Nickel and Dimed

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2001.

What started out as an idea for an article for Harper’s quickly blossomed into a full blown New York Times bestselling book. In 1998 Barbara Ehrenreich set out to research how anyone lived on minimum wage and as she put it, “the only way to find out was to get out there and get my hands dirty” (p 4). So, at a time when welfare reform was sending millions of women back into the workforce, for three months writer-by-trade, PhD educated Ehrenreich joined the unskilled labor force to see what it was all about. The emphasis of the experiment might have been on surviving the economy of 1998 but a byproduct of that experiment was the truth that the further down the class ladder one lived, the more invisible one became. Ehrenreich tried her hand at being a waitress, a maid, a healthcare aide, and a Wal-Mart associate. It’s this last position that was a real eye opener for me.
In the back of my mind I wondered how “honest” Ehrenreich’s experiment really was. No matter how terrible her situation she always knew she could escape it and at times, she fell back on her “real” life. When she had a skin ailment she used her real life connections to get medication without seeing a doctor.

Personally, I have never been homeless although I know people who were, by choice. There was a time when I was without health insurance, but admittedly, at the healthiest time of my life. I have held several jobs at one time, not because I needed them, but because I wanted to make as much money as I could. I’ve never had a job that required a drug test of any kind. For all these reasons and more I couldn’t put myself in Ehrenreich’s shoes.

Reason read: Ehrenreich was born in August.

Author fact: Ehrenreich has her own website here.

Book trivia: Considering the subject matter, you would not think Nickle and Dimed would be funny in any way, but Ehrenreich writes with such sly humor that you can’t help buy crack a smile or maybe even giggle.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Guilt Inducing Books” (p 110).

One Comment on “Nickel and Dimed”

  1. dgobs says:

    Great review! I read this book a few years back and the part about working at Wal-Mart was a real eye-opener for me, too. I was also surprised by how many times I smiled/giggled!

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