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

by Barbara Ehrenreich | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0805063897 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Slipknot of Livermore, California USA on 9/29/2008
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
9 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Slipknot from Livermore, California USA on Monday, September 29, 2008
Had this book on my TBR shelf, but it's going to take a long trip instead!

Journal Entry 2 by Slipknot at Livermore, California USA on Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Released 11 yrs ago (9/30/2008 UTC) at Livermore, California USA



Sending this book off to an RABCK contest winner. I had it on my TBR list, but see they have it on their wishlist, so off it goes!

Journal Entry 3 by klaradyn from Praha, Praha Czech Republic on Friday, October 10, 2008
Ooh wow! A wishlist book! Thanks so much for sending on, Slipknot.

Journal Entry 4 by klaradyn from Praha, Praha Czech Republic on Monday, April 06, 2009
Synopsis from "Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty level wages. Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them in order to find out how anyone survives on six dollars an hour. So began a gruelling, hair-raising and darkly funny odyssey though the underworld of working America."

I read this in one sitting last night. I appreciated the fact that Ehrenreich never looks down on her colleagues in the various jobs that she does, and is genuinely sympathetic towards them.
As could have been expected, it was shocking to read about the inequalities in a country that, in my part of the world, is generally perceived as being extremely wealthy. Wonder what the situation is like today, with the current recession? (The book was apparently written at a time of prosperity.)
Something I found interesting and that I think could have been explored a bit more, was the relationship between gender and these economic circumstances. It seemed that Ehrenreich mostly encountered women in these situations. Is there a particular reason for this, or was it just coincidence?

Journal Entry 5 by klaradyn from Praha, Praha Czech Republic on Tuesday, April 07, 2009
The book will now become a bookray. So far, the participants are:

lucy-lemon (UK) --> sends within EU
karen07814 (UK) --> sends anywhere
okyrhoe (Greece) --> sends anywhere
ajsmom (Canada) --> sends anywhere
rockyhorror1978 (Canada) --> sends anywhere
UnwrittenLibra (Israel) --> sends anywhere
LadyLiterary (USA) --> sends within US
Slipknot (USA) --> sends within US

Journal Entry 6 by klaradyn at Cape Town, Western Cape South Africa on Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Released 10 yrs ago (4/28/2009 UTC) at Cape Town, Western Cape South Africa



On the way to lucy-lemon via surface mail to start the bookray.

My book # 32 for guinaveve's Keep Them Moving challenge.

Journal Entry 7 by lucy-lemon from Llandudno, Wales United Kingdom on Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Oh my gosh, I am so sorry! This book arrived, and was read, a while ago, and I have only just realised that I had a big stack of bookcrossing books that I hadn't journalled. They'd all been packed away when I moved. I'm really sorry!

I thought this book was really, really interesting, and I'm definitely glad that I got a chance to read it. I think the American wage system is so strange, and I'm certainly glad that we have the NHS here in Britain. Along with fairly well paid jobs (well, maybe not right now anyway...)

I have PMed the next participant and will have the book in the post asap.

Thanks for sharing!

Journal Entry 8 by karen07814 from Colchester, Essex United Kingdom on Friday, July 31, 2009
This one didn't grab me I'm afraid. Maybe it's because it's been done here as well but by someone who didn't have a pocketload of money just in case or maybe it's because it concentrated on racial demographics far more than I'm used to. I think I would have preferred to see the split between education (which I apprecaite may well also be part racial).
Thanks for sharing though.

Journal Entry 9 by okyrhoe from Athens - Αθήνα, Attica Greece on Thursday, August 13, 2009
Arrived in Athens.

Thanks klaradyn for including me in the ring, and karen07814 for posting the book to me!

Journal Entry 10 by okyrhoe from Athens - Αθήνα, Attica Greece on Wednesday, September 09, 2009
An easy read, somewhat too one-dimensional. I feel as if she is talking about the mundane/superficial aspects of the work experience, in a matter that will be immediately comprehensible to the people that actually live this kind of routine 24/7.

Even if she doesn't want to get too analytical, there needs to be some depth to the issue, some context, some contrast/comparison.

Eg, is her experience shaped by gender, as klaradyn suggests?
For example, one of the things I thought about when she has a hard time finding an apartment or even a motel room, maybe the leasers are suspicious of a woman with no kids in tow? As with employers fearing drug use, maybe the owners/managers are wary of a single female tenant (who may bring men to her apt/room for casual or paid sex and create a 'situation'). I wonder why she never wondered about this...

Journal Entry 11 by ajsmom from Quesnel, British Columbia Canada on Monday, September 28, 2009
Received today, thank you!

Journal Entry 12 by ajsmom from Quesnel, British Columbia Canada on Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I think the author did an admirable, if superficial, job of exploring the life of the "working poor". She was definitely honest about how lucky she is in her life to not have to juggle multiple jobs or live in crappy places with multiple roommates - and she certainly didn't have to tough out staying in one place for very long. I think her research was good, but could have been fleshed out more - but then again, it seemed as though there hasn't been much research INTO the lives of the working poor! I am grateful for what I have, and very grateful that the country I live in provides health care and generally appears to treat its' poorest citizens a little better....although only possibly at a federal level, as our current provincial government is fund-cutting happy.

I once again feel totally justified for not shopping at Wal-Mart. I cannot, in good conscience, support their labour practices at home, or abroad.

Thanks for the ring, klaradyn. This will be heading off to rockyhorror in no time.

Journal Entry 13 by rockyhorror1978 from St. Catharines, Ontario Canada on Thursday, October 22, 2009
Arrived today! Woowhoo! Will start reading it ASAP and pass on to the next reader!

Journal Entry 14 by rockyhorror1978 from St. Catharines, Ontario Canada on Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Part of of me enjoyed this as a reader and part of me detested this as a social scientist. I felt that she was sympathetic to the women that she worked with, however there were numerous statements that irked me and made me question the legitimacy of her concern (i.e., on page 121, she refers to the reason that she didn't go to California was because all the jobs and affordable housing being taken by Latinos - racism? stereotype?). I also felt that she was only making judgements on such a small portion of what it means to be working poor in the USA. While she admitted her bias by being "middle class' I Feel that there were so many other areas of deprivation that she could have examined, but choose not to: medicare, subsidies, etc. She also extrapolated her experience to people of different ethnicities and circumstances (i.e., single mothers) without substantial evidence of how she came to these conclusions. Despite her flawed research design, Ehrenreich did come to some valuable conclusions, including the flaw in the definition of poverty. It would have been nice to see conclusions regarding how to change these situations based on her experience (i.e., proposed political reform) since she flaunts her Ph.D once or twice.

Despite the criticisms, I did enjoy this book for what it was: an interesting book that provides some insight. As a Canadian, our social system is often compared to the States being so close. Living in a border town, I often see the results of substandard social assistance: proof of citizenship for vaccinations, Americans being turned away from health clinics that can't pay for care upfront, and cross-border employment when possible.

This book deserves it's place on the shelf next to "Fastfood Nation" as a pseudo-study of North American culture.

This book is on the Mental Floss 25 Most Influential Books List and is described as the book "that changed minimum wage."

Journal Entry 15 by rockyhorror1978 at Jerusalem, Jerusalem Israel on Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Released 10 yrs ago (10/30/2009 UTC) at Jerusalem, Jerusalem Israel



Being sent to the next reader! Enjoy!

Journal Entry 16 by UnwrittenLibra from Middleton, Wisconsin USA on Friday, December 11, 2009
Arrived a few days ago here in Jerusalem, Israel, with postmarks from Canada and Austria! Thank you! Can't wait to read this.

Journal Entry 17 by UnwrittenLibra from Middleton, Wisconsin USA on Sunday, January 10, 2010
One of my favorite reads of the year! It might be small but it packs a punch. I loved reading about the author's adventures in minimum-wage America and found the statistics, if true, astonishing. When I get back to the USA from the Holy Land, I must really take note of all the cleaners, waitresses, and retail people I encounter and wonder about how much their making. Her book said a lot about American society and what money really means, as well as how little we value our service workers.

Out of the jobs I've held, I have to confess I've never made less than $10 an hour, though - maybe it's my being white and male or simply in the right place at the right time. I made $20 an hour as a computer lab attendant in Washington, DC; $10 an hour at a store in the Owings Mills Mall in Baltimore, MD; $12 an hour as a lawyer's assistant in Laurel, MD (plus $8 a day in gas money); and $15 an hour doing general secretarial work at a hi-tech company in Baltimore. I lived with my parents, so my money was mostly for gas and pocket money, but even with the $20 an hour job I probably couldn't support myself. Bravo to Ehrenreich and millions of Americans who make sacrifices every day to make others' lives easier.

Journal Entry 18 by UnwrittenLibra from Middleton, Wisconsin USA on Sunday, January 10, 2010
Onto the next participant via Jerusalem-Talpiot Post Office, Israel! Happy travels little book!

Journal Entry 19 by Slipknot at Livermore, California USA on Friday, August 06, 2010
What fun to get this book back after it's traveled to 3 continents and 5 countries. I look forward to reading it in the next couple of weeks.

Journal Entry 20 by Slipknot at Livermore, California USA on Wednesday, November 03, 2010
I finished this a while back and just getting time to add the jornal entry. I wanted to like it more than I did. What's there is interesting, but as many others have pointed out it seems one-dimensional (which may be the intent), but the topic is much more complex. Why are these people in these bad situations? How much of it is because of poor choices on their part? What's managments view of them? I often get the feeling that she considered all management bad and all workers good which we all know is untrue. Although I do expect that the quality of management in these low paying jobs is not high.

I do like a book that makes me think and this one certainly did that.

Journal Entry 21 by lavatea at Tyler, Texas USA on Tuesday, March 08, 2011
I had wanted to read this book for a long time, and I had it listed on my wishlist. When Slipknot 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.

Are you sure you want to delete this item? It cannot be undone.