Tuesday, March 8, 2011

book no.1 - Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

I had wanted to read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich for a long time, and I had it listed on my wishlist at Bookcrossing. (As a side note - Bookcrossing is amazing. I haven't been very active there in, oh, probably 8 or 9 years, but it's a site worth looking into if you have the time.) A fellow Bookcrosser got in touch with me and offered to send me the book. I said OK and then forgot about the book again until it showed up in my mailbox.

The basic premise of the book is that the author goes undercover as a blue collar worker in various cities to see if she can make enough to survive. She sets herself up in each town with a place to live, and goes about finding a job and then working it. She lives thriftily and sees if at the end of the month she has made enough to pay for the next month's rent.

You can probably guess from the full title of the book just how well she fared. The book offers an interesting insight into low wage jobs and not much more. (I found the chapter on maid services particularly fascinating.) I've worked some of these low earning jobs myself, so I guess I already knew first hand the probable outcome. Fortunately I've had family to support me. You do feel for the people stuck in this vicious cycle.

The author isn't particularly funny, and she doesn't offer much that I, and most of America I suspect, didn't already know. She seemed to have a particular hatred for drug testing - I guess because she's a pot smoker. But she goes off on the injustice of drug testing on multiple occasions in the book, and I got bored with that pretty quickly. I see no harm in companies drug testing their employees, and I seriously doubt they do it to dehumanize prospective employees and exert their power and control from the onset.

All in all the book was an OK read. Nothing earth shattering was revealed in its pages, and the writing style was ho-hum. Not a bad read if you have it lying around, but I wouldn't go out of my way to find a copy.

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