Jul 16, 2008

Nickel and Dimed

on (Not) Getting by in America
by Barbara Ehrenreich

This book was written by a reporter who went "undercover" to discover the truth about how the working poor get by in America- by pretending to be one herself. In three cities (located in Florida, Maine and Minnesota) she worked different jobs as a waitress, maid, nursing home attendant, and at Wal-Mart, and attempted to live for two months on the low income, usually holding two jobs at once. Most of the book is spent describing her job experiences, a little bit addresses the difficulties of finding housing and covering expenses on low wages. At the very end of the book she reveals some statistics, but doesn't give much resolution in terms of how the situation can be improved. Overall Nickel and Dimed was interesting in its details, but not very satisfying in its conclusions. And the superior attitude of the author towards her fellow co-workers was hard to swallow. Compared to most of them, she had the advantages of owning a car, having money to fall back on, and knowing she could just leave at any time and go back to her regular comfortable life. She kept making fun of her co-workers for lacking style, seemed to expect them to notice her higher education, and was surprised that low-paying jobs required her to learn a skill! It was annoying.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 230 pages, 2001

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Trish said...

Ha ha--I thought some of her commentary was a little annoying as well. And I agree--we've got a problem, but how do we go about amending it? This book only gave partial food-for-thought for me.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a lot of her comments throughout the book were annoying and condescending. I think she really didn't "get it". But she did what she set out to do... prove that it sucked. Thanks, lady, we all knew that already. I didn't need a book to tell me that being poor was hard work... now tell me what to do about the problem.

Bookfool said...

I read a similar review to yours, a few months ago. Thanks for confirming that it's really not worth reading.

Bybee said...

I read this right before coming to Korea when I was really feeling down-and-out after my public school layoff. All it did was frustrate me and make me feel depressed.