Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

I can't really say much about Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickeled and Dimed. It's been around for ten years. Most people I know have read it. I thought I had read it until I realized I never actually consumed the words, just talked to enough people about it that it seemed I had. I had an idea of what the book would be, and it essentially manifested itself to be the theoretical book in my head.

She tries an academic exercise to try to live paycheck-to-paycheck in some spurts of dead-end jobs, and experiences some of the hardships of the working poor. She fully explains her self-evident safety valves that keep her sane and safe, and she's able to deal pretty honestly with herself. At first she seems even more whiny than I would be, complaining about silly things that wouldn't faze me. But by the end of the book she's really in the element, not bothered by some pretty soul-crushing circumstances.

What I thought was interesting is that she manages to articulate so much of the problems in a comprehensive way - not just lack of money, but lack of safe and dependable housing, food, safety, goals, family, etc etc. My hat's off to her for spotlighting issues that people truly choose not to think about whenever they get the chance. If this book doesn't make you give a smile to the person checking your groceries or stocking the shelves next time you're shopping, I don't know what will.

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