per tornare a parlare di qualcosa già affrontato ma non ancora esaurito.
Si capisce per chi e dove le batte il cuore, ma sa rimanere obiettiva e oggettiva.
Potrebbe essere il miglior libro inchiesta che io abbia mai letto. In ogni caso, è un libro magnifico, che mi è entrato in profondità, Jessica Bruder è da ricordare e continuare a seguire.

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,885 reviews1,923 followers
April 26, 2021
Best Picture–Best Director–Best Actress for Frances McDormand so why are you waiting to watch and read this supremely America-in-the-21st-century story?

12 April 2021: The film wins Best Picture at the BAFTAs!

A video review by a fellow mobile-homer.

Nomadland observes an America not so much forgotten as ignored, or never seen in the first place. Thus The Guardian to its audience about this beautifully made film...without minimizing its achievements, though, understand that this is strictly a white-person story. Snowy pale cast, so not fully representative.


SEPTEMBER 2020 UPDATE Read all about the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of the film based on this book! FRANCES MCDORMAND STARS!! There is a link in the CBC article on how to watch the Festival offerings via web from 10 to 20 September.

Real Rating: 3.5* of five

I'm not sure how this happened: A talented writer with a well-regarded agent sells a book to an established and deeply experienced editor at a very good publishing house; the net result is a series of magazine articles, good ones mind you, strung into chapters with some basic tarting-up transitions stuffed in the cracks.

The subject is the source of my upthrusting the earned three-star rating. I'm amazed and appalled that "the world is such a cruel place for the US middle class" needs shouting about. Yet it does. I read Methland not so long ago; its tale of towns being eaten alive by the desperate need to Make It even if it means going against the law of the land like Lori Arnold (sister of Tom Arnold, ex-husband of loudmouth Roseanne the Racist) did seems almost quaint. Making It isn't a viable option for the unemployed older worker. Keeping up a house has been replaced in the older homeowner's worrywarting with plain old keeping the house they scrimped and saved to buy. Pensions are no more; 401(k) plans are flattened; Social Security is under attack from greedyass politicos and banksters. What in the hell does someone who can't make her (most likely medical) bills going to do?

That medical-bill thing is an underplayed thread constant throughout the narrative Author Bruder spins. Person after person, story after story, has its starting point with the medical issues that beset all of us and are particularly prevalent among us oldsters. Author Bruder never fails to elucidate the nature of the medical issues. She's letting you know without doing the teller and the told the insulting condescension of saying outright, "this is due to the insane US medical system, and yes these are people with genuine conditions and diseases who need treatment not shirkers." The mostly older workampers (a word coined by the owners of Workamper dot com in 1987 for the growing legions of mobile, seasonal workers) do jobs that stress their already taxed and aging bodies; then they go "home" to a space most of y'all would sneer at. But it's their own. And so they remain houseless but not homeless.

The people houseless after the 2008 implosion are, in significant numbers, taking to the road. They've traded real estate for wheel estate. They have no choice. It's a simple truth that women are the major sufferers, since they've historically earned less than men and now, in older years, are in line to receive lower Social Security payouts. And the hiring bias for permanent, professional jobs (that we're told doesn't exist) discriminates against women and then, insult to injury, against older workers. Takin' it to the streets has changed meaning in the forty-plus years since the Doobie Brothers sang it. (That was only partially ironic.)

The unbearable whiteness of the mobile homeless is another sad commentary on how the inequality of the US system plays out. People of Color don't follow the nomadic way. Why? When one is at risk of DEATH in a goddamned traffic stop why do you even ask the fucking question?! So the meager assistance and illusory control offered to whites as they take to the road is denied to darker-skinned citizens.

I'm seriously irked by the disjointed nature of the book. Many things are excellent. Author Bruder is a quality storyteller. I'm a smidge uncomfortable about the smacks-of-disaster-tourism nature of a three-year research project into a subject that has no real relevance to the life of a Boerum Hill-dwelling Columbia University professor. I'm willing to skip past that for the light her work shines on those of us thrown away by our sacred US system...absent timely and generous help from friends, this story could be my very own...but then I smack into the disorganization problem.

I don't doubt that there is an organizing principle at work here. The author's a journalist. The editor's an experienced pro. But I can't follow it in any kind of satisfying, narrative-building way. My failing? Permaybehaps...but from the first chapter I got the idea that a narrative would unfold that included two people as my focus. That didn't happen because one person, Linda, whose story really is the backbone of the tale, disappears and reappears at different times doing different things at various stages of her life, while Silvianne vanishes for the length of a Bible before sprouting back into view near the end, and what I assumed was a close friendship kinda wasn't but there's another closer friend who doesn't appear that much in Linda's narrative. I'm left wondering if the reason might not be that LaVonne (the aforementioned friend) called out Author Bruder's motives early on (which we're not told early on, another chronological lapse).

Whatever my quibbles about structure, the information in the piece is grounded in solid reporting. You'll have to look at the endnotes to know this. There are a few footnotes, but these are parenthetical asides. The absence of inline citations is, in my view, not a good decision. Howsomever I can at least see the point of it: Inline citations in a popular social history will scare off the punters, and the slenderness of the proffered analysis of a section of the homelessness epidemic will cause derisory snortings and contemptuous pooh-poohings from Academia.

I hope this book achieves a wide readership among those most in need of its blend of qualities: The comfortable and clueless six-figurers who infest our gentrifying coastal cities. It can happen to you, kids, and it becomes a very great deal more likely to the less likely you are to vote in November 2018.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,135 reviews2,157 followers
January 15, 2023

Chloé Zhao's oscar-winning masterpiece was inspired by this book which instigated me to pick this one for reading. It tells us the story of senior citizens who lost everything after the economic collapse in 2008. They decided to live on the move as modern-day nomads in RV's, vans, and whatever vehicle they had and work at camper force, carnivals, and whatever places they were offered jobs.

What I learned from this book
1) Problems faced by Americans after retirement.
The global economic meltdown in 2008 had caused many problems in people's retirement plans around the world. It subjugated their economic stability bludgeoning their future, forcing many to become nomads living in vans and RVs.
"We're facing the first-ever reversal in retirement security in modern U.S. history," she explained. "Starting with the younger baby boomers, each successive generation is now doing worse than previous generations in terms of their ability to retire without seeing a drop in living standards."

2) How economic depression psychologically affected people?
Economic depression triggered the development of many psychological problems in people, especially in elderly individuals. They were very concerned about the loss of wealth, which caused the development of many mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
“Americans now fear outliving their assets more than they fear dying.”

3) What is Gini coefficient?

Gini coefficient is an index to represent the income inequality within a nation. Jessica Bruder mentions about the current situation of the USA according to this coefficient.
"The most widely accepted measure for calculating income inequality is a century-old formula called the Gini coefficient. It's a gold standard for economists around the globe, along with the World Bank, the CIA, and the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What it reveals is startling. Today the United States has the most unequal society of all developed nations. ”

4) Economic inequality.
Economic inequality is one of the major problems that all countries are facing right now. Rich are becoming richer, and the poor are becoming poorer even after investing a lot of hard work. The author tells us the importance of supporting small-scale business people to help them survive and decrease this economic inequality
"The top 1 percent now makes eighty-one times what those in the bottom half do, when you compare average earnings. For American adults on the lower half of the income ladder—some 117 million of them—earnings haven't changed since the 1970s."

5) Modern-day nomads.
Jessica Bruder did a lot of hard work to write the story of the modern-day nomads. She spent months living in a camper van traveling thousands of miles. The life of these people can be viewed from multiple angles. From one angle, we can say that they are independent and living intelligently to decrease expenditure. But from another angle, we can see that poverty has forced them to live such a life, and many of them would have opted for a normal retirement life instead of a nomad life if they had adequate money.
"There have always been itinerants, drifters, hobos, restless souls. But now, in the second millennium, a new kind of wandering tribe is emerging. People who never imagined being nomads are hitting the road. They're giving up traditional houses and apartments to live in what some call "wheel estate"—vans, secondhand RVs, school buses, pickup campers, travel trailers, and plain old sedans. They are driving away from the impossible choices that face what used to be the middle class."

My favourite three lines from this book
“The capitalists don't want anyone living off their economic grid.”

“Vandwellers are conscientious objectors from a broken, corrupting social order.”

“Many hoped life on the road would be an escape from an otherwise empty future.”

What could have been better?
The author has written some of the harsh realities that the older generation faces in a particular manner that won't be palatable to some millennials if their empathy level is not high. The author repeats some of the problems of nomads in different areas of this book. Some readers might find this repetition boring. I think she actually did it to emphasize its importance to the readers.

5/5 This book makes us think about many things like the reality of the American dream, retirement plans, and the incertitudes of our future. This is a must-read book for everyone.
Profile Image for Kelli.
850 reviews394 followers
February 2, 2018
I want to begin by saying that I listened to this audiobook and I definitely do NOT recommend that experience. I am truly surprised I made it through to the end. Trust me, get the actual book. (Also, this book uses lots of special jargon and because I listened, I may be misspelling these special words and may have incorrectly punctuated the quote at the end.)

I’m having a hard time reviewing this book. At its core it’s about a little known subculture of poor retirees who are basically forced by circumstance to live in vans, used campers, trucks and other old, tiny vehicles not intended for living. They travel from state to state doing hard labor for low wages. This community of “workampers” share tips and ideas through social media and at annual gatherings like the “Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.” The author followed these people around for three years, but the star of the book is Linda May, a woman who seems infinitely happy and positive, despite living in a tiny camper without a bathroom, having no healthcare, and frankly working her ass off for very low wages. Honestly, this woman should be an inspirational speaker. She was always so upbeat. But therein lies my issue with the book. It often felt like the author was selling this lifestyle as something good. It’s not good. When people who have worked hard their entire lives are forced into these living situations, no bonfire party can put a shine in that. These people go without healthcare and work like dogs. I found it tremendously depressing.

This book could benefit greatly from more input from sociologists, economists, and psychologists. While it brought to light this phenomena of van-dwelling itinerant workers, it lacked balance, lost its power and eventually felt redundant. Story after story of people, many from California, rising above their circumstances to celebrate their new “wheel estate” and “vanily,” yet they are living in vehicles and essentially alone.

The biggest shock for me was the horrendous working conditions at Amazon, where older workers are recruited through their Camper Force initiative. Amazon provides free over-the-counter pain medication for these workers, who are expected to keep a dizzying pace filling orders, often walking more than 15 miles in a work day. Repetitive motion injuries abound, as do many other physical problems that accompany racewalking on concrete.

Here is a quote from the always upbeat Linda May:

Right now I am working in a big warehouse for a major online supplier. The stuff is crap all made somewhere else in the world where they don’t have child labor laws, where the workers labor 14 to 16 hour days without meals or bathroom breaks. There is 1,000,000 ft.² in this warehouse packed with stuff that won’t last a month. It is all going to a landfill. This company has hundreds of warehouses. Our economy is built on the backs of slaves we keep in other countries like China, India, Mexico...any third world country with a cheap labor force where we don’t have to see them but where we can enjoy the fruits of their labor. This American corporation is probably the biggest slaveowner in the world.

She then goes on to comment on how consumers are in turn enslaved by said corporation as they buy more and more things then don’t need and work more and more to pay for those things. Hmmm.

Food for thought and perhaps another conversation. 3 stars but again, if you do decide to read this, skip the audio.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
789 reviews1,180 followers
July 6, 2019
“At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine,” he told readers. “That’s no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless.”

What do a former Washington State University academic adviser, former taxi driver, former advertising art director, former office manager, and former broadcast journalist have in common? They all, after having chased the American Dream for years, found themselves houseless, living out of RVs and vans, travelling around the US looking for work. After years of chasing it, they found that the American Dream was nothing but a big ol' con.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century was an eye-opener for me. I had no idea about the growing number of people, many of them past retirement age, living out of vehicles. As costs of living continue to rise and wages and social security payments stagnate, many are being forced out of their homes, unable to pay rent and utilities and still have enough money for food and other necessities. It is becoming harder and harder to find jobs with a livable income and thus people are forced into circumstances they would previously not have been able to imagine.

In Nomadland, author Jessica Bruder takes us into the lives of several modern-day nomads. For three years she travelled around the country, getting to know them and often living like them, out of a van she purchased for this reason. She writes with compassion and insight of these hard-working and proud individuals who find increasingly creative ways in which to survive. Some of the people she writes about lost their homes and/or savings in the economic and housing crisis. Others lost their homes due to illness. Still others found themselves unable to remain in their homes after losing a decent-paying job and being unable to find another, partly due to agism in the workplace and partly due to employers not wanting to pay a living wage.

I usually prefer non-fiction without a ton of "human interest" stories, ones that are more hard fact than personal stories. However, for this book, the myriad personal stories worked. The way in which it is written gives a wide look into the lives, and former lives, of several of America's new houseless (these individuals prefer to be called houseless rather than homeless, because the latter implies they don't have a place to live. They do have a place to live -- out of their vehicles-- even if it's not a residence most of us would want.)

These brave individuals try to remain positive and hopeful, no matter what circumstance they find themselves in. They are nothing if not innovative. It was amazing to me, seeing the ways in which they think of to survive, no matter what hardships they face.

This book made me angry(ier) and it made me anxious. It was impossible to read without feeling anxiety for these people whose stories make up the pages, wondering how they will survive, or if they will survive. It was impossible to not feel some anxiety for my own future as well, as Ms, Bruder shows how easy it is to find oneself in this situation and knowing that the cost of living is always rising and yet incomes are not.

The other eye-opening (for me) aspect of this book is how companies are preying on the predicaments people find themselves in, in order to take advantage of their situation. Amazon especially has found a way to make money off of the increasing number of transient people. They send recruiters to the RV camps to round up hard-working people for temporary holiday jobs. They provide free parking and yet pay minimally. These are people in their 60s, 70s, even 80s, forced to work 12 hour days. Physically demanding work in return for pennies. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has a net worth of 155.6 billion USD (as of 2019) and he cannot afford to pay workers a living wage?? Despicable. Just as bad as the Walton family. I am even further incensed, learning that these companies get federal tax credits (ranging from 25 to 40 percent of wages) for hiring people on SSI or food stamps. What. The. FUCK??? So, they pay their workers shit, meaning they have to stay on government assistance, and then the companies are rewarded for it?? This is some fucked-up shit, if you'll excuse the language.

OK, moving along, before I really start ranting.

In spite of the anger and anxiety this book aroused in me, I'm very glad to have read it and learned about these extraordinary and resilient people. It is well-researched, and shows the tenacity of people, the ability to find a way to survive in spite of bad circumstances. Indeed, to not just survive, but to do so whilst finding the positive in their situations. The majority of the people Ms. Bruder writes about have chosen to view their lives as one of freedom from materialism and consumerism rather than as one of hardship. It is hard not to feel a sense of freedom in this lifestyle, and yet it is not one I desire. I come away from this book with a profound respect for the Nomad class... and a searing anger at a system that forces people, even the elderly, into these situations. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Beata.
729 reviews1,113 followers
September 5, 2021
The book that is eye-opening and thanks to which I learnt a lot about the hard times that often hit those who are about to retire and find themselves in dire financial difficulties for different reasons. It was hard to read about people over sixty or even seventy who are offered short-term contracts and do jobs which even for the middle-aged are a challenge. Reading about the stress, effort and the difficulties they have to overcome in order to survive was not easy. I loved the fragments describing their stamina and feeling of togetherness.
Overall, a valuable book about ordinary yet heroic people whom I came to respect. I am looking forward to watching the film.
Thank you, OverDrive!
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,120 reviews52 followers
January 12, 2023
Nomadland offers various talking points to ponder over and deliberate such as vehicle dwelling, the nomadic lifestyle, and economic issues. I got the most out of Part One which talked mainly about the reasons behind vehicle dwelling and thus my review reflects my thoughts primarily on that section.

"At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. That's no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless." (p. 74)

The people you read about in Nomadland are people who are down on their luck, out of options, and out of time. Everyone has experienced a financial loss of some sort and "had fallen a long, long way from the middle-class comforts they had always taken for granted." (p. 61) After time and money ran out, somewhere, somehow, these people got the idea that living in a vehicle was a viable, or perhaps the only, alternative to more traditional housing.

"There have always been itinerants, drifters, hobos, restless souls. But now, in the second millennium, a new kind of wandering tribe is emerging. People who never imagined being nomads are hitting the road. They're giving up traditional houses and apartments to live in what some call "wheel estate" -- vans, secondhand RVs, school buses, pickup campers, travel trailers, and plain old sedans. They are driving away from the impossible choices that face what used to be the middle class." (p. xii) After reading the foreword, I got the impression that this lifestyle has been romanticized. Later on the idea that a nomadic life is an escape of sorts is presented; "one could be reborn into a life of freedom and adventure." (p. 74)

While the title and description led me to believe that this book would be about survival and doing what you have to do to stay alive, it seems to be focused more on people who chose this lifestyle rather than people who were forced into it. Don't get me wrong, many were forced into vehicle dwelling but it is not seen as a last resort but rather a new and different place to call home. I don't think I am explaining myself very well here...

I feel like the vehicle dwellers chronicled here have given up on the classic American Dream for another cheaper version. Some may say hey, that's okay. We all need to find and do what works for us, there is no one set way. I do agree with that idea yet I can't help but feel that these people aren't really choosing this lifestyle. That for the great majority, if they had not suffered a financial loss, had planned to be and still would be traditional home dwellers. I applaud those who have managed to put a positive spin on a negative situation but the mind-set doesn't quite ring true. It's a hard and stressful life but that is glossed over by blogs and gatherings supporting this nomadic lifestyle.

I struggled to get through the rest of the book after Part One as I wasn't as interested in the subject matter as when I first started. This is an interesting read that turned out to be different than I was expecting. It is certainly still thought provoking and would make a great book club read.
Profile Image for Darlene.
370 reviews132 followers
June 26, 2018
"Some call them homeless. The new nomads refer to themselves as 'houseless'. Many
took to the road after their savings were obliterated by the Great Recession. To keep
their gas tanks and bellies full, they work long hours at hard, physical jobs. In a time
of flat wages and rising housing costs, they have unshackled themselves from rent
and mortgages as a way to get by. They are surviving America."

I finished reading this book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century weeks ago and since then it has weighed heavily on my mind. I confess that I have been avoiding writing this review but each time I walk past my desk, the cover of the book catches my eye.... This book began as an article written by social justice journalist, Jessica Bruder. Because Ms. Bruder studies cultural trends, she became aware of a disturbing trend, one which seemed to appear after the Great Recession... the development of a kind of geriatric underclass or caste system. Recalling to mind the 'hobos' of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Ms. Bruder describes a group of modern-day nomadic people she had had the opportunity to become acquainted with, following them across America as they pursued one grueling job after another.

Although the cast of characters is substantial, each of the wanderers in this book has a unique story ... stories which served to remind me of just how frayed the social safety net has become the United States. Jessica Bruder DOES present a kind of protagonist in this book whom she appears to have developed a relationship with and her name is Linda May. Linda is a 64-year-old woman who has found herself living on the edge many times throughout her life.. sometimes living without running water or electricity and sometimes couch-surfing with her daughter and family. Even though she had worked many jobs throughout her life, as a general contractor, insurance executive, cocktail waitress and even owning her own business for a time, she had never managed to secure a job which provided her with that ever-elusive, coveted benefit... a pension. When Linda realized that her social security check would only total $499/month and her rent was $600/month, she knew she would have to make a drastic adjustment to her lifestyle if she wanted to survive. That was when she discovered a website that would change her life and set her on a course to join the ever-growing group of people who refer to themselves as 'workampers'. The website had been created by a man named Bob Wells, a clerk at a Safeway grocery chain in Alaska, who had gone broke and ended up living in his van. His years of experiences inspired him to create a website to provide tips for 'transient survival' and it surely inspired Linda. Linda, who had taken a short-term but well-paying job at a Veterans' Affairs Hospital, managed to save $4,000 which she used to buy an 18' 1994 Eldorado mobile home. It smelled musty, had a broken generator, bald tires and it had recently been wrecked. Nevertheless, this mobile home was to become Linda's home-on-wheels.

Loading all of her worldly possessions into the Eldorado (which she nicknamed the 'Squeeze Inn'), Linda began her new life as part of this nomadic community, heading to her first seasonal job at a campground near Yosemite National Park . Her duties at the campground included registration of the visitors, collection of the camping fees and keeping the outdoor toilets clean; and for her labor, she was paid $8.50/hour and of course, a place to park her mobile home. These campground jobs are popular with people living the nomadic life. According to Kampgrounds of America, a major employer of these workampers, they employ about 1,500 people each year.

When Linda May's workamper job ended in September, she was on her way to her next seasonal job in Fenley, Arizona where Amazon has a warehouse and employs a workforce made up entirely of RV dwellers. This workforce, known as Amazon CamperForce, is comprised of people mainly in their 60s and 70s, who work during Amazon's peak shopping season (Christmas). The CamperForce are paid $12.25/ hour but the work is tedious and grueling. As part of a digital newsletter Amazon publishes for its CamperForce, they recommend that prospective employees be able to lift 50 lbs. at a time in an environment where the temperature may exceed 90 degrees. And the warehouse is so enormous that one worker who posted his Fitbit log demonstrated that in 12 1/2 weeks of work, he had walked 820 miles.

This book shows only too clearly that in the United States, plans for retirement have been undergoing a dramatic shift since the Great Recession. A poll suggests that Americans now fear outliving their assets more than they fear dying; and only 17% of Americans plan on not having to work in their later years. Some, of course, will continue to work to remain connected socially and to stay active; but many will work out of economic necessity. According to an interview Ms. Bruder conducted with Monique Morrissey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, what is occurring in the U.S. is the "first ever reversal in retirement security in modern U.S. history. Starting with the younger baby boomers, each successive generation is now doing worse than previous generations in terms of their ability to retire without seeing a drop in living standards." This demographic is being referred to as downwardly mobile older Americans and is growing at an alarming rate.

Jessica Bruder spent two years traveling with Linda May and her group of nomads ... traveling from campground to Amazon warehouses; from roadside stands selling everything from fireworks for the 4th of July to Christmas trees; and from picking raspberries in Vermont to harvesting the sugar beet crop in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. This book is filled with personal stories and lest you find yourself wanting to sit in judgment or place blame on these people... something many Americans seem incapable of NOT doing... keep this in mind... although there are some people in this group who spent their lives working low wage jobs for various reasons, there ARE just as many who are educated. Many had been college professors, business owners and in white collar management positions and had been victims of the 2008 market crash which vaporized all of their savings. Many lost their jobs and could not find new ones which allowed them to meet their mortgage payments rent and others lost their homes to foreclosure. What ALL of these people had in common was that they believed they had been part of a social contract... a contract that promised that if you played by the rules set up by government and society and you worked hard throughout your life, everything would be fine. Instead, they learned that what they had believed was untrue.

Although I found (and still find) this book deeply troubling, I am moved by the way in which Jessica Bruder wrote about the people she had come to know. She wrote about them with compassion, sensitivity and respect; and she awarded them with the dignity they deserve. But I admit that I was also struck by the precariousness of their position and I believe the daily instability of their lives was not lost on Ms. Bruder either. Even though this group of 'houseless' people were cheerful, hopeful and had set up their very own society (or subculture), there was always a profound feeling of despair that came through on each and every page of this book. It also wasn't lost on me that their advancing ages presented a host of future challenges- what would happen if they became seriously ill? unable to drive? physically incapable of performing the grueling seasonal work they had been relying on to get by? Each of these people were just one illness, injury or expensive vehicle repair away from personal catastrophe and they had no resources at their disposal.

Jessica Bruder closes this book with two important questions and I will close my review with those same questions... 'What parts of this life are you willing to give up, so you can keep on living?" And "When do impossible choices start to tear people- a society-apart?"

Here is a link to a 'Huffington Post' article about the impossibility of obtaining affordable housing in the U.S...

Profile Image for Lisa.
1,462 reviews560 followers
March 25, 2019
[4+] I am feeling so many emotions after finishing this book about older Americans who live a nomadic life. I feel sad that there aren't more options in our country for work and healthcare and housing. I am angry that people in their 60s and 70s need to work 10 hour days in transient jobs like those in Amazon warehouses. And I am filled with admiration at the ingenuity and bravery of these "houseless" men and women who have found a way to live that gives them the freedom they need. Bruder did an excellent job bringing to life several individuals, particularly Linda May, and portraying them with dignity.
Profile Image for Brandice.
855 reviews
November 12, 2018
I found Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First century to be a nearly even split between fascinating and terrifying. Journalist Jessica Bruder observes and travels along with “nomads” across the United States. Most of these nomads are older adults, and while some form of freedom and living off the grid may sound appealing, many had limited other options, particularly after the hard times that rocked the nation in 2008.

They live in RVs, older converted vans and trucks, and occasionally motor homes. They drive and camp across the country, frequently setting up shop in close proximity to seasonal, temporary jobs, dubbing themselves “workampers.” A few examples of such jobs include working in Amazon’s massive warehouses as inventory scanners, working for the seasonal harvest of sugar beets in Minnesota and North Dakota, and working as campsite staff for California state parks. While not always mentally stimulating, the work often involves long hours and manual, physical labor. The pay frequently ranges from $9-12 an hour. The nomads (as a whole) often take offense to being called “homeless”, preferring “houseless” instead.

This book was anxiety-inducing for me, thinking about the struggle many of them endure, living paycheck to paycheck on (what’s widely considered) meager wages, just to make enough to pay for live-in vehicle repairs, groceries, and in the event of any medical emergencies, bills. I know this struggle is not unique to nomads, though the book was an isolated study of this particular group. I did admire the nomads’ constant creativity in finding ways to get by - enduring the labor of these temporary jobs or using various items to equip their vans for long-term, more permanent use. It was also inspiring to see their regularly optimistic attitudes.

I enjoyed the chapters toward the end where Jessica truly attempted to immerse herself in this van-dwelling nomadic culture. I thought her assessments were honest and fair throughout the book.

While this lifestyle, whether by choice or circumstance, doesn’t remotely appeal to me, I recognize no dream is universal to everyone, including the traditional picture of The American Dream. Though it made me anxious, Nomandland was an intriguing study of a subculture I had no idea existed.
Profile Image for Alex.andthebooks.
287 reviews1,788 followers
March 26, 2023

Nie spodziewałam się, że temat aż tak mnie pochłonie! Wielki szacunek dla autorki za zaangażowanie w temat!
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,444 reviews7,532 followers
June 26, 2019
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. That’s no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless.”

Nomadland is the three year study of a subset of retirees living the above quote. Either due to losing (or never acquiring) a pension, the housing bust, market crash, divorce, or a handful of other unpredictable situations, these folks have chosen a lifestyle similar to “a modern-day version of The Grapes of Wrath.” Their homes????

Their work? Whatever the change in season and change of location brings. From the much advertised . . . .

For the Christmas rush to various harvests in the Fall . . .

To maintaining campgrounds and manning rides at amusement parks throughout North America in the summer . . . .

(Ouch, shoulda ducked there, fella.)

These are people with an incomparable work ethic who have chosen to do whatever it takes in order to get by. They have swapped $100,000 per year budgets for $75 per week and comfortable homes with sprawling lawns in suburbia for motor homes, modified delivery vehicles and pull-behind campers. Their stories are simply fascinating. Highly recommended to those who have never experienced more than a First World Problem as well as anyone who is looking for non-fiction with the page turnability factor like what was found in Evicted.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,546 reviews1,819 followers
November 21, 2021
"They are houseless, after all. Homeless is other people" (p.202)

I missed the film when it was on in the cinema and I regretted that a little, now having read the book I am completely reconciled to not having seen the film.

The audience for this book does not include me. My nature is a bit too realistic maybe, looking at the numbers I see that in Britain a person who all their life earned the mean average salary would not be able to afford a comfortable retirement, and I imagine it would be much the same situation in most countries of approximately the same degree of development or perhaps 'development', and so as a result we see more people delaying retirement, working after retirement, downsizing and so on and so forth. If you add in relationship breakdown, health problems, maybe a bit of bad luck - such as an excess of optimism (for example believing that the good times will not end) then perhaps it will happen that people will lose their homes too, and once you imagine these kinds of circumstances occurring in the USA where the lucky citizens are freer of interfering - busy body - big government safety nets than in other wealthy societies then you can imagine that there must be quite a population of desperate and needy older people. The twist on this situation, which is what the author explores in this book, is that some of that population in the USA live in cars or vans and as best they can travel from one seasonal job to another, generally putting a brave face on their circumstances.

An angle to this is that these people seem to be disproportionately white and citizens and end up doing the kinds of jobs that generally non-white migrates do; low paid, insecure jobs in which the employers have the bare minimum of interest in providing safe and healthy work places.
So on the one hand this a book about the bleddin' obvious and you've probably got the picture or you can read the original article, or see the film to get the idea.

The author points out some echoes with the ideas and practises of Dust bowl era America, but doesn't give us a sense of how large or pervasive this phenomenon is beyond that it is big enough for certain employers to regularly pitch to employ and accommodate some of these wanderers.

On the other hand this is a pleasing human interest story whose chief interest is that it works to appeal to the better angels of the (presumed US) readers' nature. There is a careful and persistent nudging of the reader that these are deserving poor; they are white, they have a good work ethic, they are not overweight, they are resourceful, optimistic, sober - the only people mentioned drinking alcohol to my incredulity (because are you really going to sleep in a van in winter after a long shift in some soul destroying warehouse without a nightcap?) are young people, and above all whenever she can get away with saying it, these people are labelled as middle-class.

In terms of the sociology and psychology of group labels and the differences thereof between countries this is a fruitful area to explore but would represent a significant diversion in an already rambling review. For non-US readers, I'll say that some of the individuals followed in this book had managerial or professional jobs, some had small businesses, others however did not, or also had a succession of minimum wage (or equivalent) roles. Anyroad, as Dr. Johnson said, observing some miscreant on the way to the gallows, there but for the Grace of God go I. And we follow the lives of some of these pensioner nomads, see them getting injured and quickly back at work with cracked ribs and black eyes glad that they are allowed to work and that they could afford the cab fare back from the hospital. Even readers as unfamiliar as me with the workings of vans will be expecting troubles ahead, and we will not be disappointed, and indeed if one is a little familiar with the aches and pains of older people and indeed the opportunities they give to younger relatives and friends to learn about medieval sounding joint injuries then you will have some idea of things that may happen in this book - and you will not be disabused. Not having a fixed abode, some resolve certain health problems by crossing the border to Mexico to get dental work done and buy medications.

Some of the nomads display some counter cultural attitudes, one citing Slaughterhouse five writes: America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves...Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters.

Profile Image for piperitapitta.
950 reviews332 followers
October 15, 2020
Leoni d'oro, e ce la tiriamo anche un po'.

(Quattro stelle, ma cinque all’entusiasmo con il quale l’ho letto e per partecipazione, empatia e persino un po’ di commozione finale.)

Il tè nel deserto

«L’ultimo luogo libero d’America è un parcheggio»

La prima volta che ho sentito parlare di Nomadland è stato grazie al post con il quale la casa editrice Clichy, annunciando l'arrivo del film che sarebbe stato lanciato di lì a poco alla Mostra del cinema di Venezia, ricordava anche il libro che avevano pubblicato solo pochi mesi prima: decidere che volevo leggerlo e vederlo è stato un tutt’uno.

Le parole del post “Ricordate Nomadland, il romanzo d'inchiesta di Jessica Bruder che racconta la storia vera dell'esercito dei senza fissa dimora che vagano ogni giorno per gli sterminati Stati Uniti a caccia di un lavoro?”, per me che già avevo letto della situazione surreale della Silicon Valley descritta da Costa, dove gli homeless sono perlopiù studenti di Berkeley e dove nella città costituite di case mobili più o meno stazionarie - come raccontava invece Masneri - abitano in gran parte dipendenti di Google o di Uber e di qualcun’altra fra le famosissime aziende che la valle ospita, sono state una calamita, così come è stata una calamita sentir parlare dei Joad, il riferimento agli hobo e a Furore.
Così leggere Nomadland, che segue un filo di interesse nato grazie a Questa è l'America: Storie per capire il presente degli Stati Uniti e il nostro futuro di Francesco Costa e poi proseguito con Michele Masneri e Steve Jobs non abita più qui, che riguarda la situazione a l’emergenza abitativa negli States, è stato un viaggio unico, irripetibile, folgorante, al quale si è aggiunto, a lettura quasi conclusa, l’entusiasmo per il Leone d’oro assegnato al film interpretato e voluto da Frances McDormand, attrice e produttrice che amo.

Ci sarebbe veramente tanto da raccontare su questo libro, sull’inchiesta che ha visto Jessica Bruder, reporter dedita a inchieste e approfondimenti su sottoculture e questioni sociali, per tre anni girare gli USA, per sei mesi vivere in un furgone (il van Halen!), intervistare centinaia di persone (perlopiù travolte dall’economia post 2007, perlopiù anziane e prive di assistenza sanitaria o pensione, costrette a rinunciare alla propria casa per sopravvivere a un paradosso economico) che inseguono con i mezzi che sono diventati, prima ancora che abitazioni (rifuggendo la definizione di homeless, perché al contrario dei senzatetto loro, affermano, un tetto - che sia un van, un’automobile, un vecchio scuolabus o una roulotte - ce l’hanno), l’esoscheletro che li protegge e che li accompagna, il lavoro ovunque sia possibile trovarlo.
È così che si sono creati luoghi di aggregazione spontanea, come Quartzsite nel deserto dell’Arizona e il Rubber Tramp Rendezvous dove ci si riunisce per ritemprarsi dalle fatiche della stagione estiva, o in prossimità dei CamperForce di Amazon per soddisfare il consumismo in prossimità delle festività natalizie, o nei dintorni dei parchi naturali che ogni anno assumono come host per la stagione anziani workamper, vandweller, come si chiamano questi hobo del terzo millennio.

Ci sarebbe da raccontare moltissimo, ricordare una a una le persone intervistate e descritte da Jessica Bruder (su tutte Linda May, che insieme ad altri è presente nel film, vero esempio di resilienza - ecco, finalmente questa parola ha un senso - e di positività), i loro stati d’animo, le speranze, la solidarietà, gli obiettivi e le disillusioni, elencare uno a uno i luoghi descritti, le tante parole imparate (workcamper, vanily, vandweller, boondocking), puntare il dito su tante di queste aberranti condizioni di lavoro offerte (dalla raccolta delle barbabietole da zucchero, ai turni forzati di Amazon a quelli estenuanti nei parchi, alle paghe irrisorie, all’impossibilità di uscire da una esperienza che una volta intrapresa si rivela sia salvifica che irreversibile; ci sarebbe molto da raccontare, dicevo, anche della tanta bellezza incontrata fra queste pagine, della solidarietà delle persone, dell’accoglienza, di luoghi che aprono orizzonti infiniti, di una sensazione di libertà che aiuta a capire perché molti loro, la maggior parte, non sentano affatto di essere in transito, non ambiscano a modificare la propria condizione, non sognino di ritornare ad avere il tetto di un’abitazione tradizionale sopra la testa.
Ci sarebbe tanto da raccontare, ma preferisco lasciar parlare i numeri, i nomi, le immagini, i luoghi, e Jessica Bruder, invitando tutti a leggere Nomadland, il reportage capace di raccontare la bellezza e l’unicità di poter bere all’alba, o nel cuore della notte, un tè nel deserto, spiegando la differenza fra turista e viaggiatore.

«Attorno a un fuoco da bivacco condiviso, nel cuore della notte, può sembrare un barlume di utopia»

Linda May

LaVonne Ellis

«Ho trovato la mia gente: un gruppo raffazzonato di disadattati che mi hanno circondato di amore e accettazione. Per disadattati non intendo perdenti e sbandati. Erano intelligenti, compassionevoli, laboriosi americani a cui caduta la benda Dali occhi. Dopo una vita a rincorrere il Sogno Americano, sono arrivati alla conclusione che non era altro che un gigantesco imbroglio.»

Bob Wells, il suo CheapRVLiving.com è la Bibbia dei vandweller

Empire, la ghost town del Nevada, punto di partenza del film

Quartzsite, il cui nome nasce da un refuso

Douglas in Arizona, famosa per il Gadsden Hotel, il Grand Theatre e il Brophy Building, ma ancora di più perché, ormai semi abbandonata, posta al confine con il Messico, diventò negli anni Novanta centro nevralgico per i traffici del cartello di Sinaloa e nota per il famoso tunnel con il quale El Chapo e i suoi portavano la cocaina dal Messico agli Stati Uniti.

Infine un omaggio a Paul "Sweet Pie" Winer, che girava nudo (o suonava il pianoforte) fra le montagne di libri della sua Reader's Oasis Books di Quartzsite, Arizona, morto nel sonno il 7 maggio 2019.

Paul "Sweet Pie" Wiener is a nude, boogie-woogie piano player and was the first legal nude male performer in the United States. In an emotional portrait, he recounts his journey from social outcast to being a father and finding peace in operating a rare bookstore with his wife in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Amazon CamperForce

Nei parchi

Barbabietole da zucchero, American Crystal Sugar in Minnesota


Le Earthship, il sogno di Linda May
«Voleva costruire una Earthship: una casa solare passiva realizzata usando materiali di scarto, come bottiglie e lattine, con i muri portanti fatti di pneumatici riempiti di terra. Inventate da un architetto radicale del New Mexico, Michael Reynolds, che ci aveva armeggiato fin dagli anni Settanta, le Earthship sono progettate in modo tale da sostenere chi ci abita senza collegamenti alle reti di distribuzione. I muri di pneumatici funzionano come batterie, assorbendo il calore solare durante il giorno attraverso una fila di finestre rivolte a Sud e rilasciandolo poi durante la notte per regolare la temperatura interna. La pioggia e la neve defluiscono dal tetto in una cisterna, fornendo acqua che viene filtrata e riutilizzata per bere e per lavarsi, per irrigare le serre interne, che forniscono frutta e verdura, e per i servizi igienici. L'energia elettrica è fornita da pannelli solari e, talvolta, da turbine eoliche. [...] A dozzine costellano il deserto nei pressi di Taos, in New Mexico, in un territorio lottizzato conosciuto come la Più Grande Comunità di Earthship al Mondo: Tutte insieme sembrano una colonia lunare co-prodotta dal Dr. Seuss, Antoni Gaudí, e gli scenografi di Guerre Stellari.»

«Nel divario sempre più ampio tra crediti e debiti, persiste una domanda: A quali aspetti della tua vita sei disposto a rinunciare pur di continuare a tirare avanti?
Nella maggior parte dei casi le persone che affrontano un dilemma simile non finiscono per vivere in un veicolo. Quelle che lo fanno, sono l’equivalente di ciò che i biologi chiamano «bioindicatori»: organismi sensibili, capaci di segnalare i cambiamenti profondi di un ecosistema.»

E infine, Jessica Bruder

«Incontri moltissime persone in tre anni e 25.ooo chilometri.
Questo libro esiste grazie alla loro gentilezza. Sono grata a tutti quelli che sulla strada [ha vissuto per sei mesi in un camper] hanno condiviso con me saggezza, battitacco, bivacchi e caffè, e a tutti quelli che da casa, sostenendomi, hanno reso questo viaggio possibile.
Il grazie più profondo va a Linda May. Fidarsi di qualcuno al punto da raccontarle la tua storia non è una cosa da poco, specialmente se la persona che scrive ti gironzola attorno - a fasi alterne - per tre anni, dorme in un furgone parcheggiato nel tuo giardino e corre dietro al tuo cart per la manutenzione del campeggio scribacchiando su un taccuino. Spero che la resilienza di Linda - così come la sua intelligenza e il suo grande cuore - commuova gli altri, come è successo a me.»

E a me.

«Al bivacco del Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, un tizio è rimasto talmente inorridito dal sapere che non avevo ancora letto Viaggio con Charley [di John Steinbeck], che il giorno dopo è venuto al mio furgone per prestarmene una copia. Altri testi del canone letterario di questa subcultura comprendono Strade blu di William Least Heat-Moon, Deserto solitario di Edward Abbey, Nelle terre estreme di Jon Krakauer, Walden di Henry David Thoreau, e Wild di Cheryl Strayed.»

Sembra solo a me o hanno qualcosa in comune vandwell e wonderwall?
E uno spunto di riflessione: quando toccherà all'Europa?
Profile Image for Emily.
762 reviews40 followers
December 26, 2017
I don't read much non-fiction these days, but when I saw this one, I knew I had to read it, since I too am a nomad and have lived full-time in a motorhome with my husband and our dog for two years now. I found this book completely engaging, startling in some ways, and fascinating.

This book is both a sociological treasure and a very personal study. The nomadic folks profiled herein by journalist/writer Jessica Bruder are a little different from me and my husband, as we chose this lifestyle after retiring from well-paying careers as software engineers and as such are fortunate enough to be able to live comfortably on our investments without having to take some of the sometimes back-breaking and spirit-breaking jobs described in this book. We pay for our sites in campgrounds and RV parks and aren't forced to "stealth camp", hoping we don't get a knock from a police officer in the middle of the night.

A lot of the folks profiled in Bruder's study lost everything in the economic downturn of 2008 -- or never had much to begin with and got to the point where they couldn't afford to keep their homes or rent an apartment -- so they choose to live in a van, small camper, or even a car instead, outfitting their vehicles with the minimum necessities for living, no luxuries. Many of these nomads outright reject societal conventions and choose to live as "new-age outlaws" so they can live debt-free. Their fiesty spirits and frustration with the failing American Dream are not lost on me, and I respect them. Despite living a conventional American life until I turned 50 and began exploring life in areas outside the US and beginning a full-time RV lifestyle in the US two years ago, I have a bit of a gypsy rebel inside as well or I'd probably never have tried this lifestyle! I'm just a lot luckier than the nomads profiled here.

This book gave me a better understanding of some of the folks we see at the various campgrounds we've stayed at over the past two years and what many are going through. It didn't paint a very pretty picture of camphosting (longer hours than what they're paid for and difficult work), Amazon (really tough work and not much humanity), or the sugar beet harvest (probably the toughest backbreaking, dangerous work, especially for older folks). I was impressed that the author actually lived among the nomads for three years and took on some of the jobs to see what it was really like down in the trenches. She made me thankful for my own life but also sad that so many in the "land of the free, home of the brave" have to live like this by necessity, often having to park illegally in cities in lieu of paying for a campsite. Our government leaders may not be aware of this, and this book should be required reading for everyone in government positions.

I am dying to know if Linda builds her Earthship and hope there will be a way to get an update down the road someday....
Profile Image for Sabine.
593 reviews76 followers
November 21, 2017
Since my plan is to spend most of my time travelling North America in an RV when I retire I have been doing a lot of research on the subject of living in an RV.

It was a very shocking eye opener when I first discovered that there are people living in cars, vans and RV's just to make ends meet.

The author has spent a long time talking and living with these nomads and even working
the same seasonal jobs. So we get a very interesting and real glimpse at their current lives and what causes people to "choose" this lifestyle.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,652 followers
May 23, 2021
I read this impressive book after seeing the film version. The reporting is well-done, and Jessica's stories from her own experiences of living out of a vehicle added some valuable insights into what it means to be a modern nomad in America.

One reaction I had to the book that I didn't have to the film is that the book made me much more anxious about my own retirement. The book does a deeper dive into the various economic issues that drove so many folks to give up a permanent home address and hit the road with their vans. While reading, I kept wondering, "OH MY GOD, COULD THIS HAPPEN TO ME SOMEDAY?" And reading it during a global pandemic only emphasized the nothing-is-for-certain and who-knows-what-could-happen vibes of the house-less featured in the book.

I listened to this on audio and would highly recommend it to those who appreciated the film or who like narrative nonfiction.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
887 reviews121 followers
August 16, 2022
“Give Us Your Poor”

I would have never thought that someone would write a book about those who live in trailer parks or who live in cars or vans, but here it is. The author interviews and follow people's’'' lives in this nonfiction book about poverty in America. These are people who have lost their jobs and their homes and have taken up the life of gypsies, a life on the road or in trailer parks all across America.

It is also a book about how Americans, especially the law, discriminates them, as they always have. I was talking to a friend who felt that hobos had it better in the 1900s. I set her know that they didn’t. They were beaten, even killed for trying to ride the trains for free, and they were thrown out of their hobo camps. I have a friend who didn’t want to live in Portland because of all the homeless on the streets. I told her that she could ten volunteer to help them. She became quiet. I should have asked,
“Where do you think that they should go.” She is a good person but doesn’t always think about what she is saying.

My husband and I lived the life of these people, people that some call “trailer trash, but it was by choice. We were living on a farm in Creston, California when the bottom dropped out. Construction came to a halt, and my husband was a plumber/carpenter. We had talked for years about becoming gypsies, even dressed as gypsies at the Renaissance fair. It was then that we bought an 18-foot trailer and headed for Utah. Once there we learned that you had t work two jobs in order to make it. We came back home, and he found work in Fresno. California. We stayed there as long as the work continued, but when his job ended we gutted the trailer, put our bed in it, our boxes, and used a camping cook stove and an ice chest. We gathered up our dog and cat and headed east. Stopped in Texas. Nothing we liked. Ended up in Mississippi were he built casinos along the Muddy river. Rented a house. When we came to dislike the racism in MS, we headed for Florida’s panhandle. I disliked the racism, so we left our rented home and head for Texas. San Antonio, Laredo, etc. Following jobs, living in a trailer park again. Then we came back to California, but to San Diego. I managed a trailer park near the Del Mar racetrack and fair grounds. There were people who lived in the park all year around. They could not afford a home or an apartment. Then we moved to Valley Center, and it was in the early 2000s by now. People were pouring into the park to lived full time. Later, we moved to a horse ranch where I cared for the horses, and then back to the park, and left California a in our car to find a home to buy, a State in which we wished to live. It ended up being in East Oklahoma, in what they call Green Country. Our only bills are utility.

We grew tired of traveling, of living in a trailer, after four or five years, but with some house rentals along the way. Like the people in this book, we found trailer life to be interesting. The people were friendly and yet, I don’t recall them being quite as helpful as those n this book. Still, in some ways we helped each other. All the while, we missed our life in Creston. Still do, but maybe it is because that is where we met, and we had lived in a farmhouse around cattle. We knew everyone in town. But I love it in Oklahoma too—our home and the people here.

I never worried about my husband not getting a job. The people in his book had it tough. If their trailer or truck broke down, then what? If they can’t afford to live in a trailer park, then what? I remember having to ask people to leave when I managed the park in Del Mar. But I also remember allowing a guy to stay in his tent during the Del Mar fair because he was broke. I said that he was my cousin. He was a farm boy, and he gave us a garden trowel that he had forged. It is beautiful, but it bends easily, so it just hangs on my wall in the kitchen.

The author also talked about Amazon the company. They have trailer parks for their temporary workers.
The work there is hard on the body. What is more, they have stupid robots that reminded me of the Keystone Cops. They don’t know what they are doing half the time, and some mishaps ewre really funny. One escaped and almost knocked over a ladder with a man on it. I guess you could say that it was pretty intelligent. The other robot stories are even funnier.

In ending this, I wish that our government would help solved this problem of homelessness, not that the people living in trailers consider themselves homeless, and they aren’t, but if you live on the street, yes, you are homeless even if you live in your car or trailer.
Profile Image for Dagio_maya .
909 reviews256 followers
June 16, 2021
«Un uomo è tanto più ricco in proporzione alle cose di cui può fare a meno»
- Henry David Thoreau

Linda May sulla sua roulotte ribattezzata «lo Squeeze Inn»

Come da sottotitolo “Nomadland” è un racconto d’inchiesta dove la giornalista Jessica Bruder non solo riporta la sua indagine ma si immerge completamente nel contesto preso in esame, ossia quella fetta (sempre più grande) di popolo americano che è tagliata fuori dal sistema produttivo e sociale.
Un tema molto interessante che unito alla modalità stessa del racconto rende la lettura molto coinvolgente.
Confesso di aver chiuso il libro con tante curiosità:
Linda May sarà riuscita a realizzare il suo sogno? Gary l’ha raggiunta? E Silvianne?

Questo libro mi ha veramente appassionata.
Tralasciando il contesto geografico, ci sono ambienti di cui ho esperienza diretta:
il mondo del camperisti, la controcultura ma anche la difficoltà se non impossibilità di inserirsi in mondo lavorativo che considera gli over come scarti sociali al di là di ogni esperienza pregressa.

Ci sono due livelli su cui viaggia il mondo dei camperisti statunitensi:
da un lato la scelta del nomadismo è l’unica soluzione per sopravvivere quando economicamente non si hanno più risorse ed è diventato impossibile pagarsi un affitto e le utenze;
dall’altro, c’è un forte spirito di resilienza che rifiuta l’idea di essere considerato un “senza tetto” (con tutti gli stereotipi annessi a questo termine) ed abbraccia una filosofia di vita che si mette apertamente in conflitto con il sistema capitalistico.

Non partecipando allo stile di vita di massa si toglie il velo et voilà...ecco che il sogno americano appare per quello che è: un enorme bugia!
Chi ama illudersi e farsi prendere in giro si accomodi pure ma chi si è tolto quel velo di polvere dagli occhi guardi pure questo mondo in modo diverso.

Questo fa nascere la cosiddetta subcultura o sottocultura, dove il sotto non sta a segnalare un’inferiorità ma la marginalità a cui è relegati a causa delle scelte politiche ed economiche di un paese; allo stesso modo si prende coscienza di qualcosa che va sempre più in conflitto con lo stile di vita considerato “normale” e si abbracciano quindi le tesi della controcultura.
Entrambi sono processi graduali soprattutto per coloro in cui che prima credevano davvero che l’America offriva a tutti un lavoro ed una casa e che questa era la felicità.

E’ la fine di un contratto sociale ma anche la nascita di nuove forme di collettività che scoprono il valore della condivisione e danno origine a inusuali strutture famigliari che rivelano sull’altra faccia dell’economia.

Jessica Bruder ha fatto un ottimo lavoro.
Non si è solo attenuta al lavoro giornalistico, e quindi d’indagine, ma si è anche completamente immersa in questa dimensione.
Si è comprata un camper e per tre anni ha frequentato i luoghi di raduno, ha allacciato amicizie ed ha saputo andare al di là dei falsi stereotipi.

Non è da sottovalutare il fatto che questo –chiamiamolo- fenomeno riguardi in prevalenza persone bianche e la spiegazione è tanto semplice quanto amara:

”in America è già abbastanza difficile vivere da nomadi, indipendentemente dalla razza. Campeggiare abusivamente, specialmente nelle aree residenziali, è decisamente lontano dal mainstream. Spesso significa infrangere le ordinanze locali che vietano di dormire in auto. Evitare i guai - scocciature con poliziotti e passanti sospettosi - può rivelarsi complicato anche con la carta Esci-gratis-di-prigione del privilegio bianco. E in un’epoca in cui la polizia spara agli afroamericani disarmati durante i controlli stradali, vivere in un veicolo sembra una mossa particolarmente pericolosa per chiunque possa cadere vittima di una schedatura su base razziale.”

Poi c’è tutta la questione delle contraddizioni:
per sopravvivere, infatti, questo popolo vagante si presta come forza lavoro proprio di quelle grandi multinazionali che rappresentano proprio l’apoteosi della schiavitù moderna.
Il fatto determinate è che la maggior parte dei nomadi abbia più di sessant’anni quindi esclusa dal mainstream lavorativo ma ricercata con canali appositi da queste aziende che ne rivalutano il potenziale come popolo vagante da utilizzare stagionalmente e con cui si possono applicare le regole del gioco che piace a loro fuori da ogni controllo sindacale.
Si può davvero puntare il dito contro questa palese incoerenza?

Personalmente, penso di essermi venduta per molto meno e lo dimostra il fatto che sono qui, con le mie idee, il mio stile di vita che sempre stato e sarà non sempre in linea con le scelte di massa eppure il mio bisogno di parlare di libri mi ha condotto su questa piattaforma così totalmente opposta a tutto ciò che penso e abitualmente pratico.

Questa lettura mi ha mandato un po’ in crisi.
Mi sono vergognata di me stessa leggendo le storie di queste donne e questi uomini alle prese con questi lavori fisicamente estenuanti.
E poi, sinceramente, ripeto, mi sono vergognata di essere qui facendo finta di essere io quella che sta solo utilizzando una piattaforma...

”Nel divario sempre più ampio tra crediti e debiti, persiste una domanda: A quali aspetti della tua vita sei disposto a rinunciare, pur di continuare a tirare avanti?”
Profile Image for John Devlin.
Author 21 books71 followers
January 2, 2019
I'm impressed by the resourcefulness of many of these campers. I wish they could take that ingenuity and find away to make money so they weren't forced to live in a van.

I was moved by many of their plights and felt the apprehension they must all feel as they constantly are just one slip, one engine light, one unanticipated event from disaster.

That said, where the author, who writes well, fails to elaborate is on how these folks got to such an awful nexus. Understandably, she can't be a prosecutor going over the validity of each sad story. People tend to stop talking if you challenge their carefully constructed illusions of the 'story of their lives.'

"How many people will get crushed by the system?" Here's is the core of my disagreement. The system - capitalism - had lifted a billion people out of poverty in just the last 25 years, the system is not run by anyone - it simply comprises the millions of individual decisions that liberty loving people make every day they CHOOSE to buy something.

These people were not failed by the system. First, since the author never analyzes how these folk got to such a bad place that point is unprovable, but second the idea that Capitalism must provide a decent standard of living for everyone regardless of work, education, or industriousness is patently absurd.

Before Capitalism, feudalism allowed people to gain wealth through murder, rape, and pillage - and there was a real 1% who got over on the 99%. Capitalism has created a world where an American on the poverty line lives better than John Rockefeller the richest man lived just 100 years ago.

In other words, Capitalism is great, but it ain't no utopia.
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 35 books11.2k followers
May 31, 2021
This book is as fantastic as the movie: so wrenching and so smart and so eye-opening to a vast culture in America that few of us see. Jessica Bruder shows how tattered the economic safety net has become, especially for seniors, and how the Great American Dream continues to be a nightmare for so many. This is an empathetic and kind book, and you will care deeply about everyone you meet. Also? Jessica Bruder's research for this book, and what she herself endured to write it, is Pulitzer great.
Profile Image for Caren.
493 reviews102 followers
September 17, 2018
This was an engrossing but very unsettling read. Similar to the book "Evicted"(Matthew Desmond), the author entered into a community, in this case-- work campers, following them on the road and working some of their jobs. She interviewed many folks, but followed a few in more detail. One woman in particular, Linda May, became her friend and the centerpiece of her story. Most of her subjects were people who would traditionally be considered of retirement age---in their 60s and 70s, even a few in their 80s. These people were once solidly in the middle class, but for various reasons (and often due to circumstances that arose during the Great Recession) found the economics of their former lives impossible to sustain. Some lost their jobs and couldn't find new jobs that paid what their old jobs had, or couldn't find any jobs at all. Some had their houses foreclosed, or could no longer pay their rent and afford food. Health-related debt or divorce may have destroyed their finances. Their situations became economically untenable and they made the choice that kept them from ending up on the streets (or living with one of their kids): they live in their vehicles. Some live in vans, some in very old RVs, some even in cars. (One younger fellow actually lived in a Prius. I can't really imagine that.) They travel about for seasonal work. Linda May began working as a camp host in parks in California. The state had contracted out the jobs to a separate company. The hours were long and poorly paid. The host not only registered campers, but had to deal with late-night noise complaints and spend days cleaning camp sites and the toilets. After doing that job for the summer months, she moved on to work in an Amazon warehouse for the months leading up to the holiday season. Apparently, Amazon receives some sort of tax incentive for hiring older workers, so it actually prefers them. The hours are long and the job brutal. Ms. Bruder worked the job herself in order to give us an insider's view. It is probably worse than I imagined. (This aspect of the book reminded me of Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickled and Dimed".) Other seasonal jobs were for an amusement park and the beet harvest in the late fall. Ms. Bruder also worked the beet harvest, which seemed dangerous even for a younger worker. These jobs, as you can tell, all entail hard physical work. It was common for the workers to either be injured (and remember, there are no health insurance benefits for these jobs) or to just ache from the physical rigor the jobs required. (Amazon provided pain killer dispensers in their warehouses.) OK readers, imagine that your parents or grandparents who are in their 60s or 70s have to travel around in beat-up vans to work hard physical jobs just to exist. How does that make you feel about the good old USA? In the case of Linda May, she took social security at 62 (which, because it is not full retirement age, imposes a financial penalty). She received $500-something a month until she turned 65 and began paying for Medicare, after which her monthly payments dropped to $400-something per month. As Ms. Bruder pointed out, women mostly do have lower social security checks because they make less money and because they are the ones who have often taken time away from paid employment to care for others (whether their children or their parents). Lots of the people Ms. Bruder interviewed were single women, on the road alone. This hidden community has tricks for finding places to park for the night. Walmart will mostly turn a blind eye and allow overnight parking. There is an online community to instruct newbies on the finer points of living in your vehicle, including how to install solar panels on the roof, how to use a 5-gallon bucket as a toilet, how to keep warm in freezing weather...Ms. Bruder provides some food for thought:
"Many of the workers I met in the Amazon camps were part of a demographic that in recent years has grown with alarming speed: downwardly mobile older Americans....Monique Morrissey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, spoke with me about the unprecedented nature of this change. 'We're facing the first-ever reversal in retirement security in modern U.S. history,' she explained. 'Starting with the younger baby boomers, each successive generation is now doing worse than previous generations in terms of their ability to retire without seeing a drop in living standards.' That means no rest for the aging. Nearly nine million Americans sixty-five and older were still employed in 2016, up 60 percent from a decade earlier. Economists expect those numbers---along with the percentage of seniors in the labor force---to keep rising. A recent poll suggests that Americans now fear outliving their assets more than they fear dying. Another survey finds that, although most older Americans still view retirement as 'a time of leisure', only 17 percent anticipate not working at all in their later years." (pages 62-63).
Further, she says:
"Over the last generation, we have witnessed a massive transfer of economic risk from broad structures of insurance, including those sponsored by the corporate sector as well as by government, onto the fragile balance sheets of American families", Yale political scientist Jacob S. Hacker writes in his book 'The Great Risk Shift'. The overarching message: "You are on your own". All of which is to say that Social Security is now the largest single source of income for most Americans sixty-five and older. But it's woefully inadequate. 'Instead of a three-legged stool, we have a pogo stick", quipped Peter Brady of the Investment Company Institute. That means barely enough for necessities. Nearly half of middle-class workers may be forced to live on a food budget of as little as $5 a day when they retire, according to Teresa Ghilarducci, an economist and professor at the New School in New York City. "I call it 'the end of retirement,'" she said in an interview. Many retirees simply can't survive without some sort of paycheck. Meanwhile, she noted, jobs for older Americans are paying less and less and becoming ever more physically taxing.She worries we're returning to the world that Lee Welling Squier described more than a century ago. " (pages 66-67)
Ms. Bruder spoke with some younger work campers too. Here is the story one related:
"...Ash had watched her own parents fall out of the middle class after her father, an electrical engineer with a six-figure salary, got laid off in 2001. He was too proud to take a lower-paying job, at least before the family's finances were depleted. Then he ended up driving school buses in the morning and working at Walmart at night. 'Anyway, I'm seeing my parents in their mid-sixties with no retirement, you know, everything that they built over their entire life just disappeared. And then with the recession you see that happening to more people.' Ash said. Though she'd always considered herself to be a 'follower', she began to worry that, even if she adhered to all of society's rules for living an upright middle-class life, she'd have no guarantee of stability. " (pages 106-107)
This is an eye-opener of a book. Being on the road in your RV may have sounded slightly romantic before I read this book. Now, I just think this is very, very sad.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,324 reviews64 followers
March 20, 2021
This book came highly recommended from various people on GR and having read the book I now understand why. I first understood this book was about a new thing that was happening of people opting out.
The sad truth is that this book describes a world of people in an age group that should be considering retirement that found that they cannot survive on their retirement funds due to a failing economy , choice made in live, divorces, unemployment, etc. So they have taken to leaving their homes and are living the nomadic existence on the road traveling to and from seasonal workplaces. These are the people that did not made a choice but it was forced on them and even then they made a life and community for themselves, in real lives and internet.
You learn about the various companies that enable people to work their menial jobs for low wages, like Amazon who does know where to dig for people in need and does not mind earning monster profits over low payment to its people. Like Walmart a company like this get to pay people low wages and expect to government to add to their wages to get a chance to have a chance of having half a chance at decent living. However the companies that are in fact running the US will make sure that they will never be taxed for their inhuman HR and working conditions.
But somewhere in this in origin collection of articles that became a book, and somehow the basis of a movie, there is something said about the mentality of the American namely that the US is the land of the brave and that one should never admit that the chasm between the poor and the rich does become larger because it is the responsibility of the individual to make the best of his/her own existence. Which by now is the stuff of fairy tales kept alive by people benefitting and earning a shedload of money.
The stories of the individuals are inspiring but sad, they are all decent people looking for a life they are entitled to, and yet is not given. They way they keep themselves alive and their pride is really awesome. Even if the story behind this book is stupid capitalism and abnormal greed.
Profile Image for Mosco.
385 reviews38 followers
May 8, 2021
[Che vedere il film dopo aver letto il libro non è cosa da fare, è già stato detto?]

Del resto, milioni di americani lottano con l’impossibilità di un tradizionale stile di vita borghese. Nelle case di tutto il Paese, i tavoli della cucina sono disseminati di conti da pagare. Le luci rimangono accese fino a tarda notte. Si fanno e rifanno gli stessi calcoli in continuazione, fino allo sfinimento e talvolta alle lacrime. Lo stipendio meno gli scontrini del supermercato. Meno le spese mediche. Meno il conto della carta di credito. Meno le bollette. Meno i prestiti studenteschi e le rate dell’automobile. Meno la voce di spesa più alta di tutte: l’affitto. Nel divario sempre più ampio tra crediti e debiti, persiste una domanda: A quali aspetti della tua vita sei disposto a rinunciare, pur di continuare a tirare avanti?
Alla casa rinunci! Si recupera un qualsiasi mezzo su ruote e ci si sposta per gli states alla ricerca di qualche lavoro a tempo determinato, faticoso, mal pagato, ma ciao affitto o mutuo, bollette, creditori, senza impegni né legami, in culo alla società capitalista e viva la libertà.
Ma senza sicurezze, senza assicurazione sanitaria, senza un posto sicuro dove stare, senza bagno, senza doccia, malati, al caldo, al freddo, in mezzi fatiscenti, alla mercé di poliziotti sospettosi o di persone per bene diffidenti. Quasi tutti anziani malmessi, senza pensione e con 4 penny di sussidio, con altri nomadi per famiglia, ai quali una qualche sfiga, un licenziamento, una malattia ha sbriciolato il sogno americano. Molto bello molto coinvolgente e molto preoccupante. E scritto molto bene: un libro che si fa ricordare.
(come faccio spesso con google image davanti, certe cose e situazioni bisogna vederle!)

PS: il Pulitzer a questo, non a quella muffa della Dillard!
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
November 25, 2017
Nomadland takes a deep look at the growing culture of van-dwellers and other nomads that attempt to live on the road, because they can't afford to live otherwise. I thought it was a particularly poignant read after reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City earlier this year, since that book examines the issue of eviction among people attempting to still live in traditional ways. The people in this book have left town, leaving mortgages and rent behind, to try to make it through seasonal work all over the country. The author spent three years and got to know many of the people she writes about very well, and I think because of this is able to provide greater insight than people who treat this lifestyle as quirky or the newest hobby of snowbirds. For many of the people in this book, this is the last chance they have to make ends meet, and it is not an easy way to live. There is no safety net.

I received a copy of this book when the publisher had leftovers from ALA and I requested a copy via e-mail. I think I expected it to be more about hipsters than retirees, but was happy with the actual focus of the book.
Profile Image for Onceinabluemoon.
2,558 reviews59 followers
January 1, 2018
This was such a sad eye opening read, a whole subculture I knew nothing about, subsidized by Amazon. My husband and I listened in the car, I said how many stars, he said three, I bellowed 5, it's a topic I knew zip about and I was hanging on every word. He quickly upped his rating to four 😉
Profile Image for Diane Yannick.
569 reviews749 followers
November 20, 2017
This book introduced me to a growing subculture of seniors who can “not afford to grow old”. Many parts of this lifestyle were upsetting as I am once again awakened to my privilege. Not all of the nomads in this book made bad choices so we can’t go around feeling like this could never happen to me. Many of them lost respectable jobs or savings due to our country’s economic policies. Others had devastating medical expenses. They all ended up living in RVs, cars, trucks—their wheel estate. They attempted to travel and live off the grid in order to survive. Living off the grid is not as easy as I thought. It seemed like they were always getting chased from their landing spots, except when a Walmart was near.

Workampers was a new term to me. In order to make money, the campers knew where to get hourly jobs. Without exception, it was backbreaking work. Amazon is their biggest employer and I will never think of this company with the same enthusiasm. I did not think about seniors working 10 hour days on concrete floors, lifting packages, grabbing pain killers from the dispensers on the wall. I did not know that Amazon (and I guess other large companies) get a 25%-40% federal tax credit for hiring the elderly. I was appalled to learn that they would prefer to station ambulances and paramedics outside their hot facility rather than open loading doors for ventilation.

Linda May, a 64 year old former cocktail waitress & insurance executive, and her much loved dog, were a heartwarming pair. She along with may others sought to create a community and be there for each other in times of need. When they met at their yearly Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, the camaraderie and deep-seated desire to give to others was touching. Yet, Linda yearned for land to anchor her. One man lived in a refitted Prius. Now that’s pretty darn amazing.

Jessica Bruder is a commendable journalist who was able to make her book both informative and interesting. She did not take any shortcuts. She travelled 15,000 miles during the 3 years she spent traveling with and working beside her nomads. She became a temporary part of a private tribe. She even bought her own much used van which she named Halen. Her life in NYC would never feel quite the same.

I walk away realizing that retirement can be fragile but that the human spirit is strong.

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