Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara EhrenreichNickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

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

byBarbara Ehrenreich

Paperback | August 2, 2011

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Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity.

Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel and Dimed, Blood Rites, The Worst Years of Our Lives (a New York Times bestseller), Fear of Falling, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and several other books. A frequent contributor to Time, Harper's, Esquire, The New Republic, Mirabella, The Nation, and The New Yo...
Title:Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in AmericaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.15 × 5.43 × 0.64 inPublished:August 2, 2011Publisher:PicadorLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0312626681

ISBN - 13:9780312626686

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Read from the Book

It is hotter inside than out, but I do all right until I encounter the banks of glass doors. Each one has to be Windexed, wiped, and buffed-inside and out, top to bottom, left to right, until it's as streakless and invisible as a material substance can be. Outside, I can see construction guys knocking back Gatorade, but the rule is that no fluid or food item can touch a maid's lips when she's inside a house. I sweat without replacement or pause, not in individual drops but in continuous sheets of fluid, soaking through my polo shirt, pouring down the backs of my legs. Working my way through the living room(s), I wonder if Mrs. W. will ever have occasion to realize that every single doodad and object through which she expresses her unique, individual self is, from the vantage point of a maid, only an obstacle on the road to a glass of water.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Getting Ready

One. Serving in Florida
Two. Scrubbing in Maine
Three. Selling in Minnesota

Afterword: Nickel and Dimed
A Reader's Guide

Bookclub Guide

To the Teacher Millions of Americans work full-time for poverty-level wages. Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. Nickel and Dimed is the revealing, compelling, and widely acclaimed result of that decision-a book that has already become a masterpiece of undercover reportage, and a portrait-of-the-working-poor classic that is showing up in classrooms throughout the nation. How does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To ?nd out, Ehrenreich takes low-wage jobs in Florida, then in Maine, and finally in Minnesota, working as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart salesperson. She lives in trailer parks and crumbling motels; she eats fast or cheap food, since she can't afford a stove, refrigerator, or cookware. She also learns that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you plan to live indoors. And healthcare is a luxury she cannot afford. This is that rare book that reveals a harsh reality without resorting to sentiment, that speaks the plain truth without being preachy or complex. Nickel and Dimed is an absolute must for anyone who wants to see what "prosperity" looks like from the bottom, or who suspects that the "American dream" is becoming a fantasy.

Editorial Reviews

"Captivating . . . promise that you will read this explosive little book cover to cover and pass it on to all your friends and relatives." -The New York Times"Impassioned, fascinating, profoundly significant, and wildly entertaining . . . Nickel and Dimed is not only important but transformative in its insistence that we take a long hard look at the society we live in." -Francise Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine"Valuable and illuminating . . . Barbara Ehrenreich is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism." -The New York Times Book Review"Jarring . . . fully of riveting grit . . . this book is already unforgettable." -The New York Times"Barbara Ehrenreich is smart, provocative, funny, and sane in a world that needs more of all four." -Diane Sawyer"Reading Ehrenreich is good for the soul." -Molly Ivins"Ehrenreich is passionate, public, hotly lucid, and politically engaged." -Chicago Tribune"Ehrenreich's scorn withers, her humor stings, and her radical light shines on." -The Boston Globe"One of today's most original writers." -The New York Times